The Alshich on Ki Tetze teaches that until the age of 13 a person has only an evil inclination. The good inclination comes only at Bar Mitzva. Hence, the yetzer hara is likened to an old seasoned warrior (who has total control of the body before the yetzer tov comes), while the yetzer tov is likened to a young lad. (See there.)

The Alshich continues to say that for the yetzer tov to conquer the yetzer hara is a formidable task, and is the "tachlis hagevura" (the ultimate mightiness).

Why did God make a system like this? For free will to be balanced it seems logical that both should exist simultaneously and neither should have any advantage over the other.

  • 2
    I thought the source for this is from earlier, I'm thinking the Chazalic era. Jul 17, 2013 at 21:57
  • Ecclesiastes 4:13 better a Poor wise youth than an old foolish king. I assume that's where it's coming from, in different words.
    – user3114
    Sep 15, 2013 at 15:08
  • sefaria.org/Avot_D'Rabbi_Natan.16.2
    – Binyomin
    Dec 13, 2020 at 21:31

2 Answers 2


Note: source is in kabbalah a lot earlier then the alshich.

True, it is unbalanced in that sense. but there are many many things to say about this issue, here are some pointers:

We (at least it's in my machzor) say on rosh hashana "ata yodeah yitzram ve'atah (possibly "ki" ) yotzram"(אתה יודע יצרם ואתה יוצרם) meaning god created us with a disadvantage and therefore understands our wrongdoing's = it's a defense ("pischon peh") for us (why he wants us with more evil inspires why create evil and a lot of philosophy).

And you made a crucial misquote the yh is called "melech zaken uksil " and the yetzer tov "naar miskain chacham" the yt is smarter the the yh they both have advantages and disadvantages strengh and weakness one who is misgaber yt more is considered a smarter more refined person by society.

And thirdly (building on #2) the yh has the strength of being easier that's why anyone would do anything bad (e.g. steal lie ) and yt makes life more difficult "it's hard to do the right thing".


The yetzer hara has a connotation of being the animal instinct, the inclination to give in to our base desires — not just "evil" with its implications of willful intentional malice. It's almost better to read it as "the naughty inclination".

If you take the "animal instinct" connotation it makes much more sense to see children as being dominated by yetzer hara and learning to allow yetzer tov to take over. Cognitivtely we know that young people's brains don't fully develop what are called "executive functions" like risk assessment, planning, problem solving, attention / focus until late adolescence and early 20s. These are the skills that let you not hit someone when they take your cookie, for example.

As Rabbi Lawrence Kushner says, you can't control how you feel but you can control how you act. Learning self-control takes years of training and just growing up. Little kids don't have much ability to thoughtfully control their actions over their instincts.

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