There's a notion that the yetzer tov enters the body at the age of bar mitzvah. If this is so how do we see children that behave properly and act kindly towards others?

  • @Justaguy, yes but it's not like children are evil until bar/bat mitzvah. You can say the same about adults--the only reason to do mitzvot is for the reward of olam habah.
    – Ani Yodea
    Commented Sep 22, 2013 at 19:25
  • That's not the only reason to do mitzvos in my mind, but, you are right, i commented quickly without thinking. Notice the difference between yetzer tov and yetzer harah. The yetzer to is just 'good'. The Yetzer harah is 'the bad'. Basically the yetzer tov, ones intellect is in essence good, meaning that it can arrive at objective truths and distinguish between right an wrong. The yetzer harah, our instinct, has the title of bad, though it is not always bad. We use it for eating, which lets us make brachos, we use it for intimacy within marriage, which is a profoundly holy thing.
    – user3114
    Commented Sep 22, 2013 at 19:42
  • I know myself to be instictively a very giving person, and that has gotten me in to some pretty serious emotional trouble more than once, and has harmed my self and those who I wanted to help. Sometimes our instincs do manifest themselves in a good way, but they are still instincts, which need to be tempered by intellect and knowledge of Torah to be utilized for good. My source for the yt and yh being intellect and instinct is 'Marital Intimacy', by Avraham Peretz Friedman
    – user3114
    Commented Sep 22, 2013 at 19:53
  • Even a broken clock is correct twice a day?
    – Seth J
    Commented Dec 20, 2013 at 4:54
  • This is also very nice answer: aish.com/atr/Bar-Mitzvah-Speech.html. Identifies "yetzer tov" with altruistic behavior.
    – Binyomin
    Commented Dec 13, 2020 at 21:48

3 Answers 3


Rabbi Simcha Wasserman zt'l said (not exact quote. see "Reb Simcha Speaks"): "children are like new immigrants which arrive at a new country. The immigrants quickly adopt the customs of the local population. So too children quickly adopt the behavior of their parents..."

this answer does not explain all cases but i think it explains many.

  • My 2-year-old brings random "gifts" all the time to everybody. Certainly he could never see such a thing by us. Rather, this behaviour seems to be inherited. It resembles my grandmother עה"ש, this used to be her custom (as my parents also confirmed).
    – Binyomin
    Commented Dec 13, 2020 at 21:50

how do non Jews act properly? the Tanya writes that the neshomo is purely positive, but the 'nature' of yiden has positive traits by virtue of who we are, irrespective of age. re non Jews, in another post be"h.

  • 1
    If you aren't going to discuss non-Jews in this post, why bring it up? I will remove it later if you don't clarify your reasoning.
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 14, 2013 at 22:34
  • i used goyim just to prove that you can behave properly even if you don't have a yetzer tov. i just meant that the inner working and differences between the good things goyim do and the good things yidishe children do are not similar, bat are not the object of this topic
    – rabbi
    Commented Dec 14, 2013 at 22:50

This question is so strong that I think it is reason enough to re-read and re-interpret the original Chazal source of that statement.

יצר הרע כיצד אמרו שלש עשרה שנה גדול יצר הרע מיצר טוב ממעי אמו של אדם היה גדל ובא עמו והתחיל מחלל שבתות אין ממחה בידו [הורג נפשות אין ממחה בידו הולך לדבר עבירה אין ממחה בידו] לאחר י״ג שנה נולד יצר טוב כיון שמחלל שבתות א״ל ריקה הרי הוא אומר (שמות ל״א:י״ד) מחלליה מות יומת.

The Evil Urge. How so? They say that for the first thirteen years [of a person’s life] the Evil Urge is greater than the Good Urge. There in his mother’s womb, a person’s Evil Urge grows with him. [After he emerges into the world,] he starts breaking the Sabbath, and nothing is there to stop him; [killing people, and nothing is there to stop him; going out to sin, and nothing is there to stop him.] After thirteen years, the Good Urge is born. Then when he breaks the Sabbath, it says to him: Empty one! Isn’t it written (Exodus 31:14), “One who breaks it will surely die”?


Over there it speaks about the remorse that a person feels after committing a wrongdoing. This specific feeling (guilty conscience) appears only after the age of 13. This is referred to as "yetzer hatov" in that specific context.

Before this age, the child still might feel bad after committing a wrongdoing, but that might be only because afraid of the parents who will be upset.

(Note that the general weakness of my answer, as well as the two other answers, as well all this type of philosophy is that how is it ever possible to honestly distinguish between "real" good/bad deed and "acting as if". Therefore, all these suggestions remains very hypothetic. Because who are we to judge a whole group of people (children / non-Jews) and assess the honesty of all of their actions? Nevertheless, I think my answer at least has to do more with the text.)

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