Adam and Pinocchio

(First, please see part I about the eitz hada’as, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The following is extrapolated from a thought in an essay by R’ Yosef Gavriel Bechhofer.)

Until Adam ate the fruit, he consisted of free will and internalized yeitzer hatov (inclination to do good). He had no yeitzer hara; the inclination to do evil was external to him. This idea is found in Bereishis Rabba, and discussed at length in Nefesh haChaim (1:6, note).

According to Rambam in the Moreh Nevuchim (sec. 1 ch. 2), man always has choices to make — otherwise what is free will about? However, while for us the main challenge is good vs. evil, the challenge that faced Adam was not good vs evil, but truth vs falsehood.

Rabbi Dessler (Michtav meiEliyahu vol. 2 pg. 138) suggests that this is not a debate, but two aspects of the same truth. Since the desire to do evil was external, taking the form of the snake, it would have to present its argument to Adam. Adam’s only desire was to do good, so the snake’s argument would have to be a lie, presenting what it was promoting as though it were the greater good. Adam faced two conflicting stories about which path is better, and had to choose which was the truth.

In contrast to Adam, in the story of Pinocchio the main character is told that his lies are part of him, “as plain as the nose on his face”. But rather than a yeitzer hatov, the call to do good is externalized as a cricket. He is told to identify with the voice in his head suggesting wrong choices, but good choices are things someone else foisted on him. (Freud would be happy with this model: the id provides innate desires, but the superego provides rules imposed by parents and society. He didn’t believe in souls, and therefore had no reason to posit a higher calling as primary as man’s animal ones.) Pinocchio was set up to fail.

Our Sages say that a person is born with a yeitzer hara, but gains a yeitzer hatov only at his bar mitzvah. Perhaps they mean the following: Until adolescent rebellion, children choose good — but they do it because their parents, teacher, principal, etc… expects it of him. Jiminy Crickets telling them “you gotta”. Until the child is capable of rebellion, he doesn’t truly operate from the perspective of an internalized yeitzer hatov.

The key to making proper decisions is to identify oneself with one’s higher calling, to the extent that other desires are objectified, not part of the real me. To leave the Pinocchio stance and assume that of Adam. Not, “I want to play but he is pushing me to sit in school”, but “I want to help others, but he is suggesting I slow down and relax.”

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