Pleasure Seekers and Power Seekers

At the end of פרשת בראשית, the Torah describes Hashem’s disappointment with the creation of man. The Torah says, כי יצר לב האדם רק רע מנעוריו, that man’s nature is only evil from his youth.

Rav Soloveitchik’s assessment of this Pasuk is that man without laws is led in one of two directions. Either he is a pleasure seeker or a power seeker. Both of these tendencies were seen in the early generations of mankind.

The generation of the flood fit into that category of pleasure seekers. Their main purpose of existence was to do whatever felt good. If it meant taking the wives of someone else, this was justified in the name of pleasure. The Rav wrote that this is very much like today’s Western society where “feeling good”, becomes the definition of right.

The second group of power seekers was depicted by the generation of the Tower of Bavel, known as the דור הפלגה. The idea of might and power, and ruling over others, was the primary motivation of existence. Ultimately, that generation wanted to make a war with Hashem and rule instead of Him.

It became obvious that there was a need for a system of laws and an individual who could teach the world that man had a more noble reason for existence. Avraham Avinu proved worthy of such a task, as were his descendants after him. They were to teach the world morality and how to find meaning in acting in a kind and decent manner.

We Jews continue in this task of being “a light unto the nations.” Unfortunately, human nature has not changed which makes our role today as important as it was in the days of Avraham Avinu.