Sources for Class #3: Human Nature

(א) בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה', אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעולָם, יוצֵר אור וּבורֵא חשֶׁךְ עֹשֶׂה שָׁלום וּבורֵא אֶת הַכּל.

(1) Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who forms light and creates darkness, who makes peace and creates all things.

(ז) יוֹצֵ֥ר אוֹר֙ וּבוֹרֵ֣א חֹ֔שֶׁךְ עֹשֶׂ֥ה שָׁל֖וֹם וּב֣וֹרֵא רָ֑ע אֲנִ֥י יְהוָ֖ה עֹשֶׂ֥ה כָל־אֵֽלֶּה׃ (ס)

(7) I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe— I the LORD do all these things.

(ז) רַבִּי נַחְמָן בַּר שְׁמוּאֵל בַּר נַחְמָן בְּשֵׁם רַב שְׁמוּאֵל בַּר נַחְמָן אָמַר, הִנֵּה טוֹב מְאֹד, זֶה יֵצֶר טוֹב. וְהִנֵּה טוֹב מְאֹד, זֶה יֵצֶר רָע. וְכִי יֵצֶר הָרָע טוֹב מְאֹד, אֶתְמְהָא. אֶלָּא שֶׁאִלּוּלֵי יֵצֶר הָרָע לֹא בָּנָה אָדָם בַּיִת, וְלֹא נָשָׂא אִשָּׁה, וְלֹא הוֹלִיד, וְלֹא נָשָׂא וְנָתַן.

(7) Rabbi Nahman said in Rabbi Samuel's name: 'Behold, it was good' refers to the Good Desire; 'And behold, it was very good' refers to the Evil Desire. (It only says 'very good' after man was created with both the good and bad inclinations, in all other cases it only says 'and God saw that it was good.') Can then the Evil Desire be very good? That would be extraordinary! But without the Evil Desire, however, no man would build a house, take a wife and beget children, or engage in business.

תנו רבנן שתי שנים ומחצה נחלקו בית שמאי ובית הלל הללו אומרים נוח לו לאדם שלא נברא יותר משנברא והללו אומרים נוח לו לאדם שנברא יותר משלא נברא נמנו וגמרו נוח לו לאדם שלא נברא יותר משנברא עכשיו שנברא יפשפש במעשיו ואמרי לה ימשמש במעשיו
The Sages taught the following baraita: For two and a half years, Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel disagreed. These say: It would have been preferable had man not been created than to have been created. And those said: It is preferable for man to have been created than had he not been created. Ultimately, they were counted and concluded: It would have been preferable had man not been created than to have been created. However, now that he has been created, he should examine his actions that he has performed and seek to correct them. And some say: He should scrutinize his planned actions and evaluate whether or not and in what manner those actions should be performed, so that he will not sin.

(ד) אָמַר רַבִּי בֶּרֶכְיָה בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁבָּא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לִבְרֹאת אֶת אָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן, רָאָה צַדִּיקִים וּרְשָׁעִים יוֹצְאִים מִמֶּנּוּ, אָמַר אִם אֲנִי בּוֹרֵא אוֹתוֹ רְשָׁעִים יוֹצְאִים מִמֶּנּוּ, וְאִם לֹא אֶבְרָא אוֹתוֹ הֵיאַךְ צַדִּיקִים יוֹצְאִים מִמֶּנּוּ. מֶה עָשָׂה הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא הִפְלִיג דַּרְכָּן שֶׁל רְשָׁעִים מִכְּנֶגֶד פָּנָיו וְשִׁתֵּף בּוֹ מִדַּת רַחֲמִים וּבְרָאוֹ, הֲדָא הוּא דִּכְתִיב (תהלים א, ו): כִּי יוֹדֵעַ ה' דֶּרֶךְ צַדִּיקִים וְדֶרֶךְ רְשָׁעִים תֹּאבֵד, אִבְּדָהּ מִכְּנֶגֶד פָּנָיו וְשִׁתֵּף בּוֹ מִדַּת רַחֲמִים וּבְרָאוֹ.

4) Rabbi Berachiah said: At the moment when God set to create the first human, God saw both righteous and wicked ones springing from him. God said, "If I create them, evildoers will arise from them, but if I don't create them, how will righteous ones arise from them?" What did the Holy Blessed One do? God put aside thoughts of human wickedness and relied upon God's attribute of compassion, and created them.

דאר"ח גדול מצווה ועושה ממי שאינו מצווה ועושה

Rabbi Ḥanina says: Greater is one who is commanded to do a mitzva and performs it than one who is not commanded to do a mitzva and performs it.

Yeshayahu Leibowitz, "Commandments" in Contemporary Jewish Religious Thought (Cohen and Mendes-Flohr, ed.)

"If there is a fixed pattern and lawfulness in the world, man is a part of it and is necessarily subject to the whole system of natural reality that includes not only his body but also his soul. Man is subject to the natural order both physiologically and psychologically. (Although it is of concern to metaphysics, the purported division of body and soul is irrelevant and superfluous from the standpoint of religious faith. From a religious point of view, the dividing line in not between "matter" and "spirit" but between the creator and the created, that is, between God and the world. Creation -- the world, nature -- includes everything material and spiritual apprehended by man.) From this perspective, freedom is then the acceptance of a way of life that does not stem from man's nature...There is only one way man may liberate himself from subjection to the forces of nature, namely by attachment to God. Concretely, this means doing God's will and not that of man, since man's will is intrinsically a fact of nature.

Hence, there is no freedom from the chains of nature except through accepting the yoke of the Torah and mitzvot, a yoke not imposed by nature. This is the meaning of the rabbinic saying, "The only free person is he who is concerned with Torah" (m. Avot 6:2).