THE REALITY OF EVIL


1. Evidence for/against the reality of evil (selected)

a. for: Is. 45:7 - G-d creates evil; Lam. 3:38, Rashi - both good and evil come from G-d; Mishna Berochos 9:5 - we must bless G-d for evil as well as good (note this assumes we can distinguish good from evil); the book of Job; the problem of the suffering of the righteous

b. against: G-d is good; Tal. Taanis 20a - "This too is for good"; Berochos 60b - "All that G-d does is for good"

2. Two possible solutions: (A) in all the sources of 1a the word "evil" refers to a false appearance - the illusion of evil; (B) evil is real but is a necessary means to a good end and thus can be the result of a good Will.

3. Criterion to decide between the solutions (Ramchal): imagine the "evil" prolonged infinitely in an otherwise empty universe: could that be good? If not, then solution (A) is wrong. G-d's goodness is explained as the goodness of His Will. Note the word "for" in the sources in 1b.

4. The word "evil" is used for suffering and for wrong actions. The common essence: evil is the hiding of G-d's control over the world. Both suffering and wrong actions hide His control.

a. "What does G-d want?" is a misleading question. E.g. George eats a cheeseburger. If G-d wants him not to eat, how can he do it? If G-d wants him to eat, why did He command us not to eat cheeseburgers? The truth: The answer depends upon the context of the question. G-d's first choice is that George choose to not eat the cheeseburger. But given George's decision to eat, G-d has to choose between letting him or stopping him. Relative to that choice, i.e. relative to George's decision to eat, G-d (usually) prefers to let George eat.

b. wrong actions are not G-d's first choice; when they occur in the context of allowing free will, they hide G-d's justice

c. suffering is not G-d's first choice; when it occurs in the context of human moral and spiritual  development, it hides G-d's benevolence 

          d. evil defined as hiding G-d's control (a kind of absence definition) does not make evil unreal

5. The reality of injury: the ability to injure someone even though he does not deserve it. Analysis as 4a: Does G-d want the victim to suffer? Considered by himself, no; considered in relation to the criminal's free will, maybe yes. No contradiction. Examples: Gen. 37:21 Ohr HaHaim and Alshikh (Reuven saving Joseph - see also Harchev Davar on 37:13); Gen. 15:14 Ramban (the punishment of Egypt for adding to the suffering of the Jewish People); Hulin 7b Rashi - occult can contradict Heavenly judgment. Explanation: normally G-d relates to us with mercy: in that relationship the victim does not deserve to suffer. When he confronts the criminal's free will, G-d relates with strict justice: in that relationship the victim may deserve to suffer. Thus his suffering is not unjust; the free will of the criminal has deprived the victim of mercy, and hence caused his injury. The reason: G-d's commitment to free will is very great since responsible action is the purpose for which we exist. Therefore, to interfere with free will requires a greater justification than mercy can provide.


www.DovidGottlieb.com