Good And Evil

Rabbi Kaplan explains:

If God is all good and created the world as an act of pure altruism, how can evil and suffering exist, and why should God have created Gehenna as punishment. The early kabbalists resolved this by teaching that in order than man not be a robot or puppet, he had to have both free will and free choice, and for this to be possible, evil had to exist as an alternative and contrast to good. Evil therefore also ultimately exists to fulfill God's purpose, and hence, all evil will eventually result in good. (Aryeh Kaplan, Chasidic Masters (New York: Maznaim Publishing Corporation, 1984), p. 21.)

Worldly desires, which are typically considered to be good, are often lusted after. In that case they take on the character of evil. Kaplan explains this by a story.

The Evil Urge is like a prankster running through a crowd, displaying a tightly closed hand. No one knows what he is holding, and he accosts each one, saying, "What do you suppose I have in my hand?"

Each one imagines that the closed hand contains just what he desires most. They all hurry and run after the prankster. Then when he has tricked them completely, he opens his hand -- and there is nothing in it.

The same is true of the Evil One. He fools the world, tricking all into following him. People think that his hand holds what they desire most, but in the end he opens it and it is empty. No desire is ever fulfilled.

Worldly pleasures are like sunbeams in a dark room. They may seem solid, but one who tries to grasp a sunbeam finds nothing in his hand. The same is true of all worldly desires. (Aryeh Kaplan, Chasidic Masters (New York: Maznaim Publishing Corporation, 1984), pp. 110-111.)

Rabbi Ashlag teaches that the

Corruption and evil that are present in a situation are merely a cause for the good situation to follow. The time that any situation exists is only that time necessary for the evil to grow so great that the public cannot stand it any longer. Then they will unite to destroy it, create a better situation, and reform the generation.

The new situation exists long enough for the sparks of evil contained within it (the new order) to ripen and grow unbearable. At that time, it, too, will be destroyed and a more comfortable situation established in its place. In this manner, the situations are clarified one after the other, step by step, until they are completely rectified of all evil.

We now see that the seeds from which all good situations grow are none other than the corruptions themselves. Each and every evil perpetrated by wrongdoers of a generation combine until the community can no longer endure it. They (society) then arise, destroy the evil, and create a more desirable situation. Evil, in all its aspects, is nothing more than a driving force for the development of a better situation. (Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag, Kabbalah: A Gift of the Bible (Jerusalem: Research Center of Kabbalah, 1984), p. 109.)

Rabbi Shneur Zalman teaches

God constantly creates the universe anew from the ayin of Chochmah.

Now when a man will contemplate in the depths of his understanding and will [moreover] picture in his mind how he comes into being ex nihilo at every single moment,

so that he is affected at every moment of his existence by God's wisdom,

how can he entertain the thought that he is suffering, or has any afflictions related to "children, life, health, and sustenance," or whatever other worldly sufferings?

For the ayin which is God's Chochmah is the source of life, goodness and delight. It is the Eden that transcends the World to Come,

The World to Come - the Garden of Eden - is the most sublime form of bliss experienced by the soul in apprehending Godliness. This level, lofty as it may be, is however but a garden, a stage once removed from the spiritual delights which flow to it from the source which is called Eden. It is this level of Divinity that constantly creates and vitalizes all living beings.

except that, because it is not apprehensible, one imagines that he is suffering, or afflicted.

In truth, however, "No evil descends from above" (Midrash Rabbah, Genesis 51:3), and everything is good, though it is not apprehended [as such] because of its immense and abundant goodness,

at a level which is inconceivable to man.

The life-force of all things, even those that we perceive as evil, as found within its source is truly good. In fact, it is such a lofty manner of good that it remains faithful to its source, and as such is not apprehensible to man as good. In this it differs from the other form of good that is able to descend to so low a level that even mortals can perceive its goodness.

This higher form of goodness, because it retains its status at the outset of its revelation, is clothed in this world in a garb of pain and evil, inasmuch as its goodness has yet to be revealed to man.


In this spirit, the Alter Rebbe explains the conduct of Nachum Ish Gamzu, whose response to all occurrences was the remark, Gam zu letovah "This, too, is for the good." This remark not only meant that an event that seemed to be evil would eventually evolve into good, but that the event itself, by virtue of its source, was good in its present form as well; its inherent goodness would be revealed at some later date.

And this is the essence of the faith for which man was created: to believe that "There is no place void of Him. Zohar, Tikkun 57.)

God is everywhere} and "In the light of the King's countenance there is life." (Proverbs 16:15.)


Accordingly, "Strength and gladness are in His place,"

The fact that God is found everywhere should encourage a man by strengthening his trust, and thereby fill him with joy, for whatever predicament he finds himself in, God is there too. And wherever God is present, there is "strength and gladness."

because He is but good all the time.

Therefore, first of all, man ought to be happy and joyous at every time and hour, and truly live by his faith in God, Who animates him and acts kindly towards him at every moment.

But he who is grieved and laments demonstrates that he is undergoing some hardship and suffering, and lacks some goodness; he is [heaven forfend] like a heretic, who denies God's omnipresence.

For if he would truly believe, he would realize (as above) that "In the light of the King's countenance there is life," and "Strength and joy are in His place," so that he indeed lacks nothing.

This is why the Sages of Truth, the Kabbalists, strongly rejected the trait of sadness,

for it contradicts ... "There is no place devoid of Him."

The truly faithful [one], however, is not perturbed by any suffering whatsoever, and with respect to all mundane matters, "yes" and "no" are all the same to him, in true equality.

But he to whom they are not the same, demonstrates that he is one of the eirev rav, who act but for themselves; he loves himself to the extent that he removes himself from under the hand i.e., the authority of God.


Accordingly, everything is absolutely good, except that it is not apprehended as such by man.

When one believes this truly, everything becomes good even on a revealed level.

For by such a faith, in which one believes that what manifestly seems to be evil in fact receives its entire vitality from the Supreme Good, i.e., from God's Chochmah which is not apprehensible, and which is the Eden that transcends the World to Come - by this faith the imagined evil is truly absorbed and sublimated in the concealed Supreme Good,

so that the good becomes palpably revealed to the physical eye.
(Rabbi Schneur Zalman, Iggeret HaKodesh, comm. Yosef Wineberg, trans. Sholom Wineberg, in Lessons In Tanya, Vol 4 (Brooklyn, NY: Kehot Publication Society, 1992), p. 191-199.)

The Zohar asks the question:

How can one love Him [God] with the evil inclination? Is not the evil inclination the seducer, preventing man from approaching the Holy One to serve him? How, then, can man use the evil inclination as an instrument of love to God? The answer lies in this, that there can be no greater service done to the Holy One thatn to bring into subjection the "evil inclination" by the power of love to the Holy One, blessed be He. For, when it is subdued and its power broken by man in this way, then he becomes a true lover of the Holy One, since he has learned how to maked the "evil inclination" itself serve the Holy One. The Zohar, Vol 4, , trans. Harry Sperling and Maurice Simon (London: The Soncino Press, 1978), (II, 163a) p. 62.)

Reinforcing this the Zohar says:

There can be no true worship except it issue forth from darkness, and no true good except it proceed from evil. And when a man enters upon an evil way and then forsakes it the Holy One is exalted in glory. Hence the perfection of all things is attained when good and evil are first of all commingled, and then become all good, for there is no good so perfect as that which issues out of evil. The divine Glory is extolled and extended thereby, and therein lies the essence of perfect worship. The Zohar, Vol 4, , trans. Harry Sperling and Maurice Simon (London: The Soncino Press, 1978), (II, 184a) p. 125.)

On Job, the Zohar teaches:

As Job kept evil separate from good and failed to fuse them, he was judged accordingly; first he experienced good, then what was evil, then again good. For man should be cognizant of both good and evil, and turn evil itself into good. This is a deep tenet of faith. The Zohar, Vol 3, , trans. Harry Sperling and Maurice Simon (London: The Soncino Press, 1978),(II, 34a) p. 109.)

Rabbi Schneerson teaches that

there are two types of good: that which was always good; that which was once evil and is now transformed into good -- which is a higher level. Since God desires this second, higher level also, there had to first exist the evil ... to be able to transform it into good. (Rabbi M. M. Schneerson, Sichos in English, vol. 21 (Brooklyn, NY: Sichos in English, 1984), p. 213.)

Rabbi Schneerson teaches that

Man's service, to be whole, must be performed by his own efforts, making him a ``partner with God in creation.'' Just as a person, to be a partner, must actually do something for the partnership, so too in the partnership between God and man: man must actually do things in the partnership. To make this possible, God had to create evil, thus allowing free choice to exist. When man chooses to do good, to fight against evil and transform that evil into good, he infuses a new element into creation, and thereby becomes a partner with God. (Rabbi M.M. Schneerson, Sichos in English, vol 20 (Brooklyn, NY: Sichos in English, 1984, p7.)