Good and Evil – Light and Shadows

 

Good and Evil

Light and Shadows

 

Chapter 1 Do Good and Evil Really Exist?

 

Practice and Theory

Right and Wrong

 

In the history of the world, many battles have been fought, but perhaps the greatest battle of all is the one between good and evil.

 

Between decency and depravity, between selflessness and selfishness, between peace and violence.

 

We are all confronted with this battle, and we strive to be the best we can.

 

We try to dedicate our lives to good works and we place great value on acts of charity and philanthropy.

 

Above all, we teach our children to be virtuous and morally sound.

 

But where do our ethical standards come from?

 

What is right and what is wrong?

 

What is good and what is evil?

 

We live in a time when there seems to be no easy answer to these questions.

 

Behavior that might be considered unacceptable to one group may be fine with another.

 

Yesterdays taboos can become today’s everyday activities.

 

There seems to be no universally accepted model of right and wrong, schools that were once a source of objective values have often become ideological battlegrounds where values are neutralized so as not to discriminate against the feelings of any individual or group.

 

What we are often left with is a diluted form of moral relativism: Anything is acceptable as long as it  doesn’t overtly hurt someone else.

 

But is this standard high enough?

 

In the name of “live and let live” have we compromised our most basic sense of right and wrong?

 

 

Ask yourself this simple question: Does such moral ambiguity ring true in your heart and soul?

 

This leads to an even broader question, which some people may have grown to timid to pose: Is there a real and absolute wrong and right?

If not why do human beings feel naturally positive about certain things and repulsed by others?

 

Even young children share this trait, an inner sense of right and wrong that is as strong as the sense of sight or hearing.

 

To lead a truthful and meaningful life, we must define good and evil and we must have an absolute value system that guides our conduct.

 

Otherwise our standards will remain arbitrary.

 

We may even wonder why we should bother to dedicate our lives to the pursuit of goodness.

 

When we teach our children right from wrong, we must be able to tell them – and ourselves – why such a distinction is necessary and absolute.

 

In the Bible, G-d provided mankind with a set of absolute laws an instructions, which define right and wrong, and good and evil.

 

Practice and Theory

Right and wrong effects you

 

From G-d’s perspective, good and evil are forces that are respectively constructive and destructive.

 

Just as healthy food nourishes the body and poison harms it, goodness is essential to the soul’s health and evil hurts it.

 

Practice and Theory

 

Goodness therefore is not just a moral obligation; its essential nourishment for your body and soul.

 

Similarly, hurting another person is unacceptable not only because you have no right to do so, but because you are also damaging yourself.

 

Practice and Theory

By committing good acts, you are further connecting yourself to G-d, thereby energizing your own soul, whereas a wicked act meanwhile disconnects you from G-d and weakens your soul.

 

Practice and Theory

How ego is the source of wars, jealousy and hatred

 

Virtuous behavior is an affair not just between men, but between man and G-d.

 

War breaks out in the heart of man when the human soul becomes disconnected from God, the source of goodness.

 

Why can men hate and destroy each other?

 

Because their egos can wish to and hence their mind’s dominated by their egos deny that all humanity comes from the same source, and should therefore be striving toward the same goal.

 

Doing good means rising above your own needs, connecting with G-d and extending this unity to your fellow man.

 

Chapter 2 Why Do Good And Evil Exist?

 

Practice and Theory

Freedom of Choice

 

We all struggle to fathom how a good and righteous G-d could allow so much suffering and could permit such atrocities in the world.

 

The age old question inevitably arises: Why did G-d create evil, and how can we reconcile it with his goodness?

 

To answer this, we must take one step back and ask a far more basic question: Why did G-d create life? For without life there would be no evil and no pain.

 

G-d created our material world because He wanted us to refine it and make it His home.

 

In order to achieve this, we must first perceive ourselves as an independent reality.

 

So each of us was granted free will, the ability to choose between selflessness and selfishness, and between good and evil; to follow G-d’s instructions or to not.

 

 

This freedom is the greatest gift G-d gave us.

 

Without it there would be no point to life.

 

Practice and Theory

 

G-d does not want evil; He wants us to do only good, nor does G-d ever commit evil, only man commits evil.

 

But in order for man to be a true partner in life, he must have the autonomy to choose.

 

Even though, G-d cannot bear the pain when one man causes another to suffer, it would be even more painful to take back the free will he has given us.

 

Practice and Theory

 

We have the potential to do either good or evil.

 

And by overcoming the temptation to do evil, the temptation to advance ourselves at any cost, we reach a far higher plane that we otherwise could have.

 

The greater the challenge, the more strength it draws out of us.

 

And just as light in the night seems brighter and is more appreciated than the same light by day, an act of kindness shines with all the more intensity when compared to the wrongdoing we could have committed instead.

 

There is a certain risk in G-d’s having granted us such a choice, but risk is inherent in growth.

 

For a child to learn to walk he or she must be allowed to fall.

 

Practice and Theory

The container hiding the light

 

This explains why there is a potential for evil, but how can it exist in the face of a good and omnipresent G-d?

 

This takes us back to the method that G-d used to create our physical reality.

 

In order to allow us our independence, G-d concealed His presence, charging us to see beyond the “container,” the physical world in which we live to find the G-dly “light” within.

 

G-d’s concealment in our material world allows us the free will either to seek Him out or to ignore Him.

 

If G-d’s presence were obvious to us, we would have neither the inclination nor the opportunity to do evil.

 

But then we wouldn’t have the challenge – or the awesome satisfaction – of doing good either.

 

Evil in other words is the challenge of life gone awry.

 

When we become oblivious to the challenge or ignore it, like the child who stops searching for his hiding, we allow G-d’s concealment to leave room – after many layers of condensation and mutation – for potential evil.

 

When we see only the “container” and not the “light” within, when we selfishly pursue only our material interests and ignore our spirituality, this self-interest can allow evil to flourish.

 

Practice and Theory

How to beat Evil

 

One cannot say that G-d chooses evil or sustains it.

 

Wickedness is committed against G-d’s will, for his intention is not to remain concealed but to be revealed, and it pains him when we cease looking for Him.

 

Since evil is against G-d’s will, it has no legitimacy of its own; it is only as a result of our being deceived by G-d’s concealment and not seeing it as a means to G-d’s revelation.

 

Consider that evil is darkness while goodness is light: Just as darkness is merely the absence of light, evil is merely the absence of goodness.

 

And just as darkness can be dispelled by introducing even a small amount of light, evil can be dispelled by introducing even a small amount of goodness.

 

Wisdom

Destroying Evil

 

When we are deceived by G-d’s concealed state and succumb to it by committing evil, we are giving substance to that which is really like a shadow, with no substance of its own.

 

Thus by refraining from evil conduct we are actively negating evil, destroying its illusionary power and thereby revealing its true purpose.

 

As the sages say of evil, “its destruction is its repair.”

 

Practice and Theory

Repenting

 

A person must do everything in his power to avoid committing a sin, it is not permissible to sin with the intention of repenting later.

 

But if he does succumb to temptation, he always has within him the power to repent, to release the positive sparks from within the darkness of the sin, while destroying the evil of the sin itself.

 

The person who commits evil and repents may actually gain a greater appreciation for G-d, for the intense light of goodness is all the greater when we see it in close contrast to the sheer darkness of evil.

Chapter 3 How Do We Handle The Pain That Evil Causes?

 

Practice and Theory

The Paradox

 

We have all seen the consequences of evil.

 

We may come to understand that such suffering strengthens a human being, that there is no greater satisfaction than overcoming adversity, but such revelations do not satisfy the suffering heart.

 

Inevitably, we ask: Why must it be this way?

 

Abraham cried out to G-d, “Shall the whole world’s judge not act justly?” and his cry has reverberated through a hundred generations of tear soaked history.

 

All the explanations in the world cannot address the pain of suffering.

 

Even the most logical reason is, at best, only theoretical; the heart will never reconcile itself to pain.

 

On the other hand, faith in G-d is not dependent on answers to philosophical queries; no amount of intellectual prodding can dent the person of faith, because faith is built on an inner sense of what is true and real, which is far stronger than logic alone and far beyond the pain of evil.

 

The paradox of faith, dictates, that we both challenge G-d and accept what he does, for we recognize that G-d’s reality is far beyond our own and that ultimately we cannot understand his mysterious ways.

 

This paradox has been plaguing the thinking believer, since the beginning of time.

 

While the mind struggles to rationalize, the heart learns to love.

 

While the mind struggles to categorize a series of conflicting events, the heart tolerates contradictions.

 

Outrage and devotion, judgment and acceptance, pain and pleasure – a heart that loves has room for them all.

 

So yes, we question and challenge G-d.

 

And yes, we pray and demand that he do away with evil and suffering.

 

And yet we realize that only G-d knows why suffering is permitted why tragedy and agony are allowed.

 

The only true answer for the heart is silence.

 

After all is said and done, there are no words to explain the pain we feel from evil and no words can erase it.

 

Practice and Theory

Don’t let evil waylay you from doing good!

 

We must also remember that G-d has given each of us a purpose in life – to commit and encourage acts of goodness and kindness, to use our time, energy, and knowledge to tear through the layers of the “container” and reveal G-d’s light within.

 

Despite the lack of satisfactory answers to the question of evil, one can – and must – carry on a meaningful life, promote justice and kindness, and indeed help create a better world. A world in which there is no nourishment for evil, where there is no room in mans heart for any inhumanity whatsoever.

 

Practice and Theory

Holocaust

 

How then should one react to a devastating calamity like the holocaust for example?

 

We, of course have no answers to such utterly barbaric evil, and we must challenge G-d for allowing it.

 

However at the same time the experience must be interpreted as the ultimate challenge, which we must meet with complete resolve and determination.

 

We must not allow tragedy to immobilize us, but rather use it to motivate us to intensify ever more our commitment to the forces of good.

 

Regardless of how long it will take the world to repent for the holocaust, we must say that “I for one, will not slacken my determination to carry out my purpose, to make the world a fitting home for G-d and the rest of humanity!”

 

Practice and Theory

The inevitability that Goodness will fight and prevail

 

What is the best way to deal with evil and the pain it causes?

 

Faith leads us to the most fascinating – and pragmatic – conclusion: We should not get stuck in our hearts or minds, on trying to resolve this question, for we can never answer it adequately!

 

Instead of wasting our time dwelling on the negative, we should be concentrating on all the good that we are empowered by G-d to accomplish.

 

We have the ability to counter the forces of evil, by shining the light of goodness on them.

 

And we have the certitude that good will prevail.

 

This confidence goes beyond common optimism.

 

Because goodness is the natural state of the world and humankind, its effect is eternal and cumulative.

 

All of man’s good works through the ages are building blocks, leading up to a final triumph of goodness in the world.

 

Moral lapses are not flaws, but by products of this process.

 

It is to be expected that when the forces of goodness show strength, the forces from where evil originate will endeavor to retaliate and that they will make their final stand just on the verge of their total collapse.

 

Practice and Theory

How You Can Change The World

 

After so many years of goodness and virtue, after all the blood and tears shed by so many wonderful people in their fight for what is good and right, the world is virtually saturated with positive spiritual energy.

 

The goodness is lying just beneath the surface, straining to burst through.

 

The next step is ours.

 

By doing one more good deed – and we don’t know which one it is – we will tip the scale, releasing centuries of radiance, bathing the entire world in the light of knowledge and the goodness of G-d.

 

Chapter 4 Are We Naturally Inclined Toward Good or Evil?

Practice and Theory

 

Some thinkers contend that good and evil are two equal powers, and some would even argue that evil is the more powerful of the two.

 

They consider man’s nature as essentially selfish and morality as a superimposed condition to allow us to coexist in peace.

 

Most people the argument goes, are controlled by their evil inclination, and the world at its root is an uncaring or even evil place.

 

The Bible teaches us that this is unequivocally wrong.

 

There is only one G-d and G-d is good, all of G-d creations, including man and our world, are essentially good.

 

In our hearts, we all have a natural propensity for justice and virtue, and are repulsed by injustice and abuse.

 

We maintain a deep hope and faith that things will be better than they are.

 

The fact that we live in a world where, often, “the wicked prosper” and where selfishness prevails is a result of our giving priority to the materiel world and disregarding the spiritual.

 

After Adam and Eve sinned, a dichotomy was created between matter and spirit, instead of being seen as a “container” for spiritual Divine “light” within, the world began to be seen as an independent, self-contained hence self-centered reality.

 

This distortion allows room for evil; but whereas goodness is a real and tangible virtue, evil has no power on its own.

 

The fact that the wicked prosper is not a reality on its own, but as a result of limiting our vision to the one dimensional material world, or our failure to recognize the matter of the universe as concealed light for us to reveal.

 

Rather than battling evil, we should concentrate on cultivating the goodness within ourselves and others.

 

After all, since evil has no independent existence, focusing on it only gives it more opportunity to grow.

 

The best and most effective response and solution to evil is to attack not only its symptoms, but its cause: through selfless acts of goodness, we destroy evil at its root.

 

When teaching a child, or when you see a friend succumbing to selfishness, it may be tempting to reprimand him, to frighten him by warning of the terrible consequences that will surely befall him if he continues his behavior.

 

But the positive approach is ultimately more successful.

 

Tell the person about the goodness within him, of his pure soul and great potential; show what a great injustice he is committing by not living up to his potential.

 

Such an approach will foster confidence and pride, while a grave warning, demoralizes a person and closes up his soul.

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