WHY DO PEOPLE EXPERIENCE EVIL
Based on the Rambam
SEGMENT I: WHAT IS GOOD AND EVIL?
1. The perspective on good and evil is egocentric – it comes from the perspective of the individual rather than the universe.
a. The mistaken perspective: All that exists, exists for the sake of the individual rather than the perspective that the individual occupies a meaningful but small place within a huge, complex universe of factors each interacting to build reality.
2. The “evil” that befalls man is a function of the fact that he is subject to generation – coming to be and passing away. As a result of the fact that man must die, youth must end, strength must diminish… man has the perspective that death and other endings are evil.
a. Being that man is derived from flesh and bones, he will be subject to the life script of the elements of matter
b. For there to be a second man, the first man must be die. I.e: When the origin of the world is considered, it is understood that one element begets the next, if there was a second element there had to have been a first – whether it be corporeal or not, it must be finite. The only infinite thing which had nothing that preceded it, and therefore nothing that will follow it, is G-d.
3. The 3rd type of evil is that which one man inflicts upon the other. Wars, famine that came from a result of squandering of resources, acts of terror or simple neglect are what we experience as evil but have nothing to do with Borei Olam.
4. The evil inflicted upon us as a result of our own actions.
a. “All men lament of evils of this kind, although it is rare that you find someone who is not guilty of bringing these evils upon himself.”
i. Diseases of the body: Conspicuous consumption of food and drink; engaging in things that are not essential for the body will often times be the source of the illnesses the body will experience. Smoking, eating foods prepared in aluminum…
ii. Diseases of the soul: When the body becomes accustomed to the excesses imposed on it, the soul becomes polluted by those things; developing a desire and need for things that will cause it to be ill when they are unavailable. The absence of the unhealthy things is experienced as deprivation or evil. Eg: Spending on a certain level…
Over-reaching is the greatest sources of one’s pain – the pain he attaches to evil that was either brought upon him or allowed to impact him by HKBH.
**What about the person who has great wealth and possessions versus the person who struggles?
Happiness and a life of success are never a function of something that sits outside of me because that can be taken from me, i.e. possessions, acquisitions… Happiness and a life of success are a function of:
- One’s intellectual achievement
- One’s ability to act with: Hesed, Sedaka and Mishpat as his guiding principles.
SEGMENT II: WHAT ABOUT JOB? WHY DID HE SUFFER?
- The overwhelming majority of our rabbis believe that Job as an individual may not have ever existed, as is the opinion of the Rambam. Rather the story of Job is a parable designed to teach a very important message:
How Borei Olam interacts with mankind (and to debunk the false notions of that).
The False Perspectives:
1. Job’s opinion in the beginning of his experiences: The opinion of Aristotle that G-d created the world and then left it to function on its own: The watchmaker theory. The watch was designed and crafted by someone and then left to work on its own. The watchmaker and the watch most often would be separated never again to reconnect.
a. The evil and good man are subject to the randomness of nature – there is no justice and no fair judgment
2. The opinion of his first friend: Eliphaz: This opinions is similar to that which is held by most Torah observant men and women, and that is:
a. Everything experienced by man is deserved by him.
b. Everything is a result of a just system imposed upon man by a just G-d. In the case of Job, he was being punished for his sins.
c. If the reason for the punishment is unclear that is because much of the ways of the Almighty are hidden from us.
3. The opinion of Bildad (The doctrine of the Mu-tazila)
a. The belief in ultimate compensation (or reconciliation): If what is being experienced by you is not deserved by you, “Zadik ve’ra lo”, it will be corrected in another place, in another reality – the World to Come. So if you are suffering here it is a cheap payment for the great reward you will receive later.
b. The circumstances of every being in creation are overseen by The Creator of the Universe. Every leaf that falls, every ant that dies and every fish that is caught.
4. The opinion of Zophar (The doctrine of the Ashariya): The belief that there is an Omnipotent Being but he simply does what He wants. His actions are arbitrary and not subject to any criteria of justice or accountability. Therefore those who got on the boat that sunk were there as a result of the absolute randomness of the universe.
5. The next opinion is that of Elihu which incorporate the notions of: A) Angels and B) Prophecy. He says there are incorporeal beings that have a specific task to do and will be dispatched to execute that task, and there is this element of prophecy which enables man to receive knowledge from an incorporeal being.
6. The 6thopinion re how G-d interacts with man is the opinion of Rambam; the opinion of those who keep Torah and Misvot but who also have a high level of learning:
a. The Primal Maker is engaged in the world with human beings only – i.e. animals, trees, fish are purely subject to the laws of nature. E.g. If a tree falls in the forest, it fell as a result of the fact that trees will age and at a certain point fall down. If an animal lives or dies it has nothing to do with the desire of the Creator, rather it is a function of The Laws of Nature that the Creator put in place.
b. The Divine Providence of interaction that G-d has with man is not democratic rather it is a result of the actions of man in 2 respects:
i. His level of intellectual achievement
ii. His adherence to Hesed, Zedaka and Mishpat
Rambam says the purpose of the book of Job is to make clear:
A) The governance of G-d over something is nothing like the governance of man.
B) And that Job was Torah observant yet wasn’t knowledgeable.
In order to understand the governance of G-d somewhat, you must step away from the wrong perspectives and delve, learn and understand.
SEGMENT #3: SO WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE US DAY TO DAY AND IN TERMS OF HOW WE UNDERSTAND TISHA B’AV
- In terms of Tisha B’av:
- Our Rabbis have ascribed reasons for the destruction based on the events of the day, the recurring events of that day and the nevu’ah – prophecy that described what went on during those time periods in our history.
- We must accept the fact that the reason for the destructions was idol worship in the first Temple period, and baseless hatred in the second Temple period. The perspective of Elihu validates that there will be prophecy and that prophecy is a valid portal to understand the intent of HKBH.
- In terms of day to day life: The story is very different:
- Man has to recognize although great, he is a component in a very complex structure of reality
- Much of what man sees as suffering or evil is that which comes upon him either as a result of the human condition of beginnings and endings, the wrongdoing of others and his own actions which may have compromised him – physically, emotionally and spiritually and therefore is of his own doing – having nothing to do with Hashem.
- Man’s greatest achievement is his acquisition of knowledge, and his engaging the world with hesed, zedaka and mishpat.
So, in practical terms: It’s all about me. I can control me, I can build me. I can build me to a point where I’m building others.
So ultimately of course it all connects:
I can control me
To the extent that I control me, I will largely control the “evil” that confronts me
To the extent I control the evil that confronts me, I will impact society and build a better society