Thursday, September 13, 2012

Good and Evil - #BlogElul 27

What a dualistic view of the world. White and black hats, good and bad guys. A very Western, very Greek way of looking at things, although the concept of a struggle between the forces of light and darkness goes back to ancient Persia. Obi-Wan and Darth Vader echo the ancient concepts of Zoroastrianism.

Judaism sees things a little differently. Acknowledging the existence of evil in the world as separate from G-d would be to deny G-d's omnipotence. The inexorable conclusion from the premise that G-d is responsible for everything, good and evil, was expressed by the prophet Isaiah (in chapter 45):

ז  יוֹצֵר אוֹר וּבוֹרֵא חֹשֶׁךְ, עֹשֶׂה שָׁלוֹם וּבוֹרֵא רָע; אֲנִי יְהוָה, עֹשֶׂה כָל-אֵלֶּה.  {פ} 7 I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I am the LORD, that doeth all these things. {P}

It is interesting that when these words were put into the prayer book, the rabbis could not bring themselves to declare G-d the creator of evil - so they changed the wording so it says "I make peace and create everything".

To be honest, though, I find the idea that good and evil both come from the same source to be oddly comforting. There isn't some horrible demon out there trying to get us - even Satan, in the Book of Job, is one of G-d's servants, the "adversary" whose job it is to tempt humans to sin. He is the prosecutor before the Heavenly Court. In the vision of the prophet Zechariah (Chapter 3):

א  וַיַּרְאֵנִי, אֶת-יְהוֹשֻׁעַ הַכֹּהֵן הַגָּדוֹל, עֹמֵד, לִפְנֵי מַלְאַךְ יְהוָה; וְהַשָּׂטָן עֹמֵד עַל-יְמִינוֹ, לְשִׂטְנוֹ. 1 And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.
ב  וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-הַשָּׂטָן, יִגְעַר יְהוָה בְּךָ הַשָּׂטָן, וְיִגְעַר יְהוָה בְּךָ, הַבֹּחֵר בִּירוּשָׁלִָם; הֲלוֹא זֶה אוּד, מֻצָּל מֵאֵשׁ. 2 And the LORD said unto Satan: 'The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan, yea, the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee; is not this man a brand plucked out of the fire?'
Good and evil are two sides of the same coin. We often ascribe the first to luck, and the latter to something outside of us - there is no way a normal human can understand the mind of a psychopathic killer, and that in itself is a blessing. But in the end, I do not believe in the dualism of these two.

Whether you believe in a personal G-d or some vague "Universe" out there, it forms the light and creates darkness, makes peace and creates evil. The source of all is the same.

What do you think?

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