The problem of evil and two kinds of good.
‘Should Jews forgive and forget? The problem of evil in Jewish philosophy.’ R. Eli Brockman. Oxford University Chabad Society. www.oxfordchabad.org/templates/blog/post_cdo/AID/708481/PostID/32366
Rav Brockman’s lecture makes a good point, that the wrong-doer was ultimately the agent for what was predestined by God. That sharpness is immediately blunted by an explanation better suited to cheder* than the fine minds of Oxford. He says:
“The reason for the harm that befalls the person may be for the purpose of presenting the person with a challenge to which the person has the choice to overcome or capitulate. Indeed, according to Jewish mysticism, the main purpose of the existence of man in a world with good and evil is to be presented with the test whether he will overcome the test or capitulates.”
Pshat* aside, it might have been better to offer the more subtle argument that what is perceived as ‘evil’ is, in fact, a ‘concealed good’. Not the ‘rap your fingers’ mussar*, that the wronged person has an ‘opportunity to learn a valuable lesson’, but the ego-shifting teaching that it was never evil in the first instance. The source of the ‘predestined’ decree is from a higher and more concealed place of God’s creative activity. It is ‘in the dark’ because its source in creation is from before the moment when God says ‘let there be light. And God saw that it was good.’ This requires a bit of Sod* dexterity that a Tanya* reading Lubavitcher should have considered, especially the rabbi giving a lecture on evil at one of the world’s the most famous universities.
*cheder – hebrew and jewish studies class for children, like sunday school. pshat – the ‘plain and simple’, direct interpretation of scripture. mussar – moral and ethical teachings, usually quite ‘serious’, proscriptive and chest thumping. sod – the mystical, esoteric. and Chassidic interpretation of scripture. Tanya – the foundation text of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, R Shneur Zalman of Ladai.
The following is an edited extract from ‘Two Kinds of Good’, by Sarah Schneider. The link to the original article follows.
Two kinds of good
‘And the earth was chaos and void, and was upon the face of the deep…G‑d said let there be light, and there was light. G‑d saw the light that it was good…’ Gen 1:2
The question then becomes, experientially, what is the difference between good that is outside creation and good that is inside creation? Once good has entered the bounds of our world and integrated itself into a vessel, only then does it become visible. Only then is it perceptible as good. Before that, it is hidden light, which means that it is hidden good. Hidden light appears as its opposite, i.e. darkness, hidden good appears as its opposite, i.e. bad and suffering.
The Chassidic work of the Tanya, in Chapter 26, explains the implications of these ideas. It begins with the premise that G‑d is good, which means that every interaction G‑d has with creation is necessarily an expression of good. And so, there are two categories of good: Revealed Good, which is what we pray for, say mazal tov about, and wish upon our children; and Concealed Good (or suffering), which we try to avoid, say G‑d forbid about, and if it comes anyway, we say “Blessed is the True Judge.” When hidden good becomes visible as revealed good, it is called a blessing in disguise. One has entered a new level of relationship with G‑d. Some aspect of Divinity, previously beyond one’s grasp, is now consciously accessible. Concealed good, suffering and its pangs of growth, has become revealed good, the peace and quiet joy that accompanies actualized potential and expanded relationship with G‑d. http://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/402215/jewish/Two-Kinds-of-Good.htm
The relevant quote in the Tanya is: ‘.. one should accept misfortune with joy, like the joy in a visible and obvious good. For it, too, is for the good, except that it is not apparent and visible to mortal eyes, for it stems from the “hidden world,” which is higher than the “revealed world.”’ http://www.chabad.org/library/tanya/tanya_cdo/aid/7905/jewish/Chapter-26.htm