Human Workshop: Torah
Center for Spiritual Guidance
Leviticus - Vayikra
Intrinsic Evil Versus Apparent Evil
The Korbanot, the sacrifices of the Temple were intended to treat the various human tendencies toward deviation from the goal of perfection, that is, from the goal of unifying all parts of reality in order to express Godly Presence through this union. First and foremost this requires a union between matter and spirit. Some religions view this pair of opposites as being the only problem that needs to be resolved. This explains their absolute hostility toward physical matter; it is based on the assumption that what is physical is evil and what is spiritual expresses good. Such an assumption is forced to deny the possibility that intrinsic evil exists, entirely unrelated to the physical. In the physical versus spiritual perception, one must relate to an evil that is not really evil. It does not really exist but is only a metaphor for condemnation of the physical, which is evil. If you ever see a wicked man, it is only a sign that he is ruled by physical matter. If he would only distance himself from the physical, he would become utterly righteous.
The Torah demands Teshuva; it advocates for repair of our actions, for repair of our selves. We are required to repair our character traits, to search and rummage through our actions and through our personalities. We are to dive down to the very depths of the roots of evil, to the source of the urge to evil, and to all other evil tendencies, such as “envy, lust, and pride.”
One might ask why envy, lust and pride are called evil when they are no more than the three perspectives of the survival mechanism, which is nothing more than an extension of the laws of the existence of physical matter, so where do you find here intrinsic evil?
It is apparently necessary to explain what is meant by intrinsic evil. Sin, after all, according to Chazal, is attributed to “a spirit of foolishness” that enters into a human being: “No man sins unless a spirit of foolishness has entered into him.” This appears to be saying that there is not an element of evil in man himself. The spirit of foolishness enters a man not as the result of any evil that is pre-existent in him but rather as a result of laxness that has overcome him and disabled his control over his own actions. Chazal conclude decisively: “Let a man be a fool all his days, yet never wicked for even one hour before the Omnipresent One.”
This appears to be saying that a sin caused by foolishness is not so very grave. It should not be related to as evil but rather as an accident on the job, an error, an exception to the rule, which does not testify to the rule of the person’s character. It will suffice if the person simply recognizes it and repairs the damage.
The korbanot are designed to repair the damage created within the human being who sinned. After all, “your sins have been separating you from your Lord.” A conflict has been created between the physical, which inherent in man, and the spirit, which is inherent in man as well. Therefore he must sacrifice the physical, at the place of Mikdash, where heaven and earth kiss and there is no separating between the two. The sinner journeys to the Temple and offers a sacrifice of his fat and of his blood, and his sin is atoned, and the unity that was inherent in him before his sin is thus returned to its proper functioning.
Then where is evil? After all, “everything that has been created – it is for My Name and for My glory” that the Creator of the universe created and formed and made everything He did, and “there is no space that is free of Him.” It can only be that evil is the behavior of the person who “recognizes his Creator and deliberately intends to rebel against Him.” This is the wicked person who makes use of his power of free choice in order to kick truth aside. An example of this is a person who studies Torah in order to find fault. This is a “heretic for the sake of provoking anger,” as opposed to a “heretic for the sake of lust,” which the Torah simply ascribes to a “spirit of foolishness.”
There is a very specific type of action that falls into the category of intrinsic evil; it is that action perpetrated though a deliberate wish and intention to cause harm, damage or sorrow to one’s fellow human being who has done one no harm. This action does not profit the perpetrator; no personal gain is anticipated from this harming of one’s fellow human being. Such actions deserve to be attributed to the category of intrinsic evil. All other damages can be included in the category of apparent evil, comparable to the evil perpetrated by an uncomprehending animal that causes harm in order to sustain its own existence.
The Torah finds it necessary to warn people against choosing evil. For this is no natural tendency, as is the case with apparent evil. Rather, by virtue of the power of human free choice, by the power of man’s capacity to create, to become a creator, he also wields a power that enables him to choose to deviate from his animal nature and to create a new entity, an almost yesh may’ayin creation, almost generating “being out of non-being” – something new that has never existed before.
It is true that no human being is capable of creating a totally new and autonomous entity if the raw material for it, in potential, has not been pre-existent in the universe. Human beings cannot create yesh may’ayin; only the Creator of the universe can do this. Yet man is most certainly capable of creating behaviors that diverge and deviate from the systemized laws of nature.
It is true that this dynamic condition of human behavior is not given over entirely to the domain of human control. In fact man simply carries out and actualizes a reality, the potential for which has been prepared in advance by supreme Providence. A murderer – deliberately and premeditatedly taking a human life – is only taking a life upon whom judgment has already been decreed; it must pass from this world in any case.
Nevertheless, “good is worked through good people, and bad is worked through bad people,” even unbeknownst to them, as in the case cited in the Talmud of the man who fell from the ladder and killed the person below. The man who fell had previously killed someone unintentionally, but there had been no witnesses, so no exile had been decreed upon him, and the man below the ladder had previously killed someone in a deliberate and premeditated act of murder, but there had been no witnesses to that crime and so no death penalty had been carried out.
It is true that a dispute exists among the rishonim as to whether this is true in the case of premeditated murder as well, that the murderer is only carrying out a verdict that has already been decreed upon the murdered individual. Yet no one disputes the fact that there was never a decree placed upon the murderer to force him to perpetrate a murder in order to carry out a death penalty decreed upon another individual. This the murderer does by his power of free choice.
Amalek is the dishonorable representative of intrinsic evil; it is the incarnation of wickedness and of all evil character traits that arise out of free choice.
Christianity has taken free choice away from human beings and given it over to the man who is their deity. Humanity stripped of its free choice is doomed to an endless and incurable spirit of foolishness. Whoever fails to attach to the man who is their deity is without hope, and death is preferable to life for that person. This is why Christianity has preached the virtue of “killing, exterminating, and destroying” anyone who heretically denies the man who is their deity, and first and foremost the Jews from whom he came forth, should they refuse to accept his lordship, “and there has been no lack of disgrace and outrage.”
This explains the morally illogical attitude of leniency and forgiveness that Christianity takes toward evil. After all, what can possibly be expected from a creature devoid of free choice? Thus has Christianity accustomed the western world to relate leniently and forgivingly to evil in general, while giving the lion’s share of evil a certificate of virtue, as seen in the murderous cruelty demonstrated by the church toward whoever would heretically deny its teachings. Islam has adopted this attitude as well. These religions contain no principle-based platform that recognizes and condemns intrinsic evil – whether evil in itself or evil as behavior.
This blurring of evil, and this non-recognition of evil has been adopted enthusiastically by human society, which by virtue of being human bears the human element, in which Godly presence is incarnated at its best, for man is the only creature who has been given the honor of being the bearer of God’s word in this world. It is this quality that protects man and prevents him from joining evil and becoming enslaved to it for any length of time. Soon enough the Godly quality inherent in man pulls out its whip – that is, the feeling of guilt – and lashes at him from within, until he mends his ways.
Yet soon enough pampered and spoiled man adopted a new goal: he would remove feeling of guilt; he would distance it entirely from his province. He rose and created a moral theory that has nothing whatsoever in common with reality.
The moral teaching invented by the nations is not human, and its goal is not to protect man, nor to do him good, but rather to impose ideas and theories upon him that look nice and sound nice. They are built upon a logical method that is controlled by order, rather than justice for the private individual, such as Jewish morality demands. The test of Jewish morality is the well being of the private individual; everything else belongs to the realm of law and order, and even law and order are not exempt from the requirement of proving that they operate for the good of the private individual.
Thus did systems form, which were self-justifying, which trampled the rights of the individual – systems that in their very nature contained no trace of the human element. Liberalism, and all systemized ideas, turn individual rights and the ideals of justice and equality into building blocks for new systems, which become brute-force-based, paternalistic regimes that use their governmental power to oppress the individual and grind him into the dust.
This absence of a core of humanness at its center, such as lives and breathes in the image of the private individual, specifically, is what has uprooted humanness from these ideational systems.
A counter chain reaction forms at this point. The human core as it exists within the human individual is the basis for the rightness and justice of all the other values, such as justice, honesty, and equality. Without this human core, truth becomes lie, equality – distortion, and justice is turned into the deprivation of the weak by the strong, who gloat as they preach their hypocrisy: “Praises of the Lord are in their throat while a double-edged sword is in their hand.”
Thus does liberalism become a sentient, self-sustaining entity, living by robbing the poor, taking “the poor man’s only lamb,” confusing the issues and mistaking the wolf for the lamb. The Cossack comes onstage, crying that he has been robbed, and demands justice and equality – but only for himself.
The absence of the private individual’s personal involvement enables this playing havoc with the systems, putting “the lower realms up above and the higher realms down below.” There is “no judge and no justice,” and “every man does whatever is right in his own eyes.” There is no relating to the stability of time and place, to one’s traditions, to one’s roots, to reverence for one’s elders, to authority, or to any of the principles that guide behavior.
Here evil announces a feast, and the wicked person celebrates, in the absence of that human element that lives and breathes and sustains the soul of the flesh and blood creature that otherwise becomes an animal more dangerous than any other, in that it possesses free choice and has chosen to turn evil into good – meaning to adopt evil and to call it good. This is a faithful copy of the wicked Esav’s style of choosing evil – and it is from Esav that Amalek came into the world.
The “spirit of foolishness” causes a man “to grow so intoxicated that he cannot tell ‘cursed’ from ‘blessed.’” Wickedness, however, knows quite well how to distinguish the two, yet it has decided to choose evil.
The Jew in contrast has decided to remove all systemized billboards, stigmas and laws created by human beings for the purpose of evading the never-ending obligation of free choice, which must incessantly be examining the innumerable fine details and exacting distinctions of ever-changing reality. Such tedious and exhausting labor is not to Esav’s taste, and he prefers subjugation and enslavement to a system that will supposedly do the work for him, and thus he can free himself from the labor of free choice. The Jew is the reminder of Esav’s sin, and for this, Esav shall forever hate him.
For these reasons psychology came into the world, to become a Christian religion, only without God. In His place, it positioned – at the top of the scale of its systemized values – physical matter, specifically, granting physical matter an intrinsic justification and a supreme value. Physical nature would become the symbol of harmony, of the perfect good. One must attach oneself to nature, utterly, and at any price, and be willing to sacrifice all the qualities of goodness and beauty, for after all physical nature does not contain the values of goodness and beauty. These are the fruit of the human spirit, of human creativity and of human free choice. Only through the human element were the values of goodness and beauty introduced to the world.
And so man become a slave – enslaved to the laws of physical matter, no longer controlling them in order to serve the spirit through them, as the Torah had instructed him to do. How much better would it be for man to cancel systemized good and evil entirely, and leave this distinction in his own bosom alone. This is the Megila’s instruction. The Scroll of Esther advises us to renounce systemized, theoretical distinctions between “cursed” and “blessed,” to leave it to ourselves alone, to follow our own feelings and judgment, which draw from the Godly-human element concealed within us.
Liberalism gave birth to Leftism, whose prime feature is the total erasure of the private human individual, and the establishment of a sterile system in his place. From this feature, all the other features follow, which have been adopted by Leftism, for it views the wolf as the lamb and vice versa. Chazal warn against this: “Whoever is compassionate to the cruel, will ultimately be cruel to the compassionate.”
The Leftist view propounds a sweeping negation of force of any kind, even for educational purposes. From here are derived the laws that prohibit every use of force, even with regard to education and even with regard to dangerous criminals who constitute a menace to society. From here is derived the consistent placing of the blame on the system, and on society, rather than on the acting individual, the wicked person himself.
Yet wonder of wonders: the constant preaching to attach to our physical nature has distanced us from our human nature; we have lost the ability to distinguish good from evil, healthy from sick, beautiful from ugly (abstract art) and the fool from the wise person.
From here we may understand the distinction made by the Passover Hagaddah, which opposes the wise to the wicked, rather than to the foolish, to teach us that the opposite of wise is wicked – the wicked person who refuses to make use of the obligation of free choice and the human capacity to make distinctions.
“Let a man be a fool all his days, yet never wicked for even one hour before the Omnipresent One.” This statement emphasizes the absolute dichotomy that divides the wicked one’s existence – unjustified for even one hour – from the foolish one’s existence. The foolish one does not lose the justification for his existence. The wicked one loses it instantly, for he “recognizes his Creator, yet deliberately [chooses evil and] rebels against Him.”
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