One of the most perplexing questions many people have is “why do bad things happen?’ When used in terms of placing the responsibility on the Divine it is known as Theodicy. Many have tried to explain it and some use it as a way to dismiss the existence of a Divine presence but, either way it remains the greatest enigma of all.
First we need to unravel this concept of “bad things”. This itself is a subjective term because what one person perceives to be bad may not be bad to another. For example, “Did you hear Fred lost his house? It’s so sad because he is such a good guy.” Is this really a “bad thing” or did Fred get himself into an interest only $500k mortgage on an annual salary of $50k and loose a house he really had no business getting in to in the first place? This, in my opinion, while it is in no way a pleasant situation, does not qualify as a bad thing. It is consequence of bad judgement.
I know what you are thinking… What about all those poor little starving kids in Africa? You know the ones that look emaciated and have flies swarming all around them? Yes, this is a very sad and unfair situation. It too has a very simple solution and explanation…. Love thy neighbor. We live in a world where billions of dollars are spent every day on items of luxury, not necessities and billions more are spent on weapons that are used in meaningless wars. So before we are so bold as to blame the Divine for those kids starving, perhaps we should look at ourselves first. Are we really doing everything we can to love our neighbor or are we viewing acts of charity to be optional self-serving ego builders? Charity is not optional! So are we doing everything we can to stop this bad thing or are we to focused on ourselves and the things that we want?
All of us are created in the image of our maker. This means all attributes of the Divine are within us. We can love, we can show compassion, we can show anger, and we can multiply. The last of these is what makes us go from a seemingly finite speck of dust to an infinite lineage of people (that’s a topic for another post). Within each of us is a yetzer hatov: the good inclination or an angel and a yetzer hara: the evil inclination or a demon. Why are we like this? Why weren’t we created with just goodness? Remember the Garden of Eden allegory explains that we initially were all good, but we made a choice to have both attributes. Some view this choice as the “fall of man” and the beginning of “original sin” but, that is a very inaccurate view. When you think about, it it’s actually the opposite. With both attributes we are given the ability to choose and in doing so, every time we elect to do good we conquer the darkness within us. We turn darkness into light (just like the first utterance of creation when out of pure nothingness came the utterance, “Let there be Light”.) Every day we struggle with the yetzer hara and every day we can conquer it by our own actions. Is this daily struggle a bad thing? Only if you allow the inner demons to get their way.
In giving us the free will to choose between good an evil we are given freedom and with that freedom we have to be careful what choices we make. We will be held accountable if we allow the inner demon (yetzer hara) to win so we need to be sure we are listening to our guardian angel (yetzer hatov).
© Nelson Rose, The Quest for Light