How Could Humanity so Regress?

We are all shaken up and in a state of profound sorrow at the barbaric, murderous attack against thousands of our brothers and sisters. At the same time we unite with Jews and all civilized human beings in denouncing the atrocities that have taken place and offer total support to Israel’s military to once and for all times destroy the murderous enemy. There is no room for any equivocation on this matter. Jews from all backgrounds, political and religious affiliations are united in giving unconditional support for Israel in its time of need.

The question in the minds of many is:

How could human beings in the 21st century stoop so low to commit these Nazi like atrocities and then publicize and parade their evil? Even the accursed Nazis tried to hide their evil. Yet these savages proudly display the carnage they committed.

Even more troubling is the response of so many, world-wide, who expressed support for Hamas and their evil deeds. How could humanity regress so egregiously?

Guidance from the Torah

While we can never fathom G-d’s ways, we can seek some measure of clarity from the eternal teachings of the Torah, particularly, the teachings of the weekly parsha.

Parsha Bereishis, the very first selection of the Torah read this year, features the narrative of Creation and the lives of the first humans, Adam and Eve. It is obvious that the Torah’s objective in teaching us about Creation and the first humans is to guide us in our own lives.

When G-d created the world and humanity His goal was to make this world a dwelling place for G-dliness, through human endeavor. To make this goal achievable and meaningful, G-d created humans endowed with free choice, so that when they choose to follow G-d’s commandments they generate G-dly light. In the aggregate, our actions transform the world and fulfill and thereby fulfilling G-d’s very purpose in Creation.

Humans endowed with free choice can also choose to frustrate G-d’s plan by choosing to sin. But humanity can redeem itself by doing Teshuvah and reversing the evil and darkness they brought into the world. And while we can erase the evil, the good generated by us can never be obliterated.

Mixture of Good and Evil

But Adam and Eve’s sin did more than bring about temporary darkness. By partaking of the forbidden fruit, the Kabbalists teach, they caused evil to become mixed and intermingled with the good. Evil can thus thrive because it siphons off energy from the forces of purity in which it is mixed. This explains the phenomenon that in most cases we can find something negative even where goodness prevails and, conversely, we can find a silver lining in negative situations.

Before partaking of the forbidden fruit, good and evil existed as totally separate entities. With Adam and Eve’s sin impurity was instilled into the forces of purity and holiness.  The silver lining in all this is that evil too is tempered by its association with the forces of goodness into which it is mixed.

This admixture of good and evil caused by the sin of Adam and Eve presented humanity with a unique challenge; to separate the good from the evil so that the forces of goodness are distilled. Every Mitzvah we do has the power to separate the good from the evil, the pure from the impure.  

When this process of separation is completed three things happen:

First, the good forces become stronger because they are no longer tempered by the admixture of evil.

Second, the forces of impurity lose their association with holiness and become more potent because they no longer are mitigated by the forces of holiness.

Three, despite the strengthening of the forces of evil, it is only a temporary phenomenon unlike the strengthening of the forces of holiness. Once the forces of evil stand by themselves, as it were, without the influence of the forces of holiness, they cannot endure for too long. Nothing in this world can exist without the influence of the G-dly forces of holiness. Evil dos not have any independent existence.

The practical application of the above is that as time progresses and more and more Mitzvos are performed, good and evil become separated. The force of goodness become stronger and the forces of evil strengthen as well.

The Paradox of the 20th and 21st Centuries

This explains the paradoxical phenomenon of the 20th and 21st centuries being simultaneously the most positive centuries in history and the most negative. The world has seen so much progress in all areas of goodness yet, tragically, we have experienced the greatest forms of evil, such as the Holocaust and other colossal evil events, including the emergence of Hamas, a genocidal movement bent on the annihilation of the entire Jewish people.

This paradox can be explained in light of the fact that we are now situated on the cusp of the Final Redemption. This means that the separation of good and evil has reached unprecedented proportions. Never before has evil been detached from goodness and that has allowed it to rear its ugly head.

The Evil Nation Amalek

There is one more salient point:

Not all evil entities were created equally. There are all sorts of combinations. Some nations and individuals that have perpetrated evil acts did not harbor the extreme evil of Amalek; they are not genocidal. In fact, most nations of the world that attacked the Jewish people were salvageable; they could have been rehabilitated. Indeed, there are stories of evil people who recognized the truth and desisted form their evil. Some even experienced a total transformation and joined the Jewish nation. This happened because their evil was far more infiltrated by the forces of goodness than the other way around.

There was/is however one nation whose evil was so thorough that it had virtually no trace of holiness that would temper their evil. This is the Biblical nation of Amalek. When the Jewish nation emerged from Egypt, Amalek attacked them, which prompted G-d’s commandment to totally destroy them. The reason they were to be totally eliminated is because they represented the unadulterated essence of evil which cannot be salvaged.

How do we know today if a person is an Amalekite? The famous 20th century Sage, Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik once remarked that when a nation harbors genocidal aspirations towards the Jewish people we know that they are Ama    `lek.

Hamas has distinguished itself as a modern day Amalek, whose evil is unmitigated.

The Good News

The good news in all of this is that this negative phenomenon is a temporary one. The fact that the forces of goodness are far more powerful than ever before and the additional fact that evil can no longer siphon off energy from the forces of goodness as it did previously, suggests that the existence of this unadulterated evil is soon going to disappear.

In times like these we must strengthen our faith and trust in G-d that we will be victorious. A total victory means that we will vanquish this evil of Amalek and usher in the Messianic Age of peace and holiness, through our righteous Moshiach, imminently.

Rabbi Heschel Greenberg

Published in Parsha

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