Removing Evil From The World

By Sara Bloom, Pittsburgh, PA
Essays 2017

MyLife Essay Contest 2017

As we strive to come close to G-d, and add holiness into our lives and into the world at large, one would think that life would be glorious and happy. Yet contrary to happiness and peace, it seems that the negative forces have been unleashed against us. Evil is constantly lurking, ready to spread its nasty net and attack at any given moment. It appears that there is nowhere in the world where one can escape danger, and talks abound of anxiety, fear, sadness, and turmoil. As world leaders struggle to curtail evil, it is evident that the Alter Rebbe has already given us the answer in his magna opus, the Tanya. Evil, the Alter Rebbe teaches, can actually be obliterated by lessening the potency of its source on high. The diminishing of evil in its source is in our hands; in how we choose to behave in our thought, speech and actions.

The first verse of the Torah states, “Beraishis bara Elokim eis hashamayim v’eis haaretz” – “In the beginning G-d created the Heavens and the Earth.”[1] Rashi explains that the word “eis” indicates that this general statement of creation includes all the sub-creations found in the Heavens and on Earth. Tanya expounds on this by saying “ze leumas ze asah Elokim” – “This corresponding to this G-d made.”[2] Everything created in the realm of kedusha – holiness – has its counterpart created in the realm of sitra achara – the side opposite to holiness, otherwise known as klipah, which literally means “a shell,” as will be explained.  This means that in addition to G-d’s creation of kedusha, He also created klipah, the source of all evil in the world.

Although it is also created by G-d, everything in the unholy side of creation – klipah gets its life-force from Him in a backhanded way, rather than straight from His revealed desire, with the sole purpose of allowing it to have a temporary existence.[3] It’s name which means “shell” indicates that in truth, klipah has no real existence; we just need to break its shell and then we will realize that evil and negativity do not have substance. Rashi on Mishlei (12:19) describes falsehood as “having no legs.” Negativity and lies can only exist by piggybacking onto positivity and truth.

Within this creation termed klipah there are two sublevels. The higher level of klipah, which is more refined, needs to have its shell shattered so the potential good hidden inside can be elevated through our actions in the service of G-d.  Examples of this higher level would be base desires. Base desires, such as eating and sleeping, are not holy on their own. When one shatters the unfavorable shell and uses a base desire to serve G-d, they can then elevate the potential good that was hidden in a deeper level. On the other hand, the lower level of klipah, completely evil to its core, must be pushed away and obliterated. In this category are improper thoughts, speech and actions.[4]

This mission of expelling the lower level of klipah is the responsibility of those whom the Alter Rebbe terms “working to be beinonim” – those who work to always serve G-d as they should despite their constant struggle, and achieve the weakening of the klipah in this way. Their constant struggle is a battle between the G-dly soul which comes from kedusha and the natural life-giving soul, which comes from from klipah. (The life-giving soul is also termed the “animal soul,” due to its animalistic desires relative to the G-dly soul.) The G-dly soul is completely directed toward G-d, while the animalistic soul tempts one to stray toward physical desires. The mission we are charged with is “to turn away from evil and do good.”[5] Regarding achieving success in this struggle against the animalistic soul, whose source is in klipah, the Alter Rebbe states that this is “midas kol adam ve’achareha kol adam yimshoch”– “attainable by every person, and everyone should strive for it.”[6] The Alter Rebbe is telling us that each and every one of us is capable of having complete control over our minds, words and deeds. It may not be easy, but this is our mission and we have the ability to succeed. When we do succeed in suppressing the improper thought, speech or action, we then weaken the strength of klipah in its source on high. The effect of this brings the power of evil in this world to be diminished.

In chapters 26-28 of Tanya, the Alter Rebbe discusses the service of managing one’s thoughts. It is explained there that all improper thoughts stem from klipah even though one may not readily recognize this. This includes improper thoughts, and otherwise proper thoughts which come to a person at an improper time. An example of an improper thought would be thinking negatively about a fellow Jew, while a proper thought at an improper time would be thinking about a sin one needs to rectify while praising G-d in prayer. These thoughts must be pushed away, and not be dwelled upon. The Alter Rebbe discusses how this is truly a challenge for those who are striving to be a beinoni, as they do not have control over the thoughts that enter their minds. Nonetheless, he points out that one must not be discouraged by the fact that thoughts stemming from klipah enter his mind. On the contrary, one should rejoice that he has been given the opportunity to serve G-d by pushing away these thoughts with two hands and turning his mind to G-dliness. This then is the mission to “turn away from evil and do good.” One must push away an improper thought and think about something G-dly and proper. This is a service to G-d, and this is what He desires. Additionally, it is important to note that the service must be done with happiness.[7] One needs to rejoice that he has the opportunity to battle his improper thoughts and strive to have mastery over his mind.

The same idea and service applies to the content of one’s speech and actions as well. Both speech and action are rooted in thought, and therefore the service of guarding one’s thoughts is a prerequisite for having proper behavior in these areas. The conduits for interpersonal interaction, conversation and conduct, must be pleasant and loving, in line with the command to “love a fellow Jew as you love yourself.”[8] Jealousy, for example, or holding a grudge, should have no hold in one’s mind, and should not be allowed to enter into conversation or deed. If such thoughts enter one’s mind they should be actively pushed away and replaced with loving thoughts, expressed through overflowing love and kindness towards that person.[9] All interactions between a person and his Creator must follow the same guidelines. We must realize that everything we have comes from G-d and joyously use everything He has given us, be it physical objects (such as money) or abilities (such as a talent) to serve Him. We must push away any thoughts that would hold us back from this service, and direct ourselves towards Him.

Engaging in this service of G-d not only brings us closer to Him and the people we interact with. It also refines our individual selves as well, decreasing the impact of klipah in our personal lives. When one removes the negativity from within, he becomes a more wholesome and pleasant person in all regards. One cannot control the fact that thoughts arise unbidden, but when a conscious effort is made to retain only what is appropriate, the mind becomes a positive, happy zone which leads to a healthy and calm existence. One can then freely rejoice with all that G-d gives him.

When one prevails and suppresses an improper thought, speech or action (which we said previously stem from klipah), G-d rewards him for his service. Every step that one takes here in this world in his service of G-d has an impact in the upper realms.[10] The reward for overcoming klipah down here in this physical world is that G-d diminishes klipah in its source on high. This affects that G-d’s glory rises even higher – higher than the elevation which comes from His Name being praised in this world[11] – and it is manifested more strongly throughout all the Heavenly realms. With each improper thought pushed away, each negative word held back, and each wrong action suppressed, we affect the klipah, weakening it in its source, and thereby weakening its power in this world. When we accomplish the complete weakening of klipah in its source, there will cease to be evil in this world. Without the impediment of evil, G-d’s grandeur will shine for all to see. In this way we will have accomplished the mission of making this world a dwelling place for G-d, a place where He is recognized in His full glory. [12]  Evil will be a thing of the past, and joyous song will reign in the streets. Then our personal lives and the world at large will be secure and joyful for all.

[1] Beraishis 1:1

[2] Tanya, ch. 6

[3] Ibid.

[4] Tanya, ch. 6-7

[5]  Tanya, ch. 25; Sefer  Hamaimorim 5710, Basi Legani;  Sefer Hamaimorim 5711, Basi Legani

[6] Tanya, ch. 14

[7] Tanya, ch. 7 & ch. 26

[8] Vayikra 19:18

[9] Tanya, ch. 12

[10] Hayom Yom, 13 Iyar

[11] Tanya ch. 27

[12] Tanya ch. 37