Seeing through the Darkness

By Aharon Shollar, Far Rockaway, NY
Essays 2017

MyLife Essay Contest 2017

Today we find ourselves in a terribly dark world. Immorality and corruption are rampant. People are forgetting the definitions of right and wrong. In such a seemingly bleak time, it may become
easy for one to lose faith. If G-d is good then why is the world so bad? With the weight of such a question upon one’s mind it can become difficult to continue one’s work in the world. Thank
G-d this question is well addressed in many sources in chassidus.

If we delve into the very purpose of this physical world, how it was created and look at the grand scheme we can see that evil indeed has its place in the world. It all “began” when G-d had a desire for his essence to be revealed in a place that is physical. He wanted that he be revealed in a world that can believe it has its own individual existence. The Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya that evil doesn’t necessarily deny the existence of G-d but it denies his unity. This is the first commandment of “I am the Lord your G‑d” this means we have to believe not only that G-d is the only G-d but since he is the only G-d and he is Almighty there is no true essence besides for him. This is a world in which the light of G-d is so concealed it becomes possible to believe that there can be something besides for him and this is what evil is.

It is a common misconception to believe that evil is its own entity. In actuality, Evil is just anything that was created to believe that it has its own existence. Evil is referred to as “kelipah”, which is loosely translated to mean shell or peel. Evil has no substance. When man acts in ways that G-d forbids him to, this is called evil and since it is so, it has no substance. One should not fear evil for this reason, G-d is only allowing the illusion of evil to remain for the sake of acheiving the ultimate purpose. In order for evil remain, it is sustained with a small revelation
of G-dliness. If it was not given life-force by G-d it would cease to exist. It is rather comforting to think about the fact that all evil has no true existence but is only being allowed to stick around
by G-d, who has only our best interests in mind.

In order for there to be a world that believes in its own independent existence G-d had to hide himself from his creations. Before the creation of the world there was only G-d. All
creations are measured, shaped, and limited revelations of G-dliness. In order for it to appear that there is something else besides for him and not just lots of G-dly revelation, it was necessary for
G-d to make a “void” of G-dliness and allow a very limited amount of G-dly light into it. G-d is hidden in plain sight. All creations are constant revelations of Him. We can’t see him because
he doesn’t allow us to. It would not be a challenge to serve him and believe in him if he revealed himself entirely.

The very purpose of creation is to bring about the revelation of G-d’s presence in this physical world. Why must it involve so much suffering? Why couldn’t G-d have created the
world with his presence already revealed? Why must we struggle to bring about the redemption and ultimate light? The Lubavitcher Rebbe explained this to a boy who was becoming of
religious age (Bar-mitzvah). The Rebbe used a sports game as a parable. There are two teams competing against each other to achieve a goal when your home team scores a goal it is a
wonderful feeling. If there were to be no other team what would be the point? You could, of course score many goals without difficulty. This may be true, but in such a case you didn’t truly
win a game, you just looked rather foolish. This parable applies on two levels. The conflict in the game is the struggle between our internal inclinations for both the good and the bad. On a larger
scale it is a fight against the evil in the world, where people play the role of warriors. By keeping to the commandments we can elevate the world, making it a better place. For a Jew this means
keeping the laws of the Torah, given by G-d at Sinai. Non-jews should adhere to the seven Noachide laws which instruct people in morality and healthy establishment. G-d gave us free
will and he desires that we should use our faculties to bring about the purpose of existence, G-d’s revelation in this lowly world. In order for there to be a challenge and to give meaning to what
we do there must be a struggle. When one encounters evil in the world he shouldn’t think “How can that be?” instead he must face it as a challenge, an obstacle to be overcome. When I
overcome this barrier I will improve the world, light it up and make it a better place where evil can’t exist. I know I can overcome it because it has no actual substance. When we do good it will
dissapear like a shadow cast into light. May it indeed come to be that we shall all bask in the resplendence of G-d when darkness will be cast asunder.

After intellectually explaining all of this it is important to understand that mortal beings of flesh and blood can never truly understand G-d’s ways. We may be able to grasp a little bit of
how G-d does things but not the full picture. We have seen through our history terrible massacres and tragic events. Sometimes these logical explanations just aren’t enough.

The Rebbe received a letter from a person who was born in a displacement camp. He was asking “how could the Holocaust happen?”. The Rebbe explained4 that we believe that everything has a divine purpose. Nothing in existence is superfluous or inappropriate though we may lack understanding of why it exists. The Rebbe compared it to an infant trying to understand a complex theory from a brilliant scientist. While we may not understand why it is this way, we do know our mission of elevating this world. Even though it may be very unsatisfying, we must sometimes answer that only G-d understands why things happen the way they do. The answer or lack thereof doesn’t matter to us. We only need to take care of our mission. We must make this a
world where there is no room for such evils to happen.

The Rebbe added that while we may be able to explain this logically it can not take away the pain of such a terrible thing. The Rebbe too lost many close relatives in the Holocaust, but the main thing he said is to move on and work to make a better world.

Evil is nothing to fear. G-d created it and he has our best interests in mind. He made it as an obstacle to overcome this gives our mission meaning and provides contrast. We must approach tragedy as something only G-d understands. Most importantly we can never allow anything that seems bad get in our way. We must constantly work towards our goal full-force, until we finally bring the world into a state of G-dliness.