G-d is good and it is the nature of G-d to be good. So why did G-d create evil? Why do we live in a world which is full of injustice and where the wicked have the upper hand? Classical Jewish philosophy answers these timeless questions by stating that because G-d is good and it is His nature to do goodness, He created the world in order to bestow goodness upon His creations. The greatest possible goodness that G-d can bestow upon His creations is the goodness that is Himself.
In order to earn that reward—so that it should not be what the Zohar calls “bread of shame,” or unearned reward—G-d first placed us in an arena of free-choice where we have to make an effort to choose good over evil. Such choice is rewarded in the World to Come, where the soul is divest of all physicality and basks in the Light of the Shechinah after honestly earning such rewards during struggles in this world. The creation of evil is therefore a necessity in order to maintain the arena of free choice, the stepping stone to the ultimate reward. In this view, Man’s mission is to steer through the pitfalls and temptations of this world through adherence to Torah and Mitzvot.
These are the tickets to the blissful rewards of The World to Come (Olam Habah).
As previously mentioned, Hassidism emphasizes the view that the ultimate purpose of creation is to create a dwelling for G-d in this world.
G-d made a physical creation which conceals its Divine source, and He placed a soul within a body specifically to refine and elevate the body and its portion in the world. Although the soul will be rewarded for its efforts in the World to Come, the ultimate purpose of creation is in this world. The greatest achievement of the soul is to take a corporeal and crass body whose inherent nature is animalistic, and use it to transform darkness into light and bitterness into sweetness. The soul itself is pristine and holy, and does not require rectification. As we learned from Jacob’s ladder, the soul’s descent into this world is for the purpose of ascent. It achieves something here that it cannot possibly achieve in the World to Come. Despite being in the lowest of all worlds, one can overcome animal drives and passions to achieve the Almighty’s purpose in creation. The soul therefore strives to perform true service of G-d, thereby fulfilling the will of G-d and creating a Dirah BeTachtonim, an abode for the Divine here in this world. King Solomon in Song of Songs describes this state as “black, but beautiful.” As the soul descends into the bleakness and confusion of this world it realizes that its descent is for the purpose of ascent.
Its descent into the body is dark, yet beautiful in terms of fulfillment of the purpose in creation. From this perspective it follows that the presence of forces of evil pose the greatest challenge in the quest to create a Dirah BeTachtonim. The greater the darkness and the stronger the forces of evil, the brighter is the transformation of that darkness into brilliance.
Kabbalah uses the term Kelipah to describe evil. Literally, Kelipah means a “peel” or “shell,” as in the peel of a fruit.
An orange will not retain its juice if it does not have such a protective jacket. However when one eats the orange, one discards the peel. The peel is only there to preserve the fruit. The same is true of the existence of evil. Hassidism uses the terminology “inner will” (Pnimiyut HaRatzon), and “external will” (Chitzoniut HaRatzon). When a person goes out to work, he gets involved with all the details of making a living. However, his is engaged only with his external will. His inner desire is to make money in order to do what he really wants. The existence of Kelipah stems from the outer will of G-d, whereas Kedushah (holiness) stems from the inner will of G-d.
Kabbalah divides everything in this world into either Sitra D’Kedushah (the side of holiness) or Sitra Achra (the side of impurity)—literally meaning “the other side,” or the side of Kelipah. There is nothing that is in between—every thought, speech, action, or creation has its source either in Kedushah or Kelipah.
The holy side is the indwelling and extension of the holiness of G-d that rests only on something that abnegates itself completely to Him, either actually, as in the case of angels above, or potentially as in the case of every Jew below who has the capacity to surrender himself completely to G-d with self-sacrifice. This is what is meant when the Sages proclaim that even when a single individual sits and learns Torah the Shechinah rests on him. However, that which does not surrender to G-d, but is a separate entity, does not receive its vitality from the inner will of holiness. Rather, vitality is given from “behind its back,” descending degree by degree through myriads of levels through innumerable contractions until the Light is so diminished that it can be compressed and enclosed in a state of exile within that separate thing.
Kabbalah further delineates two distinct types of Kelipah: Kelipat Nogah—literally Kelipah that can be illuminated, and Shalosh Kelipot Hatmayot—“three totally impure Kelipot.” Kelipat Nogah can be uplifted and refined, while the only form of reformation or redemption for the three impure Kelipot is their destruction.
In the chariot of the prophet Ezekiel, the three unclean Klipot are called “whirlwind,” “great cloud,” and a “blazing fire,” while Kelipot Nogah is described as the “translucence [nogah] around it.” From the three impure Kelipot flow and derive the souls of all living creatures that are not kosher as well as the existence of all forbidden food in the vegetable kingdom, such as Orlah (the first three year’s fruit of a tree). The existence and vitality of all actions, utterances, and thoughts pertaining to the 365 negative commandments and their offshoots also flows from these Kelipot. Everything in the realm of holiness has its opposite in the realm of the profane. Similarly, everything in the physical world has its spiritual counterpart from which it derives its existence and vitality. The Nefesh HaBehamit of the Jew, the souls of the kosher creatures, and the existence and vitality of the entire inanimate and entire vegetable world permissible for consumption, and the existence and vitality of every act, utterance, and thought in mundane matters that contain no forbidden aspect, whether performed for the sake of Heaven or not, all stem from Kelipat Nogah.
G-d created “one thing opposite the other.” A Jew is composite of two distinct souls. His Nefesh Elokit, which is comprised of ten soul powers whose source is in the supernal Sefirot, is juxtaposed with the Nefesh HaBehamit, also possessing ten soul powers. The soul powers of the Nefesh Elokit strive for Kedushah and the soul powers of the Nefesh HaBehamit long for Kelipah. These two souls vie for control of a person’s thoughts, speech, and action, which are often referred to as “garments” of the soul. A person is constantly faced with a choice to either flood the soul garments with Kedushah or garments of Kelipah. If a person allows the Nefesh HaBehamit control of the mind, then the soul garments may be contaminated by the impurities of the animal drive. These impurities are vain and ruin the spirit.
We have already explained that everything in this world has its source in the higher realms. What is the source of Kelipot and Sitra Achra in the higher realms? How did evil descend from the good G-d? In the chapter on Tzimtzum we described that after the first Tzimtzum, the Kav was beamed into the void to create the worlds, and we described the formation of the four worlds of Atzilut, Beriah, Yetzirah and Assiyah. In actuality, however, the emanation of Atzilut was preceded by another stage called the World of Chaos (Tohu), and it was from this world that stems the creation of Kelipah.
The following presentation is based on the teachings of the Arizal and is called Shevirat HaKelim—“the shattering of the Vessels.” The Midrash states that prior to the creation of this world, G-d created other worlds and destroyed them.
Obviously G-d had some utility in creating them and some good reason for destroying them. The Arizal explains that these were not physical worlds but were spiritual realms. The first world created was the World of Chaos taken from the word in Genesis 1:2, “In the beginning of G-d’s creating the heavens and earth, the earth was Tohu Vavohu—chaotic and empty.” After the Tzimtzum and emergence of the Serifot, the Serifot were originally arrayed in the World of Chaos as they existed individually, with no inter-relationship; Chessed was pure Chessed without any relation to Gevurah and so on. The Light which entered the feeble Vessels of the World of Chaos was “highly concentrated and intense Lights” (Orot Merubim), which flooded “feeble Vessels” (Kelim Muatim). What resulted was a Shattering of the Vessels. It may be compared to running a million volts of electricity trough 60 Watt light bulb. There was a great advantage of the World of Chaos, for it was brilliant and filled with intense Lights. Its great disadvantage was that each Sefirah was egotistic and wanted all the Light for itself, unable to share or co-exist with another. The root of independence and ego therefore stems from the World of Chaos.
Such a world could not exist so it was destroyed and a much better World of Correction (Tikkun) was constructed. In the World of Correction each Sefirah is inter-related and interconnected.
Chessed contains within it Gevurah and Gevurah contains Chessed, etc. This inter-relationship coupled with Broad Vessles and less intense “little Lights” (Orot Muatim) created a world that could exist.
The state of Correction is likened to a human being where there is a harmonious and symbiotic relationship between all limbs. In Kabbalah there is much talk of the Sefirot being arrayed either in “Circles” (Igulim) or “Straight” (Yosher). The terms “Circles” and “Straight” are synonymous with Chaos and Correction. In Chaos, the Sefirot were arrayed in Circles like one concentric circle within another, each circle having no contact with the other. In Straight the Sefirot are arrayed in the form of a human being having a balanced relationship.
When the Vessels of Chaos shattered, 288 sparks “fell” from their level and became embedded in the lower levels of creation. As they fell downwards they broke further into smaller particles. As they continued to fall, they became more numerous and coarser due to their egotistic origin. The more refined sparks were assimilated into Atzilut. The others fell into Beriah or Yetzirah constituting the “evil” (or independent) parts of those levels. The coarsest sparks fell into Assiyah and ultimately created Kelipot.
It should be noted that the Shattering of the Vessels was not an accidental flaw in the Divine plan. On the contrary this process allowed for the creation of evil providing man with the exercise of free choice and the challenge to create a Dirah BeTachtonim. Furthermore, hidden sublimely within Kelipah are the original Lights of the World of Chaos. When a person transforms Kelipat Nogah or even the three impure Kelipot through destruction or Teshuvah, he releases those Lights. In every material item there are sparks of holiness that are released when that item is used for the sake of heaven. It could be that certain sparks wait hundreds or even thousands of years for someone to release them. This task is called Birur Nitzoztot, or the “Refining of the Sparks.”
An example of this Refining is in the eating of food. Body and soul are held together by food. Every kosher food item contains sparks of holiness that are released when the food is consumed for the sake of heaven, such as eating to be healthy in order to learn Torah and keep Mitzvot. The soul, which stems from the World of Correction, is nourished by this spark, whose root is in the World of Chaos. Man is reliant on food because his soul is nourished by the light of the sparks of holiness hidden in the food that originated in the World of Chaos. It should be noted that if the food is not consumed for the sake of heaven, it remains in a state of Kelipat Nogah until the body utilizes the energy derived from the food for Torah learning or other G-dly pursuits. Non-kosher food, however, remains Kelipah until either the person who consumed returns to holy behavior, thereby retroactively elevating it, or G-d Himself causes the sparks to be elevating.
The ultimate refining of the world will take place in the days of Mashiach and thereafter in the time of Resurrection in which G-d “will remove the spirit of impurity from the world.” In that era, all Kelipot will be removed and the Divine service will be elevated ad infintum in the realm of Kedushah. That period is often referred to as Shabbat, the day of rest. According to Jewish law, one may eat only that which is prepared before Shabbat, and one is forbidden food that was prepared on the day of rest. The time of Mashiach and beyond is comparable to Shabbat, and therefore at present, we are living in the “weekday.” Now is the time that we should be preparing for the ultimate Shabbat, when the work of today—our building of a dwelling place for the Divine in this world—will be enjoyed.