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The Heresy of Kindness

The Heresy of Kindness


This is the impossible position He has put us in: The paradox of outrage.

We believe that at the core of reality there lies a G‑d who is essentially good and cares for each one according to his or her needs, guiding each one to the right path, punishing wickedness and rewarding goodness in fair and equal measure. And so, over and over we are outraged—because what we experience flies in the face of this entire belief.

Yet, if we abandon either pole of the paradox, we might as well have never been born. If we learn to ignore the existence of the evil and the suffering, finding some justification for G‑d or simply hiding our heads in the sand—then for what purpose were we placed in such a world? To leave it as we found it? And what kind of a G‑d have our justifications created?

But if we should surrender our G‑d, concluding that, "there is no Judge and therefore no justice"--then what value does my life have? What value does any life have? And what, then, is the point of all the outrage?

This is the drama created by a G‑d entirely beyond any form of understanding—a drama powered by the agonizing tension of paradox.

They asked the Baal Shem Tov: "The Talmud tells us that for every thing G‑d forbade, He provided us something permissible of the same sort. He forbade us to eat blood and permitted the liver. He forbade milk and meat and permitted the cow's udder. If so, what did He permit that corresponds to the sin of heresy?"

The Baal Shem Tov replied: "Acts of kindness."1

Because when you see a person suffering, you don't say, "G‑d runs the universe. G‑d will take care. G‑d knows what is best." You do everything in your power to relieve that suffering as though there is no G‑d. You become a heretic in G‑d's name.

Pardes Yosef, Terumah, chapter 25.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
Artwork by Sarah Kranz.
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Juan Martin Alvarez Jr. Las Vegas Nevada March 1, 2014

Hersey of kindness I agree with Daniel of Muncen , Germany . I hope this Ribbi was just trying to get a response as I did not understand his conclusions .??? Reply

Kayla Brooklyn, N.Y. August 25, 2011

To Rabbi Tzvi Would you please translate that passage from the Gemora? I didn't understand from the story that it was, in fact, in the Gemora. I thought it was a chiddush of the Baal Shem Tov.

Stunningly written, as usual. But I'm not 100% clear on the connection between the powerfully true beginning and the stunning conclusion.

I know that some things shouldn't have to be explained so thoroughly, but, since this is one of my favorite sayings of the Baal Shem Tov (words I try to live by), I'd like to make sure I understand it completely. Reply

Anonymous October 28, 2007

"The Baal Shem Tov replied: "Acts of kindness."

Because when you see a person suffering, you don't say, "G-d runs the universe. G-d will take care. G-d knows what is best." You do everything in your power to relieve that suffering as though there is no G-d. You become a heretic in G-d's name."

Are you saying Abraham was a heretic, or those who saved Jews during the Holocaust did the wrong thing? Reply

Tzvi Freeman (author) Thornhill, Ontario August 21, 2007

Re: Out of curiosity...(Source) Chulin 109b
אמרה ליה ילתא לרב נחמן: מכדי, כל דאסר לן רחמנא שרא לן כוותיה, אסר לן דמא שרא לן כבדא, נדה דם טוהר, חלב בהמה חלב חיה, חזיר מוחא דשיבוטא, גירותא לישנא דכוורא, אשת איש גרושה בחיי בעלה, אשת אח יבמה, כותית יפת תאר Reply

Anonymous Los Angeles, CA August 21, 2007

Out of curiousity... Out of curiousity, what chapter in the Talmud mentions that above statement: "'For everything G-d forbade, he provided us something permissable of the same sort.'" Reply

the mind May 16, 2005

the paradox of heresy I love it, totally, the simplicity of tis tale!! the mirror of mirror effect is what Rb Freeman wants us to see, and more importantly, to act on it!! Reply

Daniel München, Germany May 7, 2005

citation "Because when you see a person suffering, you don't say, "G-d runs the universe. G-d will take care. G-d knows what is best." You do everything in your power to relieve that suffering as though there is no G-d. You become a heretic in G-d's name."

Even in this moment there is a G-d, because
1. without you wouldn't be there
2. there wouldn't be the mitzvah of Gemillut Chassadim
3. you act as a Shaliach of G-d
4. you have to emulate G-d, and He does acts of kindness
5. this is a world for interaction, otherwise ther would be only one human
6. we are all one in a certain way, so we would refuse help from our true selves
7. through helping another we experienece the ways of G-d
8. if there is no one be someone
9. G-d wants us to act with full strength as if it's our strength and maximize efforts to reach anything, but when we succeded, we know that it was all Him.
10. the Torah commands us to act, so the action becomes g-dly
... in any case there is always a G-d!

eli federman milwaukee, wi May 2, 2005

Challenging conventional wisdom! Interesting read!

1. A great rabbi was once asked if it was ever proper to act as if there were no G-d. He replied, "Yes. When a poor man asks you for charity, act as if there is no G-d--act as if only you can save him from starving."

2. Alternatively, world acclaimed logician and philosopher of the 19th century, Bertrand Russell poignantly stated, "Unless you assume the existence of God, the question of purpose is meaningless." Without an a priori (or a posteriori for that matter) acceptance of G-d existence and involvement in the world, at all timeslife becomes meaningless and moral decisions to repair the world become meaningless.

How do we reconcile these seemingly conflicting views?
In answering, this article suggest that in contrast to conventional wisdom, these views, are not mutually exclusive.

Thank you for this brilliant & original perspective. Reply

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