This week’s Sedra gives birth to the commencement of our first Golus , the first of our exiles. Yaacov and all his sons’ settlement in Mitzrayim is the beginning of the first golus. The process of golus and geulah , of exile and redemption is relevant to every Jew in every generation as it is a constant pattern in Jewish history1

In relation to that which we perceive as bad, we have learned that every descent is for the purpose of an ascent;2 likewise every golus is to make way for redemption. But what of evil, real evil? How does this sit with our knowledge of G‑d’s goodness?

There is a fundamental proposition in Torah that no bad comes from HaShem.3 That which we perceive as unsuitable for us at any given period of time, we perceive to be bad. Death is apparently unarguably bad, pain is apparently unarguably bad and indeed there are a plethora of apparent evils.

As explained, such value judgment is often made with insufficient information. Let us take a simple practical example: A man’s bookkeeper announces that she had drawn the wages check, and contrary to previous calculation, finds that there is insufficient money to continue business. Avoiding heart failure and spilled entrails on the office carpet, our man tries to collect his thoughts. He thought he had enough money, but as things are, some money must be found. Immediately, he calls debtors, choking to keep his voice panic free. Suddenly, he discovers that an uncancellable bank check which he thought had been banked, is in fact lost! The loss would not have been discovered without the search; the search would not have been necessary without the (erroneous) news of the bookkeeper. At the time of her announcement her news is perceived as very bad causing negative emotional reaction, (also perceived as bad). Suppose the check is then found. Our businessman now has alternative reactions available:

(a)he can decide he has solved that problem and will wait, shivering, for the next crunch from the Almighty.

(b)he can understand that the “bad” news helped him to arrange to replace the check, so making the news good.

For those who wish to look, it is often possible to trace a good outcome from a previous negative happening. The problem for all of us is, that we make the value judgment at the time the action takes place. With spiritual lenses and later information, it is often possible to develop a perspective whereby the events are stitched together into an ultimate cumulative good.

This is not an easy perspective to reach; it requires training, effort and constant vigilance. There should be in every Jew’s spiritual psyche the basic premise that when something is happening and it is apparently negative, that something is not the end of the story; rather, it is part of a chain of happenings taking place, all of the information of which is not yet available. There can therefore be no value judgment yet. (In fact, it is fair to say that one cannot make a value judgment in one’s lifetime because of a lack of experience of Olam Haba , (the World to Come), and one does not have a conscious experience of any previous gilgul (life cycle). So, when we view things which are apparently evil, it is important to understand that this view is a matter of perspective; it is very easy to go wrong in that perspective. A rational, normal person, takes the available information at the time, and draws his conclusion then. Yet this is usually not the time to draw the conclusion.

All of the above is a discussion of apparent evil at a relatively simple level. At a much deeper level the concept is more complex but more fascinating.

The Rebbe said in a sicha the following:4 “The truth is, that all things that HaShem does are out of kindness; everything that comes from HaShem, is such that there cannot be any bad. In particular, His behavior with the Jewish nation who are His children, and His flock, is certainly of chesed (kindness) and of rachamim , (mercy). But, there is rachamim which is revealed and there is a level of rachamim which is much greater than that, higher than the natural order. This level of rachamim is so high, that it is not able to be revealed without being enclothed in the garment of strict justice.”

Chassidus draws the distinction between chesed (kindness) and gevurah , (stern justice). It is necessary for there to be strict justice in the world, for there to be order in creation. The sun cannot rise at arbitrary times; the seasons cannot be adjusted according to the winds of one’s mood at the time. The world must run according to order, the order is the order of strict justice.5

The Rebbe then explains that this second level, the higher level of rachamim exists specifically when you have this process of stern justice revealed. This is the only way this higher level of rachamim can be brought down into the world, because it is impossible to reveal this level of rachamim as it is really without disguise. As we will see, if this level of rachamim were to be revealed it would eclipse the level of stern justice.

Let us take the example of a father who must punish his child, smacking him hard. No matter how much the father empathizes with the child, he cannot give the child a kiss at the same time. The two actions cannot co-exist. The father smacks the child out of love; but the level of rachamim he has for his child is at the moment necessarily enclothed in the smack and temporarily hidden by it. Furthermore, the child must not see the rachamim; if he sees the rachamim he will not feel the smack. The punishment is ineffective unless the rachamim is totally concealed.

When some parents smack their kids, they, the children, laugh. Why?

(a)it doesn’t hurt,

(b)there is no apparent sternness revealed whatsoever, and so the child’s reaction is laughter; mummy/daddy is giving us a smack — big deal.

Paradoxically, if the parent really loves the child, the punishment is out of love. (The Torah defines as cruel,6 a father who doesn’t strike his child when necessary). Any rachamim , however, must be invisible, unrevealed, otherwise the smack doesn’t hurt and the punishment is wasted.

This is an unbelievably important principle in Chassidus. HaShem is all rachamim; but there are two levels of rachamim , one level of rachamim which is revealed, and one level which is concealed and enclothed in strict justice. A perceived negative happens, because the higher level of racha mim cannot be revealed at the time! Indeed the only way we can bring this much, much higher level of racha mim down into the world is through strict justice! Why? Because, it is outside of the created order. There are times when Jews, whether as individuals, as families or as Am Yisrael as a nation, need to access this level of rachamim. It cannot be accessed directly. So, through HaShem’s enormous kindness, there is a perceived negative event.

Returning to the example of the child, incredibly, when the child realizes he did wrong and is really sorry and further resolves not to repeat the action, his bond with his father is actually stronger than it was before.

This extraordinary fact can be generalized to Am Yisrael and our relationship with HaShem. After having accessed this higher level of rachamim, regret and return to HaShem actually intensifies our connection and unity with Him.

Now, when do we merit the revealed level of rachamim and when do we merit the hidden level of rachamim ?

When a Jew commits an aveira (transgression), which is unintentional (because he does not know any better), he will be helped with a revealed level of rachamim.7 He will be able to bring an offering and effect atonement. In the time of the Beis HaMikdosh, a Jew brought an offering, and in present times a Jew davens to HaShem. He apologizes and seeks atonement giving from his flesh by fasting or giving tzedakah (charity). When a person commits a transgression intentionally, knowing that it is wrong, knowing the consequences, and having been warned, then the ordinary level of rachamim from HaShem may be insufficient. This Jew can be helped with the higher level of rachamim , accessing it through strict justice. HaShem gives him “punishment”, a “smack”, severe enough to hide completely any level of rachamim. Then, with sincere regret, his bond with HaShem actually becomes stronger.

The danger with this kind of explanation is the apparent suggestion that appreciating any of this in practice is easy. The example of punishing the child is an easy example. It is much more difficult to lose G‑d forbid a wife, G‑d forbid a sick child or even lose a fortune. The principle however, is similar. It is harder to take at the time because the level of pain is greater, and the understanding less. Yet the rule holds good, and a Jew in search of truth will train himself to see it.

During this week every Jew will experience the commencement for the year of the process of golus. Golus , by definition, is an evil. When a Jew is without his roots, estranged from his spiritual base he experiences golus. For most Jews today, golus is the time when, engulfed by his non-Jewish environment, he succumbs to some sort of assimilation or compromise of his Jewishness. It is just at this time, as perceived evil may befall him G‑d forbid, that he should focus on how he is experiencing what is in fact HaShem’s higher level of rachamim and find gratitude for the opportunity for growth.

Difficult? No reader has come this far in this book without it being possible for him to achieve an understanding of this to the point it alters his perception. The possible will became actual with sufficient effort.