(c) 2000 Dr Hendel; 1st appeared in Torah Forum (c) Project Genesis
FROM: Russell Hendel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
DATE: 27 Oct 1996 15:59:50 -0500
SUBJECT: Re: Questions on Evil
There seem to be conflicting Judaic statements about the differences
between "suffering"(which can be "redemptive"),"tests" and (absolute) "evil"
A simple analogy from the sphere of exercise is presented below. Using
it we can then understand Rav Hirsch's novel interpretation of a
Talmudic passage about Satan. This will give new insights into the meanings
of Satan, evil, and redemptive suffering.
Consider the following 3 fold example: (1) If I take a one mile walk every
day then this is neither good nor evil; (2) If I slightly increase my speed
one day then I have exposed myself to a "good stress"--it is not painful
and in the long run I will increase my walking endurance & capacity; (3) if
however I run the mile very quickly then I have exposed myself to a bad
stress -I will probably experience musculare aches and pain and maybe even
a heart attack. Furthermore I have not helped my endurance.
The conceptual point is that "good stress" is intermediate between evil and
ordinary. A "good stress" is not painful and can increase endurance and
capacity. A bad stress however is bad.
We can easily create a (simplistic) analogous 3 fold moral example: (1) If
a man is happily married, then this is neither good nor evil; (2) If his
wife during her period of separation wears jewelry or attractive dress then
she is exposing her husband to a "good stress" which in the long run will
increase their capacity for marital endurance; (3) if however this man sees
another women naked by accident, and has the opportunity, and sins with her
then he has been exposed to an evil stress (in fact Chazal say that God
tried to talk King David out of his prayers to be tested in this area since
**for him** this was a bad stress and not a **good stress**).
The idea then is quite simple: We are suggesting that terms like **tested**
or **redemptive suffering** refer to *good stresses* which don't cause pain
and which increase the individual's capacity for endurance.
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch on Gen 4:1-7 quotes a Talmudic passage that
Satan tempts people and when they fail he complains before Hashem that
people aren't listening to him." Rav Hirsch interprets "Satan tempts
people" to mean that "Satan provides people with good stresses which (if
used properly) would increase their endurance and capacity. When however
they don't use these opportunities he complains before Hashem that people
aren't using him to increase their capacity and endurance."
Perhaps this will add insight into certain meanings of evil.
Russell Jay Hendel, Ph.d