Absolute Evil? – To Strike and to Heal

March 26, 2010 5:04 pm 1 comment

Share this Article

Lessons from the Egyptian Exodus on Destruction and Redemption

Passover, which is quickly approaching, is in essence the story of the classic battle between good and evil, and how good prevails. In truth, almost all enduring narratives contain this theme in one way or another.

The confrontation between good and evil is immediately recognizable to every one of us; it resonates in the struggles we each face in our own lives. At the same time, good and evil provide us with a stark contrast of opposites, a crystallized perspective – even if it may seem simplistic – on the nature of things, which, as strange as it sounds, is refreshing and even offers a measure of relief amidst the din of confusion that consumes much of our lives. The clarity of knowing your enemy is far more empowering than the doubts of not knowing who your adversary may be and when they may strike. That is why the analysis of a problem – and the identification of its root caused (as opposed to its symptoms) is the key to any solution. Awareness, our sages tell us, is half the cure of a disease.

But the problem is far more complex than it may initially seem: Is there such a thing as absolute evil? Can we always identify good from evil? Especially when we know that “there is not good without bad, and no bad without good.” When evil is intertwined with good, how do we go about eliminating the evil without also hurting the good?

One of the darkest phenomena bemoaned by mystics is, what they call, “taaruvot tov v’ra,” a disturbing concoction, which snowballs good and evil into one witches’ brew. This confusing “cholent” can be far more lethal than plain evil. When good and evil are two distinct entities, you can at least identify the enemy and deal with it accordingly. But when the enemy is hiding amidst your friends, when the evil is buried within the good, where do you begin? The lack of clarity allows the evil to grow, besides for demoralizing us and sapping our resolve to fight an invisible enemy.

Some of the worst diseases known to mankind are the ones in which parasites or malignant cells intertwine themselves and “hide” between healthy cells. Once they embed themselves, the only way to eliminate them is by killing, G-d forbid, good cells together with the bad ones.

An interesting Passover related verse can teach us much a about the distinction between good and evil, and the complication involved in extricating the good while eradicating the evil. And the L-rd shall strike (plague) Egypt, striking and healing, and they shall return to the L-rd, and He shall accept their prayer and heal them (Isaiah 19:22).
Two opinions are posited about the meaning of this verse: Rashi and the Talmud interpret that the verse refers to the first nine plagues, in which the “striking and healing” both happened to the Egyptians: first they were struck by the plagues (which were brought on by Aaron), then they were healed (by Moses’ prayer). The Zohar (II 36a), however, explains that the verse is referring to the tenth plague, when the Egyptians were “struck” and the Israelites “healed,” and both things happened at once (not in two stages).

We see from this that even when the evil was being struck it was also being healed. Until the last and final plague, which came to utterly destroy the evil. But even then, it was not about total destruction; “healing” took place for the good that remained.

Chassidic literature elaborates on the midnight before the great Exodus from Egypt. On that dark and mysterious night, at the moment when the clock struck midnight, the oppressors were struck and the oppressed were healed (“nogof l’mitzrayim v’ rofoh l’yisroel”), evil was vanquished and good prevailed. How can one distinguish between good and evil when they are all mixed together? This requires a unique Divine power, revealed at midnight, when love (chesed) meets discipline (gevurah) and opposites come together – a force that can separate between the good and the bad, and simultaneously address each accordingly (see Passover discourses of 5705).

1 Comment

  • Thank you so much for this article. It is timely and very thought provoking. My opinion is that Is 19 is still yet to be. It is a prophetic statement about when the Lord ‘re-claims’ Egypt (as well as the rest of the nations) as His very own. That time may not be as far away as we think. Utter goodness (as well as the depths of depravity) in human beings is a spiritual concept that we should consider deeply before dismissing it. It is at the root of our eternal existence and purpose. Shalom.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Relationships US & Canada Time Out Features Single Lady Who Likes ‘Big Schlubby Jewish Comedians’

    Time Out Features Single Lady Who Likes ‘Big Schlubby Jewish Comedians’

    A profile published Wednesday in Time Out New York highlighted a 25-year-old Brooklyn woman who claimed she is attracted to chubby Jewish comedians, Maxim Deputy Editor Jason Feifer pointed out via Twitter. Talking about a date she went on, Steph, a sunglasses designer living in Borough Park, told the magazine, ”He was very attractive, just not my type. I like big schlubby Jewish comedians and he was clean-cut.” Feifer posted a picture of the magazine page and commented that Steph’s preferences amounted [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Gold on the Galilee: Israeli Kayaker Comes of Age, Eyes Olympics (VIDEO)

    Gold on the Galilee: Israeli Kayaker Comes of Age, Eyes Olympics (VIDEO)

    JNS.org – Three years ago, kayaking coach Roei Lev found aspiring Olympian Ilya Podpolnyy crying on the steps of the Jordan Valley Sprint Kayak Club overlooking the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). Podpolnyy, then 17 years old, had just been disqualified from the Israeli kayaking championship. He couldn’t survive the heats. He didn’t make the start line. He was devastated—and he had no one with whom to share his hopes, his dreams, and his disappointment. His divorced parents still live in [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Lena Dunham Responds to Charges of Antisemitism: It was Just a Jew Joke

    Lena Dunham Responds to Charges of Antisemitism: It was Just a Jew Joke

    “Girls” creator Lena Dunham responded on Tuesday to charges of antisemitism over an article she had penned for the New Yorker, saying it was all in good humor. Speaking to Variety, Dunham reflected on her “tight-knit Jewish family, where Jew jokes were part of the essential fiber of our communication.” The article Dunham referred to was called “Dog or Jewish Boyfriend? A Quiz,” with options such as “He doesn’t Tip” and “He’s Crazy for Cream Cheese.” Among Dunham’s critics, Anti-Defamation [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Former NBA Star Tweets Article About Jewish Conspiracy to Control Global Media

    Former NBA Star Tweets Article About Jewish Conspiracy to Control Global Media

    Retired NBA player Keyon Dooling tweeted a link on Wednesday to a wildly antisemitic article that accuses Jews of seizing control of the world’s media and using it to promote their own interests. The article, published by an obscure blog in April 2013, highlights six companies it claims are owned by Jews — such as Time Warner, Inc. and the Walt Disney Company – that allegedly “control 96 percent of the world’s media.”  The post includes allegations of “Jewish control” and says [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Rosh Hashanah Won’t Keep the Giants’ Geoff Schwartz From Season Opener

    Rosh Hashanah Won’t Keep the Giants’ Geoff Schwartz From Season Opener

    New York Giants offensive guard Geoff Schwartz responded to an outcry from Jewish fans on Tuesday, saying he will go ahead and play in the season opener despite the fact that it falls on the first night of Rosh Hashanah. “Keep getting tweets about that being the first night of Rosh Hashanah… Don’t know what I’m supposed to tell you. It’s a tough break,” the Jewish athlete wrote, referring to the Giants’ on-the-road game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Sept. [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish Coach David Blatt Has NBA’s Cavaliers Surging at Playoff Time

    Jewish Coach David Blatt Has NBA’s Cavaliers Surging at Playoff Time

    JNS.org – When David Blatt was hired as head coach of the National Basketball Association’s Cleveland Cavaliers last June, he was not often recognized when he walked the streets of downtown Cleveland. What a difference a year makes. Now, Blatt can go few places without being recognized. For good reason. The Jewish coach has the Cavaliers in the mix to win the city of Cleveland’s first championship in a major sport since the Browns won the National Football League title in [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Croatian Soccer Star’s Hebrew Tattoo Causes a Stir Online

    Croatian Soccer Star’s Hebrew Tattoo Causes a Stir Online

    A Hebrew tattoo sported by Croatian soccer star Mario Mandzukic became an internet sensation in Israel after it was exposed on Tuesday during a Champions League match between Ateltico Madrid and Real Madrid A first glance, the tattoo, on the athlete’s back, might leave one with the impression that it was an unfortunate artistic mistake, since the Hebrew letters do not make sense as they are written. However, a closer look at the tattoo shows that it was actually written [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater Why an Algemeiner Editor Wrote a Play About a Mass Shooter

    Why an Algemeiner Editor Wrote a Play About a Mass Shooter

    For the past two years, I have served as Opinion Editor at The Algemeiner. I’m perhaps most proud of the paper’s commitment to publishing diverse and opposing viewpoints on the controversial issues of the day. We pride ourselves on voicing different opinions because we know that most issues are not black and white, and because our community is better served by a public debate. In my life outside of the paper, I am a professional actor and playwright. And similarly, [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.