northanger (northanger) wrote,

God's Fiat

Isaiah 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things (KJV).

Isaiah 45:7 I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things (NIV).

Exerpts on "evil" and "free will" from Path of the Kabbalah, by David Sheinkin, M.D., (one of my all time Kabbalah favorites—great introduction to the subject).

The Kabbalah teaches that the creation of evil was perhaps the greatest gift that God gave man. Adepts have long taught that the myriad realms that exist all do so to serve man; therefore, evil must exist for this same purpose. How does evil help us? The answer lies in the concept of human free will. For God wanted man not to be a robot-like being—a programmed machine—but something far, far greater and more godlike. He had to make man totally free—free to defy God, to not listen to Him. If man had been created only able to obey God, he would have lacked freedom and been much less godlike. Of course, the ability to defy God immediately implies the possibility of evil because evil, by definition, represents a going away from God.

Satan: God's Loyal Servant. According to Judaism, Satan is a very faithful servant of God—one of His most faithful servants. Since God has created evil, the realm of evil belongs to Satan. But this realm is really a gift to man—insuring his capacity of free will—and so Satan has a very important task to perform. It is his mission to do precisely what God wants him to do, for the Kabbalah teaches that nothing is more powerful than Ain Sof.

In Judaism, then, the devil is not regarded as a malevolent or evil entity challenging God's rule. Indeed, the Talmud says quite clearly, "Do as the devil does but not as the devil says". This is because the devil does only what God asks.

Why did God let the vessels shatter? We have already mentioned the concept of free will. In the basic plan of the universe the breaking of the vessels and their reconstituting allows free will to come into existence. This is becuase free will depends upon the existence of evil. If God had wanted a system of free will -- which was by definition dependent on evil -- He could have created an entity such as evil. But apparently this is specifically what God did not wish to do -- to create a primary force known as evil. Thus, He started with the Ten Sefiroth -- all of which were "very good". When the Sefiroth shattered, most of their fragments became reconstituted as five Partzufim. But not all of them. Some of the broken pieces fell away from the Partzufim and became the essence of evil. Therefore, the Kabbalah teaches that it is from the broken pieces that evil springs. This is now the beginning of the second half of the explanation of evil: that is, from God's perspective there was good first and it was from the breaking of the good that evil came.

Evil, then, was created from fallen good. The primary reason for this was so that it could be elevated back again to the good. If evil had existed as an entity unto itself, there may have been no way to make evil other than what it was. But if evil was really broken shards of good, then it would certainly be possible to take them and bring them back to their original source. At that point, they would become good again. This is indeed what Jewish mystics see as the task of humanity as a whole and of every individual. Man's role on earth is to take these broken pieces and, through our actions and way of life, to elevate them back to the source of good.When this cosmic process is completed, all evil as we understand it today will cease to exist. From God's point of view, therefore, first there was good and then there was evil. But on our level, evil came before good: that is why we have darkness preceeding light.

This brings us to a very intriguing issue in the Kabbalah. When we state that God wanted to give man free will, what are we really saying? How free are we and what is the domain of free will? What can we actually do?

Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan provided another analogy about the Kabbalistic concept of free will. His analogy is that of a divine chess game. He suggested: imagine that you are playing chess with a grandmaster. The grandmaster can let you make any move you wish and still he will win the game. As a matter of fact, if the grandmaster did not want to end the game in just a handful of moves, he could let you play the game for a very long time. He would certainly manipulate the game in such a way so as to keep you moving and moving. You could not possibly overcome the grandmaster, but he could permit you many, many moves.

Indeed, if the grandmaster decided that your chess bishop should go to a particular square, it would probably not be difficult for him to move his pieces to make your bishop end up on that square. Using this analogy, Rabbi Kaplan compared our daily life to playing a divine chess game. We make a move, God makes a move; we possess total freedom in the moves we make, but God—through the way He makes His moves or countermoves—has tremendous influence on where we will end up despite our seeming freedom to move wherever we want. If we keep this chess game analogy in mind, it can help clarify the concept of free will.

forgot where i read this: god and the devil are not equal.


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