All is not right with the world (1)

Our subject is termed rah in Hebrew. While it’s often and incongruously translated as “wicked” or “evil”, we choose to translate it as “wrong” or “injustice”, or a combination of the two, as that seems to be the subject at hand [1].

In fact, there are very many other meanings of the term, which include “inferior” or “worthless”, as in a bad computer for example; “dangerous”, or “malignant”, as in a bad illness; “noxious”, “displeasing”, and “repugnant”, as in a bad odor; etc.

Very notably in the context of the Breaking of the Vessels — and given that it might very well be one of Ari”s sources for the concept — r’ah,its hitpoel (reflexive) form translates as “broken”, “crushed”, or “shattered” [2].

In any event, the tradition very clearly attributes its creation to God alone [3], and it’s usefulness and worth is certainly not denied [4].


[1]       And also because not every instance of rah is inherently and intentionally wicked or bad, as we’ll soon point out.

[2]       See Daniel 2:40; also see Kiddushin 39b, Ta’anit 20b, etc.

[3]       See Isaiah 45:7, Amos 3:6, lamentations 3:38, Baba Batra 16a.

[4]       See Breishit Raba 9:7.

(c) 2012 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

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