Wrong, Evil, and Injustice (Part 2)

Ramchal’s depictions of rah, which is termed the yetzer harah (“the inclination to do wrong”) when it touches on our personal relationship to it, speaks to its two aspects: as the embodiment of “the other side”, i.e., the utter and unredeemable opposite of Godliness; and, contrarily, as the laudable and redeemable mechanism that will allow for God’s Yichud to be seen and for everything … to return to its ultimate perfection.

We find clear analogies to that bilateral depiction of it in the non-Kabbalistic tradition which speaks of rah as “the greatest thief of all” (Pesichta Rabbati 32b), and as the only phenomenon that God Himself deems evil (Kiddushin 30b) and wishes He hadn’t created (Breishit Rabbah, Breishit 27:4), on the one hand; and as the one thing that enables humankind and society to grow and flourish in this world (Breishit Rabbah, Breishit 9:7) on the other, based on its worldly allurements.

The Zohar is also of two minds when it comes to rah. It discusses its other-sideness a number of times, as when it speaks of the ten “crowns” of holiness (i.e., the ten holy Sephirot) as opposed to the ten “crowns of uncleanness” ( see 3, p. 41b, 70a) which are depicted as ten “monsters” that lurk in ten rivers (see 2, pp. 34a-35b), and when it refers to the configuration of “Worthless Man” as opposed to “Primordial Man” or Adam Kadmon (see 2, pp. 242b-244b). But it also speaks of rah as a servant acceding to its master’s orders so as to fulfill the latter’s agenda (see 1, pp. 146b-147a; 2, 34a; 3, p. 172b) [1].

Let’s explore how Ramchal explains the source of rah.


[1] See Moreh Nevuchim 3:12 for Rambam’s rationalist view of rah.

(c) 2011 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Feel free to contact me at feldman@torah.org


AT LONG LAST! Rabbi Feldman’s translation of Maimonides’ “Eight Chapters” is available here at a discount.

You can still purchase a copy of Rabbi Feldman’s translation of “The Gates of Repentance” here at a discount as well.

Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has also translated and commented upon “The Path of the Just” and “The Duties of the Heart” (Jason Aronson Publishers).

Rabbi Feldman also offers two free e-mail classes on www.torah.org entitled “Spiritual Excellence” and “Ramchal”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.