Do Not Accept Evil: Make the World a Better Place
BY RABBI YOSEF ZVI RIMON
I first met Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks about twenty years ago, when he invited me to spend a few days in England at a rabbinical conference and to speak on matters of halachah and Shemitta. At that time, Rabbi Sacks was not yet broadly known in Israel, nor did I know him personally. But at the conference, I discovered a rabbi who spoke a new language, something different from the way of Rav Kook and Rav Soloveitchik. There was something new here! During those few days, I heard empowering ideas and clear explanations of the eternal nature of our people and our role in the world, and the role of the other nations. It was a language of Torah that brought a new life and spirit to people in Israel and around the world.
Most of all, Rabbi Sacks gave enormous strength to Jews living in exile, reminding them of G-d’s love for us, strengthening their Jewish identity and observance of the mitzvot and helping them feel a part of the unique mission of the Jewish people. Beloved by the Jewish people, he was also accepted and revered by gentiles worldwide – an extraordinary and unlikely accomplishment! To the other nations, he taught a Torah that succeeded in sanctifying the name of Heaven and glorifying Judaism.
Rabbi Sacks breathed new life into age-old questions and ideas where it previously seemed that all that could be said had already been said. A powerful example of Rabbi Sacks’ fresh perspective is his treatment of the problem of evil. For millennia, religious believers have struggled with the problem of evil in the world. So much has been written on this subject in the words of the prophets, Chazal and our Rishonim and Achronim. But Rabbi Sacks approached this ancient problem with a new spirit.
Why do we struggle so mightily with the question of evil? For G-d is good and His world is good! Over and over again, we are told that G-d created the world for good: “When G-d began to create heaven and earth… G-d saw that the light was good… And G-d said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…’ And G-d saw all that He had made and found it very good…” (Bereishit 1).
If G-d is good, why must good people suffer from evil? Rabbi Sacks explained that G-d consciously hides the answer to this question from humanity. But why? Only in the final months of his life did Rabbi Sacks offer an answer: Let us imagine what would happen if we clearly understood why there is evil in the world. We would not fight it! We would watch evil occurring before our eyes but remain passive; we would say that evil is understandable and logical.
G-d is completely good, and he wants us, humanity, to refuse to take evil for granted! We must not accept evil; we must rebel against evil and do everything in our power to fight it!
Throughout history, we have tried to answer the riddle of why bad things happen to good people. But Rabbi Sacks understood that G-d wants us to have questions! We don’t need to search for answers, for it is the questions that will push us to fix the world. The questions are the main thing; they are what drive us to make the world a better place! G-d did not reveal to us the reason for evil in the world so that we will never come to terms with evil, to understand that G-d, Who is all good, wants us to struggle and strive to eliminate evil!
G-d did not create a completely good world but rather a world that man can transform into good! G-d created a world with the tools to change the world for the better. This is our mission; this is why each of us is here!
May we be privileged to bring good to the world, and may the beautiful ideas of Rabbi Sacks continue to sanctify the name of Heaven in the world.
Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon is Head of Mizrachi’s Educational Advisory Board and Rabbinic Council. He serves as the Rabbi of the Gush Etzion Regional Council and is the Founder and Chairman of Sulamot.