by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
There is so much evil in the world. Everywhere we look, it seems that there is something bad happening. Every day we see physical evil around us. There are wars, famines, plagues, murders, theft, and on and on. There is also a tremendous about of emotional evil in the world, such as hatred, depression, and other mental illnesses that claim so many millions of people. There is even spiritual evil, and many kinds of that too. For instance, there is idolatry, and unclean powers, and there are demons and black magic. Where does all this evil come from? Since G-d is the only Creator, and He is in charge of all that happens, then it would seem that G-d Himself was bringing all this evil into the world. But why?
All evil can be traced back to the first man in the Garden of Eden. Before Adam ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he saw no evil. Nor did he see good. All that he saw was simply G-d’s handiwork. No matter what he encountered, he would simply say, “Ah, this is what G-d is doing,” and he would go about his business tending G-d’s garden paradise.
But from the moment he ate of that fruit he saw things differently. He was expelled from the garden. From then on there were good things and there were bad things. Greed and jealousy came into the world. People began to hate and lust. Even murder came. All of the other woes that we experience today are descendants of that first woe. The spiritual evils are simply outgrowths of that initial sin. Because Adam ate of that fruit, today we see things as good and bad.
Why do we need to know this? We need to know that the Garden of Eden is not just a historical garden located somewhere near present-day Iraq. It is an ongoing alternative to today’s Adam’s expulsion. Adam was not only the first man. Adam is all of us today.
When commenting on G-d placing Adam in the Garden, the Zohar states, “Just as did G-d place man in the Garden then, so does G-d do now to any man … when he repents of his sins and occupies himself with the Torah … and G-d places him in His garden which is the Shechina (G-d’s Revealed Presence)”.[i]
The mystical paradise called the Garden of Eden is not merely an historical, specific location. It is everywhere. This paradise can be entered by turning away from judging everything we see as either good or evil, and instead, simply seeing the entire creation to be God’s magnificent handiwork.
In fact, reentering the Garden is the very purpose of life in this world. “Man is created solely to delight in G-d and enjoy the radiance of the Shechina.”[ii] This is the primary delight in Gan Eden.
But, if we return to judging what we see, we will again be cast out of the Garden. We will find ourselves back in a world filled with good and evil, and we will again be forced to make our way by the sweat of our brow.[iii]
This does not mean that we are to call evil “good” or good “evil.” We must distinguish between them. We are told to do good and not to do evil. We must try to overcome the evil in the world and work to turn it to good. But when evil comes, even while we are fighting it with all our might, we must remember that it is G-d Who is sending it, or allowing it for some good reason. This too is His handiwork.
[i] Zohar, Genesis 27a
[ii] Ramchal, Mesillas Yesharim Chap 1
[iii] Genesis 3:19
BS"D - בסיעתא דשמיא