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Home » Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah: The mystery of Good and Evil

Submitted by on November 2, 2005 – 3:19 amNo Comment | 2,666 views

L'Shana Tova

On Rosh Hashana, Jews traditionally greet each other with the words L’shana Tova Tikatev Vetichatem, May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year. It is interesting to note that we don’t wish for a year of happiness or health, peace or serenity, freedom or fulfillment, pleasure or wealth, contentment or joy, only goodness. Is goodness all we desire? Goodness is certainly wonderful but there is so much more to life!
In fact, an even more general question must be asked, what does the word “good” mean? It sounds vague, non-definitive.
“For I (G-d) have given you a GOOD portion, do not forsake my TORAH” (Proverbs 4,2). With this verse, King Solomon gives us two insights into the word “good”. (A) Goodness, is that which comes from G-d. (B) To preserve this goodness one must never forsake the study of Torah.
Let’s analyze these concepts and our understanding of the “goodness” will take shape.

Good = G-d

“Good” is the portion of life that is given by G-d. Which portion of life is given by G-d? All of life, of course! Are we then to believe that all of life is good? Indeed we are, this is a central religious axiom that is supported by two principles of faith.
The first principle is that G-d is the essence of all that is good. I.e. G-d is absolutely good and has not a scintilla of evil. It follows that everything that comes from G-d is good.
The second principle is that G-d is the only source of life, i.e. without G-d’s active infusion of energy, our existence would spontaneously cease. It follows that every event is driven by this divine energy for without it the event could not occur.
If we accept these principles then it necessarily follows that every event is absolutely good. For (a) everything that comes from G-d is good and (b) everything comes from G-d.

The Purpose Is Always Good

This means that even events we don’t perceive as good occur for reasons that are fundamentally and inherently good. *
Try as we might we are frequently at a loss to understand what those reasons are. To us it appears obvious that some events are truly and absolutely negative. Sometimes we discover those reasons at a later date and sometimes we don’t. Our faith asks us to believe with perfect faith that G-d, who is absolutely good, does not deliver harm and evil unless goodness lurks somewhere within.

Torah And Freedom Of Choice

Why then do we not perceive these events as positive and good? Because G-d designed this world in a manner that supports freedom of choice. If lines of demarcation were clear, if it were always obvious that G-d is good we would feel compelled to choose a G-dly and moral life style, in which case we would have lost our freedom of choice. He therefore allows us the opportunity to perceive true good as evil and thus deny G-d’s benevolence. This preserves our freedom of choice.
How does one arrive at such a level of faith? King Solomon, quoted above, provides the answer. “ I have given you a good portion, do not forsake my Torah”. True goodness can be found through the study of Torah. If we refuse to forsake the Torah, if we cling to Torah through all hardships and difficulties, our very perspective will change, our outlook will readjust.
How does this work? Torah is the book of the Divine. In studying the Torah we internalize G-d’s word and identify with him to the point that he defines us. This allows for his truth to be uncovered, it allows us to perceive his hand in all that transpires, thus nourishing the highest levels of faith.
Here then is the meaning of the traditional greeting “may we be inscribed for a good year.”  May we develop an attitude that is absolutely positive and good. May we develop a constitution that refuses to be dominated by tension and fear. May we merit understanding that everything that happens in life is truly good. May we perceive our problems as potential solutions, our sorrows as opportunities for future happiness.
Imagine the serenity, cheerfulness, pleasure and joy that result from this attitude and way of life. This adjustment in perspective, in and of itself, can be the greatest source of blessing in our lives, if we only allow it to be.
May we be inscribed and sealed for a Good year.
 *This article does not address real life tragedies, such as the violent or untimely loss of a loved one. That issue is entirely separate and must be addressed independently and on its own merit. Here we refer to the difficulties, demands and pressures of everyday life that often overburden us with undue stress and anxiety.