What is Goodness

What is goodness and what is evil can be a major enigma in Judaism. We know that Hashem (God) is everything and Hashem is all Good so where and how does evil fit in to the picture?

What is Goodness - Earth and Sky

What is Goodness

Everything is sourced from Hashem. In the heavenly realms, there is no evil. Evil is only extant in the translation of forces and energy from the spiritual world into the physical world.

There are three areas of activity in this world:   

  1. Bein adam leMakom – between a person and Hashem (see Definition of Ritual)
  2. Bein adam lechaveiro – between a person and their fellow (see Jewish Ethics)
  3. Bein adam leatzmo – between a person and themselves (see Moral Matters)

What is evil?

There are three paradigm examples of evil in the Torah. In each case, Hashem as it were, stepped in to the creation to destroy the evil:

  1. Dor Hamabul (Generation of the Flood) -  although they were involved in all sorts of depravity, Rashi (Beraishis 6:13) explains that their final decree came because of theft/ deceit – bein adam lechaveiro
  2. Dor Hafloga (generation of the scattering – Tower of Bavel) – they set about trying to build a construction to heaven to battle Hashem for control of the world – bein adam leMakom
  3. Sedom veAmora (Sodom and Gemora) – their destruction came when they tried to break into the house of Lot in order to rape the maleachim (angels) that they mistook for strangers – this was sexual depravity, bein adam leatzmo

Now we have seen how these spheres can be used for evil, let’s see how they can be translated for good.

  1. Avrohom was the pillar of chesed (kindness) as exemplified in his hospitality with the angels on the third day of his bris milah (Jewish circumcision) – bein adam lechaveiro
  2. Yitzchok was the pillar of gevura (self-control) as exemplified by his willingness (at age 37) to allow himself to be offered as a korban (offering) – bein adam leMakom
  3. Yaacov was the pillar of emes (truth,) exemplified by his scrupulous honesty in caring for Lavan’s sheep under great physical duress – bein adam leatzmo


So we see the same areas of influence being translated in this world in opposing ways to result in ultimate good on one hand and ultimate evil on the other.

  1. Involvement in the business of others can be by way of kindness for their gain, or deceit for one’s own gain
  2. Self-control can be focussed in good to serve Hashem and follow His Torah, bringing the world to it’s ultimate fulfilment, or in evil just to attain power
  3. Control over one’s physical drives can be dealt with through truth of when one must overcome one’s desires, or through following those desires regardless.

So what is goodness? The application of spiritual energy to constructive purpose in the physical.

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