I have read a book by Dr Michael Heiser that stated if you asked this question to a Christian audience, they would say, the fall of Adam in the garden is the cause of evil in the world today. But if you would ask this question to a Jewish person, they would say there were 3 reasons: the garden (where the evil came to man from a spiritual being), the angels choosing daughters of men and creating a mixed race of individuals called the Nephilim,(again spiritual beings involved) and the sin of the tower of Babel. 3 rebellions against Elohim.

I have also read in many Jewish sites that there is also a belief that we are all born with two inclinations, a good one and an evil one: the yetser hara and yetser tov. Was Adam then created with these two, or did the yetser hara form after he ate the fruit of the forbidden tree? And is it rather this that is the reason for this much evil in the world today.

I guess the question is; is the evil human or is the evil supernatural?

  • 1
    It is not obvious that Judaism believes in a strictly sequential time-bound explanation of the "current state of affairs". In other words, it may be possible for a person, through their own free will, to instantiate evil in the present without this evil being strictly traceable back to any particular epic historical event. This is because, from an orthodox Jewish perspective, creation is something which is still happening, and not a historical artefact.
    – The GRAPKE
    Sep 24 at 5:57
  • Our Sages told us that the evil inclination can be channeled toward good, and that without it people would not achieve anything. Sep 24 at 14:54
  • Good and evil are not as absolute as you think. Look no further than political parties. Party X thinks party Y's policies and voters are evil. Party Y thinks X is evil. Capitalists think communists are evil. Communists think capitalists are evil. The West thinks Russia is evil for starting the war. Russia thinks it's good for taking back its ancestral land.
    – Nayuki
    Sep 24 at 16:46
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    "if you asked this question to a Christian audience, they would say" How are Christian beliefs at all relevant here? "Dr Michael Heiser.. stated if you asked this... to a Jewish person, they would say..." Gotta love when Christians deign to put words in our mouth 🙄 Sep 24 at 18:39
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    @LisaCremer define demonic. There is only one source of all, and that is Hashem. If demonic implies a "rival", then that would be considered a bona fide statement of heresy in Judaism. All "evil" is created by God, and everything that ever happens is is directed by Him, and actually made to happen by Him. The better way to phrase it is that anything that happens was meant to happen, and for Hashem's good purpose. Even evil.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Sep 27 at 14:23

3 Answers 3


The sages teach that there are two kinds of evil inclinations - one that is spiritual, and was created by G-d before the sin of Adam, and one that stems from the physical body, as a result of the sin of Adam.

The Ben Yehoyada brings this idea in various places in his commentary on the Talmud, and explains (In his commentary on Arachin 8b) that it is for this reason that two goats are brought on the day of atonement - one for G-d, and the other goes to Azazel - each goat representing one of these two evils.

However, the sages teach (Shabbos 146b) that when the Torah was given to the Jewish people, the evil that came from the sin of Adam left them, and although it returned as a result of the sin of the golden calf, it never fully returned to them.

In addition, the Talmud says (Sanhedrin 64a) that the sages living at the time of the second Holy Temple managed to get rid of the inclination towards idolatry.


The reason there is evil in the world is so that the choice of doing good is meaningful. If a person were not given the opportunity to do bad, and decline it and do something good instead, then that good is forced, to some degree. Either way, the reward for doing that good is lessened, and this is against Hashem's will. So in order that man should truly become the owner and master of his own good, Hashem made in him a pull towards both evil and good (see Derech Hashem 1:3:1).

This is really a pull towards the physical vs a pull towards the spiritual, as Ramchal writes (ibid 1:2:3):

And behold that any true perfection is surely His existence, may He be blessed; and any deficiency is only the absence of His goodness, may He be blessed, and the hiding of His face. So it comes out that the shining of His face, may He be blessed, and His closeness are the root and the cause of all perfection that will be; and the hiding of His face is the root and the cause of all the deficiency - such that according to the measure of the hiding, is the measure of the deficiency that results from it. Therefore when this creature - that stands evenly between the perfections and the deficiencies that are outgrowths of the shining and the hiding - strengthens itself with perfections and acquires them for itself on its own; behold, it attaches [itself] to Him, may He be blessed, who is their root and their source. And according to that which it increases perfection, so does it increase in attachment to Him; until when it reaches the end of the acquisition of perfection, behold it reaches the end of attachment and cleaving to Him, may He be blessed. So it benefits from His good and perfects itself in Him and becomes, itself, the owner of its good and its perfection.

This equal pull towards both directions was changed greatly when Adam and Eve ate the fruit. Before, they just had a distracting pull towards the material, which is the natural state for a living physical creature. However, once they ate from the fruit, that pull towards the material became more than a temptation, it became personal, and internal, and this caused mankind to actually desire things that were not simply material, but forbidden (1:3:8):

With his sin, however, deficiencies were added; and they grew in the essence of man and in all of the entire creation. Moreover the redress became more difficult than before. The explanation of this is that surely at the beginning it was easy for [man] to go away from the deficiency planted in him and to acquire perfection. For the Supreme Wisdom set up the things like this according to the traits of good and fairness. And since man was not the cause of the evil and the deficiency within him - but it was rather planted in him in his creation - when he removed himself from the evil and turned to the good, he was surely immediately able to go away from deficiency and acquire perfection. However with his sin - since it was through him that perfection became more hidden than it was and the deficiencies grew, and he was the one that caused evil to himself - it would no longer be as easy for him to return and to go away from deficiency and acquire perfection as it was at the time that he was not the cause of his deficiency, but was rather [just] created like that from his beginning, as I have written. All the more so [would it be harder], as the striving required of him now to reach perfection would perforce be doubled: For he would first need that man and the world return to the condition that existed at the beginning before the sin; and then afterwards to rise above that condition to a condition of perfection to which it was fit for man to rise.

Basically, Adam and Eve developed a great pleasure in doing good and evil, and passed this on to their children. The goal of the children now is to conquer this, so that they refrain from doing evil, even if it is pleasureable and tempting, and thereby fix this pollution, and cleanse it so that mankind can be indeed unique in this world - made in the Image of Hashem.

This lowly state could have been climbed out of by every nation right up until the Tower of Bavel (see Derech Hashem 2:2), and the door was finally sealed when the Torah was given. At that point it became clear that only Abraham's children were going to be able to take up the mantle of fulfilling God's will of acquiring spiritual perfection and raising the world up with them, on a national level. Nations could not elevate themselves as a whole to the stature of man before the sin, but individuals in those nations could by attaching to the Torah through the people of Israel.

Until Israel finishes the job, there will continue to be this very great darkness in the world, Hashem's face hidden, and therefore a world where it seems like evil is a real force that is always gaining the upper hand.


If you asked Maimonides he would tell you that what we perceive as evil has a good point to it. For example, hurricanes cleanse the earth.[1]

Maimonides says that evil is the result of one of three things: people harm themselves, harm others, or natural laws, such as a hurricane that may kill people who are nearby but it cleanse the earth. Thus, God is not the source of evil. God only does good.

Earthquakes, volcanoes, lightning, and inundations are all the result of the operation of the laws of nature. A lion killing a zebra is not evil, it is nature. The lion lives by hunting its prey. God did not make the world only for zebras.

In essence, Maimonides' point is that all creation is good. We simply do not understand it well enough.

As for the yetser hare. I do not think it exists. It is a metaphore.

[1] See his discussion on Job.

  • lol, Rambam with his "its a metaphor"
    – setszu
    Sep 24 at 18:24
  • @setszu I am a fan of the Rambam.
    – Turk Hill
    Sep 24 at 19:19
  • do u really think you have no yetzer hara - desire/drive/inclination to bad things?? Oct 26 at 2:43
  • I do not think there is a yetzer hara. The evil inclanation is a parable. Humans do have desire/drive/inclination to bad things, but it is not literal always there.
    – Turk Hill
    Oct 26 at 4:28
  • @setszu What's wrong with Rambam?
    – Turk Hill
    Oct 26 at 4:29

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