Question: In my own words based on some commentary of Rabbi Hirsch Yeshayahu 45:7 reads: I form ohr (light), and create choshech (darkness); I make shalom (that what is whole), and create rah (that what causes division); I Hashem worketh all these things. 

The antonym of light seems to be darkness, the antonym of shalom might be in this case rah. But in Bereshit it is said that the antonym of rah is tov. Are shalom and tov synonyms somehow? The Maharal in many places describes tov in terms of existence, and rah in terms of absence. Likewise I read that tov could be determined as functional and rah as disfunctional.  

Did HaShem created rah as in 'He did made it directly', or did He not made it, but was it created by making shalom or that what we call tov (so that it could exist and HaShem adventually could be called the Creator of it)? Like darkness exist because of the abcense of light, and cold exist because the abcense of warmth.. could rah be the abcense of tov? Like Albert Einstein once said to a professor?

Choshech seemed to be there already when HaShem called the light.. how do I need to understand this? And how is it paralleled with the shalom and rah part of this verse?

What is rah, and how and when was it created?

Please help me out with these questions, J.Levi

4 Answers 4


[NOTE: The implications of what is expressed below are vast. It is a central concept in an entire position of hashqafah. As such, it will beg more questions than it answers. However, it is simply not possible in the space of an answer here to express it all adequately - to do so could fill volumes. So, please relate to following as a piece of a much larger whole.]

It is important, first of all, to understand that when the word ra^ is used in Hebrew, it is not always indicative of malicious or wicked "evil", rather it is used as a general term for all levels of negativity (e.g. "bad", "evil", "wrong", "trouble", et al). I make this qualification only to prevent the common misconception that if God is the "Creator" of evil, that this necessarily implies that He is the author of cruelty, barbarism, and travesty committed by human being throughout the course of history (has wa-shalom). This, of course, is completely absurd, as it is a foundational principle on which the entire Torah rests that man is endowed with an absolutely free will, without Divine coercion of any kind (cf. Hilkhoth Teshuvah 5:5). As Rebbi ^Aqivah said, "ha-kol ssafuy wa-reshuth netunah - Everything is foreseen and [yet] free will has been given" (cf. Pirqey Avoth 3:18). God is neither responsible nor the source of human choices, good or bad.

Thus, in order to not attribute neither outright evil and wickedness (has wa-shalom) nor absurdity to the Creator of All, blessed be He, we must seek an explanation for the seemingly explicit statement made by Yeshayahu HaNavi (45:7) that God is the creator of "evil" that accords with both Hazal and the Tanakh.

In the Moreh Nevukhim, the Rambam addresses both the origin(s) of evil and the meaning behind the pasuq in Yeshayahu 45:7.

In III:10, the Rambam explains that the meaning of Yeshayahu 45:7 [yosser or uvore' hoshekh ^oseh shalom uvore' ra^ ani Adhonoy ^oseh khol eleh - "Forms light and creates darkness, makes peace and creates evil. I, HaShem, do all these things."] is that evil - expressed in connection with the word bore'-"creates" - is not a positive existence, but is merely the absence of properties. Therefore, it can only be "created" indirectly, like when someone directly extinguishes a lamp and indirectly "produces" darkness - the absence of the attribute of light. In the pasuq, light and darkness are used as a comparative metaphor for good and evil, and should probably not be understood as a reference to the original act of creation.

In other words, we can attribute evil to the Creator only in the way that He created a world in which evil could potentially exist and He fashioned mankind with the capacity to commit wrong. However, the reality of evil is that it exists in the negative choices of human beings that fill the "void" of free will.

In conclusion, I would like to share a personal story.

I once had a discussion with an older [secular] Jewish psychologist about the classic accusation of God: "Where is He when children suffer?" Now, any demographic could be inserted to replace "children" in that question. After all, suffering is suffering. However, the suffering of innocent children cuts directly to the point. This doctor asserted that if God were a truly loving God, then He wouldn't have caused it or allowed it to happen.

My answer to him was another question. Actually, it was a series of questions: "Where are we? Where is mankind when children suffer? Where are we when we make wars for money? Where are we when we encourage free sexuality and immorality, causing thousands of unwanted children to be born to mothers who will not properly care for them? Where are we when we use chemicals, plastics, radiation, and food additives to feed our people? Where are we when we feed people GMO produce that stock animals refuse to eat when given a choice in trials? Where are we when we pump pollution into the water and air? Is God to blame for all the nonsense that mankind is collectively responsible for when we know better?" He was silent and then admitted that these were very good questions that he had never thought about before.

As the Rambam explains in volume III of the Moreh Nevukhim, the majority of the evil in the world is man to man and man to himself. Very little comes from above.

And if anyone is tempted to take issue with this understanding of Divine Providence, then I ask them to ask the difficult questions raised by the opposite view: When a frum Beis Yaakov girl is raped while walking home, did God pre-ordain her to be raped and the rapist to commit his disgusting act? Does God starve children? Does God cause men and women to commit adultery through His Divine Will? The answer to all of these questions is an unequivocal "NO". And if anyone persists in their position that such things are directly caused by God, then I would propose that such a person has never truly been a victim that has had to ask those questions.

HaShem created a good world, He created man with free will, knowledge, and the ability to live on earth in peace. He expects us to do our job. And we will, bi-siyata di-shmaya.

Hope that this helps. Kol tuv.


Part 1: Tov can mean complete:

  • Onkelos to the verse לא טוב היות האדם לבדו translates טוב as תקין - prepared or set up. Man is not complete when he is alone.

  • The Torah describes (Shemos 2:2) that when Moshe was born, his mother saw that he was טוב. One understanding of the Medrash (Tanchuma 58:5) is that she saw that he was born circumcised. I think the Medrash sees his being טוב as meaning that he was finished and completed, and therefor concludes that he was born circumcised, as in his physical body was already complete.

  • The Medrash (Bereishis Rabba 4:6) says that it does not say טוב on the second day, because the work of that day was incomplete - טוב implies complete, and something lacking completion lacks טוב.

Since you are accepting shalom to mean "that which is whole," I think we can see how they would be closely related concepts.

Part 2: Indirect creation of "Rah"

Daas Tevunos 104 - 108:

אמר השכל - שתים אומר לך, א' שאין הקב"ה משפיע רעה, ח"ו, כי הוא מקור טוב, וממקור טוב לא יצא רע.

אמרה הנשמה - ואם כן, הרע איך בא? והרי כתיב (ישעיהו מה, ז), "עושה שלום ובורא רע".

אמר השכל - "בורא רע" כתיב, ולא "עושה רע", לפי שהוא ברא הרע במציאות, שאם לא היה בורא אותו לא היה נמצא, אך אינו עושה אותו בקום ועשה.

אמרה הנשמה - ואם כן, איך נעשה?

אמר השכל - קראי כתיבי (תהלים ל, ח) "ה' ברצונך העמדת להררי עז הסתרת פניך הייתי נבהל", (תהלים קד, כט), "תסתיר פניך יבהלון"; ומשה רבנו ע"ה כבר אמר (דברים לא, יז), "והסתרתי פני מהם והיה לאכול" וגו'. וזה, כי הטוב - הקב"ה עושה אותו ממש בשפעו הטוב, אבל הרע אינו אלא העדר שפעו וביטולו, אם מעט ואם הרבה. כי השפע הטוב בא בכל תיקון המצטרך לטובת הנשפע, ואם יבטל ויעדר השפע לגמרי - זה יהיה ביטול לנשפע, ביטול גמור, אך אם השפע לא יבטל לגמרי, אך מתנאי שלמותו יתבטלו ויעדרו - יהיה החסרון בנשפע, ולא ביטול גמור

Short summary:

שכל - Evil does not emanate from Hashem, as He is the source of good, and evil does not come from the source of good

נשמה - If so, how did evil come into being? The verse (Yeshaya 45:7) says: "I make shalom and I create rah" !

שכל - It says "[I] create rah," not "[I] do rah." He created the existence of evil, as if He didn't create it it wouldn't exist. But He does not actively make evil.

נשמה - If so, how is it made?

שכל - (paraphrasing) Many verses describe Hashem "hiding" His "face." The meaning is, that with regards to tov, Hashem directly makes it. But evil is nothing more than the withholding of the emanation and its nullification, be it a lot or a little. The emanation of tov comes for the necessary preparation for any existence, and if it is nullified or withheld completely, the entity ceases to be, and if it is partially withheld it does not cease to be but it loses some aspects of its completeness.

And siman 110:

אמר השכל - כאשר נדקדק במציאות הדברים, נמצא שאין הרעות אלא הפסדי הטובות עצמם. ואלו נקח כל מיני הטובות שיש במציאות, ונבין גדרם, וכל הרעות ונבין גדרם גם כן, נראה שאין מציאות הרעות אלא הפסדי אותם הטובות עצמם.

Evil is nothing more than the decomposition of the good itself. If we take all types of good and all types of bad and understand their definitions, it becomes apparent that the existence of evil is no more than the loss of the good themselves.

In siman 114 the technical aspects of this are explained in more details (I discussed it briefly here). But as the Ramchal explains, you were mostly correct in your assessment - evil was created indirectly through making what we call tov and then reducing it.


The Maharal in many places describes tov in terms of existence, and ra in terms of absence (העדר).


Ra is not in the absence of Tov. It is the polar opposite in the equation of the universe. An atom can be considered Tov whereby its parts in quarks and even lower, string vibrations, are Ra. A unity of beings would be irrelevant without beings to exist. There is no purpose in the light, without a darkness for it to shine thru. Both complete a whole unity that is above both Tov and Rah, Hashem. Therefore, when you look unto yourself, you cannot deny the that which binds you, that which touches the light, that which dips in darkness, and complete within yourself, you understand there is no real separation between yourself and hashem.

  • 1
    I cannot understand what you are saying Apr 19, 2019 at 11:02

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