Goodness and Evil: Are they Related?

A Jew once sinned so terribly that nobody recalled a Jew doing such a thing. A rabbi was asked to explain how this could happen. The rabbi answered, “I don’t know why this Jew sinned so terribly. But one thing I tell you. He meant with his evil did to serve HaShem.”

All of us have temptations to do evil. Many people will do what they can in business to make a buck, even though it may be improper. But because they realize that what they are doing is wrong, akin to stealing, or actual stealing, they don’t lose control completely. They may do some bad things, but there is some kind of control remaining. However, once a person is convinced that the evil deed he is doing or he wants to do is really a good deed, what can hold him back from serving HaShem?

We read this coming week the Torah portion of Mishpotim, meaning “judgment.” In this portion laws of stealing and killing are discussed. This is amazing, because the portion before Mishpoatim it Yisro, when the Jews received the Torah from G-d Himself at Sinai and heard the Ten Commandments. Would it not have been more appropriate to follow such an elevated event with something about the highest holiness, such as the building of the Tabernacle, instead of the hideous evil that portion deals with?

But a Jew has a Torah soul, and is not so close to killing and stealing and damaging. But when he is convinced that killing or stealing or damaging is a good deed, and by so doing he serves HaShem, what is to keep him from killing and stealing and damaging?

Someone called me that he had borrowed a large sum of money, and had to repay it. But he had no way to repay it. He became emotional, and began talking about his situation and why the lender should understand. Finally, he got to the point. He won’t pay the wealthy man, and the wealthy man won’t miss it. But the wealthy man will have the mitsvah of giving him charity. Acording to this, by now paying what he borrowed, the rich man will merit the pleasures of the Future World. Of couse, this was uttered in bitter desperation, but when people are pressured, and they have no recourse, they do the worst things and call it a mitsvah. Thus, the worst evil can sprout from the greatest good.

A woman once came to me with a bitter tale about her husband who wanted a divorce. She wanted him to remain with her. She wanted me to talk to the husband to save the marriage. Now, this is surely a worthwhile and good thing. But this lady was chasing her husband for decades. Her youth had left her and she just kept at it. I told her that if she lets go of her efforts there is a chance she can remarry and find some happiness instead of running around the world asking for people to call her husband. But she was serving HaShem and HaShem surely wants people to stay married. Thus, she gave up her life to serve HaShem.  This woman was once young and lovely. She could have left one marriage and quickly found another one, maybe with better help and preparation to find the right husband. But no, she just kept up serving HaShem, as she saw it.

Not long after this I was by the great Posek Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashev zt”l and asked him if I was right when I told her to stop chasing her husband and to remarry. He agreed with me. Some times, we serve HaShem and destroy others. And sometimes, we destroy ourselves, HaShem Yerachem.

In one of our discussions, Rav Elyashev zt”l pointed out to me that there are rabbis who want to help women remarry when the husband refuses to give her a GET. These rabbis can help get a GET for the woman in appropriate ways, or they can do something not appropriate. It is not that rabbis want to do evil things. But they want to do a mitsvah and  help a woman to be freed when she demands her freedom. Now, maybe the husband and the children don’t want a divorce and a broken family, so why break up the family for the wife? But some people feel that the wife has her rights to break the family and damage the husband and the children. Now, a forced GET is invalid. The woman who gets such an invalid GET remarries and has a child. That child is a mamzer. Making a mamzer is the most hideous sin. But some people do it because they want to do good.