Copy Right 2022
Rabbi Dr Zvi Aviner
How to Know what Evil is?
Presenting the Commandments in Genesis
As we continue to follow the Torah text flow in the Book of Genesis,
we discover that the book leads us from one Commandment of Noah to the next.
Thus, Chapter One deals with IDOLATRY (I) at length,
Chapters 2-3 presents Eden with ADULTERY (II) and MARRIAGE,
and now we encounter BLOODSHED (III), beginning with Cain and Abel
then culminating with Noah’s Flood and the Rainbow Covenant,
which is predicated on the BLOODSHED Laws in details.
Thus, we realize that Moses wrote the Book of Genesis
with the Six Commandments of Adam on his mind.
Indeed, the flow oof stories continues with Abraham and THEFT (IV)
followed with Jacob and JUSTICE (V) then Joseph and BLASPAMY (VI).
It is amazing that Moses had in mind the Children of Noah
no less than the Children of Israel.
By placing the list of the Commandments in that fashion,
Moses determines their proper order, which one comes first and which second.
Henceforth we should have no doubt about the Commandment’s proper order.
Why is the order important? Because it sets up a logical cascade of events.
A person may stumble over one commandment only to be confronted by the next.
Thus, whoever fails IDOLATRY would most likely stumble next on ADULTERY,
which most likely would follow by BLOODSHED then THEFT and INJUSTICE
as our literature and movies show regularly.
Looking at the Commandments list, we can distinguish two subgroups.
Though they were all given to Adam in Eden, yet only the first two,
IDOLATRY and ADULTERY, were relevant to their life in Eden.
Only they could be violated even in Eden.
The other four – BLOODHED, THEFT, INJUSTICE and BLASPHEMY –
could be violated only on Earth, and were therefore irrelevant to Eden,
given to Adam only as potential, in case they would be driven out
As long as Adam and his wife lived in Eden, the four Commandments
were “theoretical,” with no real implications.
This consideration implies that the first two – IDOLATRY and ADULTERY,
address the two most primordial drives in our souls,
namely the Sex Drive and the Drive to rule over, our Ego.
These two Drives are buried deep in our souls even today,
dominating our lives, resistant to any attempt to be tamed
There is another important distinction between the six Commandments.
While IDOLATRY is relevant even to an individual person,
ADULTERY is challenging the institution of MARRIGAE,
rather than damaging in another person.
The rest four – BLOODSHED, THEFT and INJUSTICE, however,
are crimes against other people’s wellbeing,
hence their name: Commandments Between Man and his Fellowman.
The point it, that even though the issue in these Commandments
Is between Man and his Fellowman, the Torah regards them also
as transgression between Man and G-d.
As Rabbi Sacs ZL has pointed out, in ancient time no one regarded
THEFT or CIVIL ORDER as issues concerned by the gods.
The Torah therefore revolutionized the notion, that
the G-d of Israel is indeed deeply concerned with our social welfare.
Moral level prior to the Sin
In previous classes we’ve learned that in Eden, before the Sin,
Adam and his wife knew Right from Wrong,
which are values associated with ELKM the JUDGE,
but unaware of Good and Evil, which are values associated
with The Merciful Attribute YHVH. After all,
Evil is defined as whatever YHVH hates.
For instance: before the Sin, they walked around naked and unashamed,
like the Serpent, who was also naked and unashamed,
being unaware of YHVH. No “beast of the field” is capable
of knowing the values of YHVH.
Thus, before the Sin the humans were unashamed from nakedness,
since there is nothing Wrong in nakedness in the eyes of ELKM
the CREATOR of Nature.
It is only after eating from the magic fruit
of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil,
that they became aware of YHVH.
Their eyes opened and the knew that they were naked
and became ashamed of it. For nakedness is shameful
in front of YHVH’s Holiness.
They were also ashamed now of their Sin, so they hide in the bush.
Indeed, Sin taints our character in the eyes of YHVH,
seen as an “aesthetic blemish” in Her eyes.
From here on, all sins are judged by the two Attributes: ELKM. And YHVH.
Each Commandment sees it in its own aspect. Thus, transgressing
IDOLATRY, ADULTERY, BLOODEHD, THEFT, INJUSTICE and BLASPHEMY,
would render us sinners in ELKM’s eyes, and Evil in YHVH’s eyes.
Drive to do Evil
Moreover, when they ate from the Forbidden Fruit, they noticed
that “the tree is good for eating, and that it is a delight to the eyes,”
meaning that sin became a desirable act, pleasing their hearts and mind,
as a sweet deed to enjoy. Hence, along with the acquisition of
the perception of YHVH, they acquired the passion and the desire
to do Her opposite, to do evil.
That Drive to do the evil in YHVH’s eyes is called
Yezer Harah, the “evil drive.” Note that evil is in YHVH’s eyes,
expressing Her aspect. You need to wear YHVH’s spectacles
over your eyes and heart to perceive “evil.”
From there on, Adam and his wife has entered a new inner struggle,
between the Drive to follow the sweet sin, Yezer Rah,
and the Drive to follow YHVH values, Yezer Tov .
The more Adam perceives of YHVH and her values,
the more his passion to do the opposite grows.
The advent of the Merciful YHVH ion the Heavenly Court
provides us protection. But, on the other hand,
to receive Her protection, we must find face in Her eyes.
Adam has to abide by ELKM’s Laws
and at the same time meet YHVH’s expectations
Another argument against sinning
Recognizing YHVH and Her values, increases our distance from sinning.
In fact, in the story of Eden, G-d places a series of arguments
against Sin in increasing fashion.
At first, when Adam was still alone, YHVH ELKM warned him
not to eat from the Forbidden Fruit, less he dies.
Since Adam perception of YHVH was vague before the Sin,
it was mainly ELKM whom Adam listened too.
At first, ELKM talked to Adam as a FATHER – giving him
a parental advice – do not eat it, lest something bad happens.
Then, as Adam grows in Eden and become smart, like a teenager,
ELKM talks to his logic – do not sin, since Sin is foolishness.
The Greek, for instance, followed that logic.
A sinner in their eyes was a fool, not worthy to associate
With the philosophers.
But as Adam continues to grow, logic would not stop him from sinning.
At that point – that ‘age’ – ELKM Commands on him not to eat.
A King must be obeyed with no questions.
But as Adam matures in Eden and received a wife, all the former
warnings become inadequate to hold him back from sinning.
Thus, by eating the fruit and receiving YHVH’s perception,
Another powerful argument against sin is introduced –
shame in YHVH’s eyes.
But even shame could not hold Mankind from sinning.
In fact, one would think that the advent of the Merciful YHVH
In the Heavenly Court would offer Adam unconditional protection,
by endless Love and Compassion.
To show that this is not the case, the Torah describes their
passage from Eden to Earth. There is a “tunnel” leading
from the Tree of Life in Eden down to the space above Mount Moriah,
exactly where the Holy Ark stood at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
Our souls come down to earth through that tunnel.
As the Torah describes, the Tunnel ends with two Cherubs,
and “the hot, revolving blade”. Whose blade is it? Says the Zohar:
it is the blade of YHVH. Why is it “revolving?” For sometimes it is blunt,
whereas sometimes it is extremely sharp.
It means, that evil people can turn YHVH’s Mercy into Anger.
Especially those who engage in cruelty and BLOODSHED (murder.)
And that should be taken as a serious argument against doing evil.
Believing or knowing?
The question is: why does the Torah refers to the forbidden Tree as
The Tree of KOWLEDGE of Good and Evil?
What is the difference between Believing and Knowing?
Well, when I say that I believe that there is a table in this dark room,
it means that I am not 100% sure about it. The table may be there, or not.
But when I say that I know that there is a table in that room,
it means that I am sure about it. Perhaps I have touched it,
or have seen it in my own eyes. It is definitely there.
Thus, for instance: Should we believe in the truthfulness of the Torah,
or should we know that the Torah is true?
Well, for years I have learned to believe in the Torah.
The RMBM basses his believe on the notion that the Torah must be true
since we have received it from father to sons through the generations.
I have accepted his argument fullheartedly and believed in the torah
without challenging it.
Then came the History Channel with the report on the History of our planet
and changed my faith. As the story began unfolded, I was struck by how
perfectly it fits the story told by Moses in Genesis Chapter One.
The only difference is that while the HC talks about “six stages” in the world’s history,
Moses speaks about Six Days of CREATIOIN. Otherwise, the two stories
match perfectly well, even in minute details (see our class in the IDOLATRY section).
Having seen that perfect match I could not but ask in awe,
how could Moses, 3500 years ago, tell such a valid story
that is supported by our science? Who told him the story?
Isn’t Genesis a living, tangible miracle in our hands?
And if you say, like the Bible critics, that the Torah was written
by Jerusalem priests in the eighth century BC, well, let me know
who those priests were? I would prostrate before them and kiss their legs!
But in fact, no one in the eighth century could write such a credible story!
Even Aristoteles, a thousand year after Moses, believed that
the Universe had always existed, with no beginning.
In fact, that notion was taught at the best European Universities
Until not too long ago, when the Big Bang was discovered by Science.
Thus, the HC turned me from a believer in the Torah,
to one who knows its validity. I knew I am holding a tangible,
indisputable miracle in my hands.
So, when the Torah says that the forbidden tree would render the eater
the Knowledge of Good and Evil, she means that on Earth,
under the Angle of Death, Adam and his wife would know Evil first hand,
in a tangible way, through unquestionable real experience.
They would not only believe that Evil exists, they would know it exists.
You can say that in Eden, prior to the Sin, they “believed” that Evil exists,
having no intimate, clear comprehension what Evil is.
Only after the Sin, having acquired the perception of YHVH,
they also acquired the perception of Evil, which YHVH hates.
But as long they stayed in Eden, under the Tree of Life,
that newly acquired “evil” has been limited to a sense of shame,
whereas on Earth they would KNOW more about ‘real’ evil.
Indeed, that prediction was fulfilled Immediately after their expulsion
from Eden. Iit came to them through the birth of Cain, as the verse says:
And Adam knew his wife Eve
And she conceived and bore Cain,
Saying: I have acquired a man with YHVH (4: 1)
Here in Eve’s words, YHVH stands alone the first time ever,
in full glory, without ELKM by Her side!
What happened? Eve must have had a bad, painful labor,
where she saw Angle of Death in front of Her.
Yet when the labor was over, while she was holding baby Cain in her bosom,
she was overrun by a gush of happiness, love, compassion, mercy
and a good hope for the future, as new mothers often feel. .
Thus, out of her misery and pains she ‘climbed up’ to perceive
the love and compassion that our MOTHER IN HEAVENS YHVH
feels for us. Eve is the first human to see YHVH in Her full light and Glory
This was a new notion of YHVH that she could not have in Eden.
And once she felt YHVH, she could also KNOW what Evil is.
Because Evil is the exact opposite of YHVH.
If YHVH is for life,
for compassion and mercy and forgiveness,
towards all Mankind,
for a good and happy future
then an Evil person is
One who inflicts death,
One who inflicts misery and sorrow
One who causes people to despair
One who shows cruelty, indifference to other people’s suffering
One who is arrogant, who sees himself superior by nature to others
One who is a racist
If you want TO KNOW what YHVH is, think of our mother Eve giving birth to Cain.
If you want to KNOW what Evil is, think about Hitler and his Nazi soldiers.
And here is another meaning of the term “to know evil.”
It means: identify evil, show it to your children, do not let them follow its charms.
For as we’ve said, eating the fruits caused them to admire evil,
see it as delight to the eyes and a sweet to the taste.
Evil carries a huge charm, especially in the eyes of the young.
Especially when It shows up dressed by fancy uniforms,
with attractive symbols and flags, admired by masses of people.
Our task is “to know evil,” to identify it and show it to all people,
Especially to our youth, lest we end with terrible BLOOD