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Though Hashem controls the world and decrees human suffering (as we saw in previous pieces), humanity is its cause.



All Good

The Torah’s very first parsha makes this point. After each day of creation, Hashem considers what He created and evaluates it as “good”: “Va’yar Elokim ki tov (Bereishit 1:4,13,19,23,25,31.)”

Why was this consideration necessary? Would we not assume that Hashem created everything perfectly?

I believe the Torah wants to ensure we know that Hashem created the world as good. This knowledge is important because, in actuality, the world includes a lot of “bad” – suffering and hardship. This bad emerged very quickly. Within the first parsha, the world became so corrupt that Hashem had to destroy all the living beings and start over (Ibid, 6:5).

So, if all that Hashem created was good, where did all the bad come from?


Except For Man

The Torah answers this question as well.

The world’s problems emanate from man. Though most of Hashem’s creations are programmed to be naturally good, man is a glaring exception. Instead of programming him to automatically choose good, Hashem granted man free choice, including the ability to choose that which is negative and harmful.

When man ate from the “tree of knowledge of good and bad,” he realized his full potential to pursue sin. This choice damaged both him and the world.

The original sin made man mortal (Ibid, 3:22-24); his continued sinfulness caused human life to be limited to 120 years (Ibid, 6:3) and eventually “forced” Hashem to destroy all mankind (Ibid, 6:7).

Man’s sins also impacted the world. As opposed to the snake and woman who were punished personally for their sins, Adam’s curse impacted the ground as well. It no longer produced on its own; man now needed to work hard: “By the sweat of your brow, you will eat bread (Ibid, 3:17-19).” Kayin’s sin further impacted the world. The ground did not produce for him at all, and he was forced to live as a nomad (Ibid, 4:11-12).

Eventually, man’s sins corrupted the entire world. When man lost his way, other creatures followed suit (Ibid, 6:12-13,8:21). This man-induced reality caused Hashem to use the flood to wash away all living beings (Ibid, 6:7).

The Mesilat Yesharim summarizes man’s impact on the world: “The world was created for man’s use. If he is drawn after it and strays from his creator, he ruins himself and the world with him (Mesilat Yesharim, Chapter 1).”

Parshat Bereishit begins by describing the world Hashem created as good and ends with Hashem’s need to destroy the world because of man’s deleterious impact, which the parsha describes in between.

We, too, should realize that our negative experiences are not Hashem’s intention but, rather, the results of our actions. Hashem did not intend for women to suffer during childbirth, for relationships between husbands and wives to be ones of dominance and submission, and for men to have to sweat at work. We have only ourselves to blame for these difficulties.


Satan’s Source

This idea can help us understand how Sefer Iyov, the central Biblical exploration of the question of suffering, presents Satan.

The Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim 3:22) points out that Sefer Iyov introduces Satan as distinct from the other ministering angels. It describes the angels as gathering before G-d and then mentions Satan’s arrival separately (Iyov 1:6). In addition, the sefer emphasizes that, as opposed to the other angels who inhabit the heavens, Satan “flies around Earth (Ibid, 1:7,2:2).”

Why is Satan different than other angels? Why is he more connected to Earth?

Our understanding of suffering helps us answer these questions. Satan “comes from Earth” because he is generated by man’s sins. Without these sins, no angel would have reason to advocate or facilitate human suffering. This is why the Gemara (Bava Batra 16a) links Satan and the Malach Hamavet (Angel of Death) to the yetzer hara. It is man’s sins, which are motivated by the yetzer hara, that generate Satan and the Malach Hamavet, who punish and ultimately take the lives of sinners.


How and Why

Having established man’s actions as the source of human suffering, next week, we will, iy”h, explain the exact nature of this relationship – how and why our actions have such an effect.

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Rav Reuven Taragin is the Dean of Overseas Students at Yeshivat Hakotel and Educational Director of World Mizrachi - RZA. He lives with his wife Shani and their six children in Alon Shvut, Israel.