Is There Absolute Good and Evil?

With the latest brutal atrocities perpetrated in Israel – the horrific sights and descriptions of things that most of us couldn’t imagine in our darkest dreams – the words “absolute evil,” “pure, unadulterated evil”, have become the way many are describing these massacres. Not simply killing which is total evil in itself, but the sheer savage ways and extreme forms of cruelty and sadism with which these heinous crimes were committed, defies any word in our human language. Absolute evil doesn’t even seem strong enough. 

And yet, there are many that try to “justify” these actions, and even worse and more appalling — they argue that the victims are somehow at fault! In some twisted form of ‘logic” there are the claims that Israel is evil and somehow Hamas good. But even if you don’t go that far, some argue the case of moral equivalence, where both sides are equally guilty. Others altogether embrace moral relativism, rejecting any form of absolute right and wrong.

Which brings us to the big question; is there absolute good and evil in this world? Is it black or white? Are there situations where the lines between good and evil are very clear, or are there two sides to every story and everything is relative. Some even say that there is no such thing as good and evil; it’s all subjective.

Please join Rabbi Simon Jacobson in this vital and fundamental conversation on good vs. evil and discover the implications involved and what we can actually do about it.

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8 months ago

I thought your message tonight was powerful and timely. I love your willingness to accept and deal with hard, difficult questions. So , here are some that I struggle with

1. How does your moral clarity respond to the words of vengeance coming from Israel ? Here is a Reuters report with quotes that occurred early in this tragic war.

JERUSALEM/GAZA/SDEROT, Oct 7 (Reuters) – Gunmen from the Palestinian group Hamas rampaged through Israeli towns on Saturday, killing at least 250 Israelis and escaping with dozens of hostages in by far the deadliest day of violence in Israel since the Yom Kippur war 50 years ago.

More than 230 Gazans were also killed when Israel responded with one of its most devastating days of retaliatory strikes. Fighting continued into the night.

“We will take mighty vengeance for this wicked day,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

2. How can you destroy evil ? Think about your example tonight if the married couple who rationalize doing evil in response to evil. Aren’t we believing a lie to think that any military response will eradicate the evil of Hamas? Can that really be true in the Light of Torah teaching ? Isn’t a lot of what is happening now … the collateral damage to so many innocent children in Gaza for example … based upon a belief that there is a way to destroy evil from punishment and revenge? Are we valuing innocent human life equally as we support all the collateral damage inflicted on the innocent in Gaza?

3. Isn’t evil an inevitable consequence of the free will of God’s love ? Does He return evil for evil ? Is He a vengeful God? Doesn’t Light overcome darkness ? Where is the Light in the military responses of either side? I see much Light on both sides in the courage of those who face their own destruction to save others who are innocent … that is clearly go on in both Israel and Gaza.

4. Isn’t it easy to get very out of proportion in your response when you operate disconnected from God ? Isn’t fear one of those responses that very often separate us from God? Hasn’t the collective psyche of Israel been completely traumatized with the fear that they are not protected and are much more vulnerable than they thought possible. How can wise, measured responses occur in the face of this trauma and fear?

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