Endgame For Evil

Free translation and adaptation from a discourse of
Rabbi Sholom Dov Baer Schneerson
Purim 5680 (1920)

by Rabbi David Rothschild


A Chassidic discourse is the most developed form of the inner Torah. Every word is sculpted by Divine Inspiration. Delivered to coincide with a weekly Torah reading or Jewish festival, these discourses make a spiritual connection with auspicious times.

Concepts from Kabbala and Zohar are developed to perfection. Their relevance to the Five Books of Moses and Tanach (Old Testament) as well as passages from the Talmud is expounded upon. This reveals their "inner meaning."

These discourses presuppose a familiarity with Torah. Perhaps for these reasons, only a handful has been translated into English and published as books by the Kehot Publication Society.

Over the course of two hundred years, the Lubavitcher Rebbes delivered thousands of discourses. Now for the first time they are being made public on the Internet.

In the texts that follow an attempt was made to abridge and elucidate their content. To provide background information for difficult terms and concepts, additional material from other Chassidic discourses, appears in brackets. The remaining content is a free translation.


Part 1 (of 2)

I. Absolute Immutability

Blind Infinity

[The nation of Amalek, the archetype of evil, attacked the Israelites as soon as they left Egypt. In every generation, Amalek's physical and spiritual descendents wage war against Israel, seeking to exterminate the Jewish people in order to prevent G-d's revelation in the world. Although cognizant of the Master of the Universe, Amalek rebels against Him.]

"Amalek is the first among nations, but its end will be absolute annihilation" [Num. 24:20].

This verse implies Amalek cannot be purified or rectified; its only rectification is its complete destruction. However, the Sages of the Talmud said [Gittin 56b], "Haman's descendents studied Torah publicly," and since Haman himself was a descendent of Amalek, he evidently was purified ultimately though his descendants! This dilemma can be resolved by first understanding the verse, "He puts an end to darkness" (Job 28:3).

There is a limit as to how long the chitzonim will continue to receive life-force from the leavings of holiness, from the most extrinsic level of Divinity. When that predetermined time runs out, it will be completely destroyed -- nothing will remain. The reason is that the sitra achra does not possess true reality. Although it seems extremely powerful, that is only because its life-force is derived from the or makif.

[Like all Divine manifestations, or makif has both an internal and external dimension. The internal level expresses what G-d truly desires. The external level, however, doesn't distinguish between light and darkness. Because it's transcendental, it is above differentiation, including differentiation between good and evil. Its very infinitude provides strength to the forces of evil.]

But in essence evil lacks intrinsic immutability or any form of reality whatsoever.

Wretched Crowns

On the side of holiness, there are specifically ten attributes (sefirot). In contrast, on the realm of the sitra achra, there are eleven spiritual "Crowns of Defilement." Why does evil have eleven crowns, as opposed to Divinity's ten attributes? As will be explained, G-d's light and life-force doesn't unite with the sitra achra - it remains aloof. Since the life-force is considered distinct, it is counted as the eleventh attribute.

In contrast, in the realm of holiness, light unites with vessels, and thus isn't considered an entity unto itself. And because the light unites with vessels, the vessels themselves acquire the property of light -- true existence.

Light, though, in itself, also isn't a true existence. True existence can be ascribed only to something whose being originates from itself. Since its existence depends on nothing else, such an existence, automatically, is considered a true existence.

But light is not self-generating. It is illuminated from a light-source. For this reason Kabala calls light Ein Sof, "light that has no end" rather than "light that has no beginning." Light isn't a true independent existence because it owes its actuality to the luminary which can choose to illuminate or not to illuminate.

Maimonides elucidated this principle in his Foundations of the Torah. "This is what the prophet Jeremiah declared, 'But the L-rd is the true G-d' (Jeremiah 10:10). G-d alone is truth. No other truth is like His truth."

Truth can only be attributed to something that is an enduring existence -- whose existence cannot be negated. Such a truth applies exclusively to the Essence of G-d.

But the existence of something emanated or created by the Essence of G-d is only a result of His Will. G-d must first want the entity's creation. Likewise Divine light -- its existence is only due to the Luminary.

Light Garment

Nevertheless, since light cleaves continuously to its source, it resembles its light-source. Therefore, when the luminary decides to radiate light, the newly emergent light, like the luminary itself, becomes a true existence.

Afterwards the light shines downward into vessels. There it becomes enclothed within the inward facet of the vessels where together they become united. As result, the vessels themselves become a true existence.

[Kabbala employs the verb "enclothing" to describe the union of light with the vessels. Both light and vessels possess three levels: internal, intermediate, external. Here the inner element of light enters the inner element of the vessels of the World of Emanation (Atzilut). Enclothing always refers to the activity of the limited immanent light. G-d assigns the appropriate measure of light for every vessel. The immanent light animates both vessels and created entities in the realm of Divinity.]

In liturgy, it says, "He endures, and his Name endures throughout all generations; His throne is firmly established." "He" refers to the Essence of G-d - the ultimate light-source. "His Name" alludes to the Infinite Light. "His chair" applies to the vessels. All three are true existences. "His chair" also refers to Jewish souls for they too are a true existence. They cannot be changed nor nullified.

This is not the case regarding the sitra achra. Its life-force is derived from G-d's encompassing light. Within it, however, no life-force whatsoever is enclothed. That is why it is said concerning the sitra achra that there are "Eleven Crowns of Defilement." [A crown encompasses the head from above; it is not part of the body.]

Their life-force is separate. Thus the sitra achra doesn't have a true existence at all. It's just that the or makif nurtures and sustains it. It is powerful because of the or makif light. But on its own, the sitra achra lacks true existence altogether.


[on to Part 2]


[Rabbi David Rothschild, a resident of Tsfat, is the founder and editor of Nefesh Magazine.]


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