I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse: therefore choose life that you may live, you and your seed. [Deut. 30:19]
Goodness that isn’t chosen is not complete goodness. If we didn’t choose goodness—if we were just naturally good, or if goodness was the only option available—how could that be the highest expression of goodness? I know a fellow that has dozens of guests over at his home every weekend. When I complimented him on his hospitality, he said, “What are you talking about? It comes naturally to me. It’s not a struggle for me. I love to do this!” Is he really choosing goodness? If it comes naturally, is it complete goodness?
Goodness that wasn’t chosen is not the greatest good. Only after you struggle with evil and chose goodness will you accomplish true and complete goodness. That’s why we’re in a world so full of allurements to do evil—so that we can rise to the challenge and choose good.
For there to be choice, evil has to be pretty attractive. There is no choice if we’re not interested in one of the alternatives. Therefore, in order for there to be the optimal opportunity to choose goodness, evil has to be extremely attractive.
People think the Devil is an independent character who has a red ugly face, horns on his head, and a pitchfork in his hand. Kabbalah teaches that the forces of evil were created by God and the strongest ones are a counterfeit of good. They look just like goodness. That’s why they present such a great challenge. Evil and good are not always like black and white. Highgrade, superclassy evil looks just like good, but it’s counterfeit nevertheless.
The choices for goodness in real life are often much more subtle than most people recognize. There is a subtle but real difference between “looking good” and “being good.” Torah and Kabbalah teach that God created the world in order to facilitate the possibility for ultimate goodness, which means goodness that has been chosen.
Our service to God is to choose goodness. Life is all about choices. There are always choices to be made. Every day we are all handed choices. Every day we all get different challenges. No one can expect life to be a piece of cake in a world of choices. But don’t worry. Try your best, and if you make a mistake, you can do teshuvah. You can be forgiven. Remember, God knew the stakes were high, and God is on our side.
If God is absolutely good, why did He create a world that has so much evil? Ultimate goodness, which is the goodness achieved through choice, requires the possibility for evil. Once you understand this, you will appreciate how central a role evil plays in this world. What’s so good about this world is the evil in it. This world offers the opportunity to beat evil and choose good. In other words, Kabbalah is teaching that the main feature and advantage of this world is the evil in it.
This world was not created for what is already good in it. This world was created to be a forum for a new and higher kind of goodness—the goodness born out of overcoming evil and choosing to do good. Imagine you walk into a factory and you see them trucking in tons and tons of garbage. You then find out that they actually buy this garbage and that it is their most valued raw material. This all sounds crazy to you until you find out that this factory is actually a recycling plant. They take garbage and turn it into usable products. Welcome to World, Inc.! Yes, this world is really a recycling plant. This is why it is filled with so much garbage. All the trash around us and within us is here for us to recycle into usable products—lessons and realizations, growth and accomplishments.