Let My People Know

"Knowledge and awareness of evil should be a required element of education from pre-school to adulthood"

To truly prevent evil from growing stronger, we cannot simply write letters to the editor of our local newspaper, expressing our shock and horror at the goings-on in our world.

The human struggle against evil requires a tremendous input of resources on our part.

Medications that cure deadly diseases do not always taste sweet; many of them even have negative side effects. But dangerous, deadly conditions must be combated using every possible strategy.

There are many reasons to ignore evil. Not all of them have the best of intentions behind them – for example, when evil is a convenience for a certain group or individual. International diplomatic considerations often motivate people to ignore, forget, and even forgive evil deeds.

In the same vein, many dictatorships are supported by the world’s most advanced democratic regimes because they are considered to be barriers against worse evils.

Thus, we find ourselves in an eternal battle between relative good and absolute evil. War may not be a nice sweet occupation for human beings, but in some cases, avoiding war means yielding to evil.

Economic and political boycott, while quite unpleasant, may prove helpful in preventing massacres and wars.

To quote the book of Genesis (4:7), “sin crouches at the door” – at practically everyone’s door.

It is a great temptation, and if we allow it to enter, it will overcome us, whether we wish for it to do so or not.

Seeing the picture in this way – not as a pessimist, but as a realist – gives us a different perspective on how to deal with national, international, and private affairs.

Educating people on how to cope with evil is one element that is sorely missing in our pedagogy system.

So many refuse to even admit to the existence of the dark side. Knowledge and awareness of the existence of evil should be a required element of both public and private education, from pre-school to adulthood.

While we all may yearn for nothing but sweetness and light in our lives, we will always find one bully trying to beat others down – or, on a broader scale, a dictator willing to kill others to attain his own goals, or a terrorist who believes that the road to heaven is paved with corpses.

Raising awareness of evil is not education for pessimism or for the notion of all-present evil.

Human beings and societies, generally, have many positive aspects as well, and they must not be ignored. It is a simple fact of life that most people have more good in them than evil.

Even on the national and international level, there are many good intentions for solving the very real needs and problems of the world.

The best way to combat evil is to promote good.

This, too, cannot be accomplished by ignoring evil.

The battle requires an enormous commitment on our part. We cannot simply sit and wait for a good angel to intervene.

There is nothing wrong with believing that guardian angels keep an eye on us, but we must remember that ultimately we are responsible for most of the work – and from time to time, we can accept a little assistance from the angels.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From an essay titled “Good vs. Evil” July 19, 2007