Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “According to the way they are used.”

“As a general rule, there are no attributes of the soul that are good or bad.

One cannot determine that a given quality is always and with every person the same.

In certain societies and cultures, love, pity, compassion may be considered good.

And yet there may also be occasions, outside these cultures and even within them, when these qualities could be considered bad, leading one astray into sadness or sin.

Similarly, pride, selfishness, and even hate are not always bad attributes.

As the sages have said, there is no attribute that lacks its injurious aspect, its negation and failure, just as there is no attribute–even if connected with doubt and heresy–that has not, under some circumstances, its holy aspect.

From this point of view, the good and bad qualities are not set opposite one another, with love always on the side of the good and the other qualities always on the side of the bad.

Rather all the attributes, all the emotions, and all the potentialities of the heart and personality are set on the same level and considered good or bad, not according to some judgment of their intrinsic worth, but according to the way they are used.”

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From “The Way of Choice,” in The Thirteen Petalled Rose by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz