900.20d Knowledge and Evil (pps.144-146)

hard cover page 145

Thus, if ascent in knowledge carries within it an implicit demand for greater freedom, intervention and its prerequisite here-and-now omniscience must be limited to whatever extent is consistent with other Divine imperatives and broader-scale Divine Providence. At the same time that increases in knowledge open the gates of freedom and potential, increases in knowledge also inexorably lead to more manifest evil, 561 as the Divine contraction of consciousness proceeds. 562 Furthermore, the pain is not distributed equally. Man pays a severe price for knowledge, freedom, and potential. 563

The narrative of the expulsion from Eden is followed by the chapter of Gain’s fratricide. Man, now the proud possessor of higher levels of knowledge, wastes no time in exercising the exclusive talent of fratricide.

For in much wisdom is much vexations;
And he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.
-Ecclesiastes 1:18564

Thus, although the simple correlation is between knowledge and freedom, it would be a mistake to stop at that point. For the attainment of knowledge, which is a spur to greater freedom, in turn actualizes greater potential on all fronts-good and bad. 565

As the freedom component of the Tree of Knowledge paradigm comes to the fore, Israel , in particular, must be strong on all fronts, moral and physical. As the primal crucible of God’s will, it becomes subject to, and magnet for. greater negative forces. Israel therefore pays a high price for its particular status and for its freedom.

The fact, however, that the real-time consciousness of the Divinity is contracted to a great extent does not preclude entirely the possibility of the reversal of the process. The Divine intervened in all His majesty to remove Israel from the slavery of Egypt. Should mankind become enslaved beyond an un-known threshold, or should the evil or its consequences penetrate the veil of cosmic consciousness, a decontraction is not entirely precluded regardless of the damage to human freedom. 566 For freedom is of limited value if there are no living players left to practice. 567

——————- NOTES ——————-

561 Edward Peters, Henry C. Lea Professor of Medieval History at the University of Pennsylvania, in his book Torture (New York: Basil Blackwell, 1985) notes, according to New York Times book reviewer Sally Moore (Sept. 15, 1985), that “technological developments and a dulling sense of civic sensibili- ties have made it [torture] more horrible today-more freely practiced and more efficiently rationalized than ever before.”

562 See Agus on the “Qabbalists” in The Evolution ofJewish Thought, p. 286. “In the endless chain of being, things get ‘coarser’ and more evil in proportion to their ‘remoteness’ from the source and in direct relation to the number of ‘garments’ in which the holy spark is hidden.”

563 See Luban, “The Kaddish,” p. 207.

564 See Carnus, The Rebel. “The real passion of the 20th century is servitude.” As cited in Berkovits, With God in Hell, p. 135.

565 See Suzuki. “The Nature of Zen,” in Frazier, Issues in Religion, p. 163. “Growth is always attended with pain. . . .The growth of the organism called society is also marked with painful cataclysms, and we are at present witnessing one of its birth-throes.”

566 See Gordis, A Faith for Moderns, p. 261. “That there is a Providence governing the collective affairs of mankind at work in the history of the race (hashgahah kehlit), is not so difficult to believe. It was the Prophets of Israel who first proclaimed the teaching of God in history and formulated the law of righteousness, working its way out in the world and determining the lot of nations and civilizations.”

567 See Nachmanides on Exodus 2:25, as translated in Ramban, Commentary on the Torah, vol. 2, p. 4. “At first He hid His face from them and they were devoured, but now G-d heard their groaning and He saw them, meaning that He no longer hid His face from them: He knew their pains and all that was done to them, as well as all that they required.”


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