Evil and Free Will
Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver
Earlier (in the latter link above) we discussed how man holds the entire Seder Hishtalshelus within himself in miniature, and that this also endows man with the quality of free will, of choosing between virtue and sin, righteousness and wickedness. No other creation has this ability.
To explain, in the highest spiritual world, Atzilus, no evil exists. Even the divine attribute of gevurah, severity, which is apparently negative, exists there in a pure and holy state. However, in the worlds of Beriyah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah, what was the gevurah in Atzilus degenerates partially into Kelipah, an unholy force that conceals over the existence of Hashem. The lower the level, the further the Kelipah declines, until it assumes the form of the evil in our physical world. Likewise, the quality of goodness as it exists in our world stems from the divine attribute of chesed, kindness.
As mentioned, man contains all the supernal attributes within him. This includes both the attributes of chesed and of gevurah. Thus, he also contains that which evolves from chesed and gevurah, namely, the qualities of good and evil. These are the Good Inclination and the Evil Inclination.
It is this dual nature that enables man to have free choice, the ability to choose to act as he wishes.
In contrast, an angel exemplifies a certain pure quality—whether chesed, gevurah, or the like—and it possesses no evil side. As Moshe Rabeinu’s rhetorically asked the angels, “Do you have an Evil Inclination among you?” Since an angel possesses no evil, it is simply unable to be attracted to and tempted by evil, and so it lacks free choice.
Although the verse speaks of the angels “knowing good and bad,” the angels relate to knowledge of evil in a purely abstract, clinical way. This knowledge cannot excite angels with any desire for evil because they do not possess evil within themselves at all. In contrast, man’s Evil Inclination causes his very knowledge of evil in the world to affect him and excite him, and it may well bring him to stray after it.
This is what enables man to have free choice. Since he has evil within him, he is free to choose to sin; thus, when he does good he is not following his natural programming, but acting out of truly free choice, with no compulsion whatsoever.
This is very precious to Hashem, and so one who chooses to do good and not sin is blessed with a sublime revelation of G–dliness. This explains further how meluchah, willing acceptance of divine sovereignty, is only possible for mankind, who possesses free choice, but not for angels.
Based on the Rebbe Rashab’s Sefer HaMaamarim 5660, p. 11.
 Shabbos 88b.
 Bereshis 3:5.
Dedicated by Rabbi Levi and Chana Kurinsky of Melbourne in the merit of the birth of their daughter, Shterna Sarah bas Levi Yitzchok Halevi, on Shabbos, 16 Sivan – Parshas Beha’alosecha. Yegadluhoh leTorah, l'chupah, ulemaasim tovim mitoch harchovoh!
Dedicated by Tzvi and Yehudis Rona and family of Sydney as a merit for the yahrtzeit of Pinchas ben Yitzchok HaLevy on 22 Sivan.
Dedicated in the merit of a speedy release for the captives Yonasan ben Malka (Jonathan Pollard), Sholom Mordechai Halevi ben Rivka (Sholom Rubashkin), and Zeva Rochel bas Chaya (Wendy Weiner Runge).
Like what you read? The articles I write take a lot of time and effort. Please contact me to sponsor an article for (at least) $36 in honor of the birthday, wedding anniversary, or yarhtzeit of a loved one, or for a refuah shleimah or the like. Also, see here concerning the tremendous merit of supporting the dissemination of Chassidus, and the blessings that one receives for doing so.