Evil Exists: Lech L'cha--Leave It

 Although, on a Kabbalistic level we say that Evil is "merely" an obscuring of God, on a practical, existential level, Evil does exist and, indeed, our mandate, spiritual and practical, our ultimate morality, is to overcome and destroy it in its many guises: the סתרא אחרא, Sitra Achra, "Other Side", the קליפות טמאות, Klippot Tumaot, "Corrupt Husks", the יצר הרע, Yetzer HaRa, "Inner Drive Towards Evil" and all the other phrases we use to label and classify it. The eternal foe is Evil; Tikkun Olam, "repairing the world" is predicated on destroying evil as we try to create good. סוּר מֵרָע וַעֲשֵׂה־טוֹב וּשְׁכֹן לְעוֹלָם  (Sur mei'ra v'oseh tov u'sh'chon l'olam), "Reject Evil and do good and (you will) abide eternally" (Psalms 34:7, תהילים לד:ז)--both must be done to bring our world to its highest destiny.

Even though the compilers of our siddur composed the first bracha before the Shema,  בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ....., יוֹצֵר אוֹר, וּבוֹרֵא חֹשֶךְ, עֹשֶׂה שָׁלוֹם וּבוֹרֵא אֶת הַכֹּל, "Blessed are You.....Who forms light and creates darkness, makes wholeness/peace and creates all", the original phrase that appears in Isaiah 45:7/ישעיה מה:ז is יוֹצֵר אוֹר וּבוֹרֵא חֹשֶׁךְ עֹשֶׂה שָׁלוֹם וּבוֹרֵא רָע, "Who forms light and creates darkness, makes wholeness/peace and creates evil". While we might not want our nose rubbed in it on a daily basis as we begin each morning, our sages intended that our awareness of the real verse in the Torah be enough that we never lose sight that Evil, yes created by God, is an integral component of our material world, which must be destroyed in order to reach our ideal, spiritual world.

Additionally, we understand the power of words. They give life to ideas, good and bad. This is the mechanism by which great lies are perpetuated until they become accepted as true, as Joseph Goebbels taught Adolf Hitler, and how their disciples operate today. But since our goal is to defeat and destroy Evil, we're careful to not invoke it's name any more than necessary, resulting in diluting its power by referring to it as merely a part of all totality in our morning prayer.

One who suffers from cancer, even if he lifts weights, works out, eats nutritionally, has warm and mutually supportive relationships in his life, will still die unless the cancer within is completely removed. All our efforts to usher in a world of peace and love are doomed to failure until we actively root out evil.

On a metaphorical/mystical level, much of our Torah and most of our post-biblical history is seen as the often-painful process of refining out all impurities from our individual souls and, in the macrocosm, in our world. Suffering, of which we have all too much experience, is only part of the picture, only half of the means we have in  our control. There are times we also need to go to war. Kohelet (3:8), in the original, understood the totality of עֵת מִלְחָמָה וְעֵת שָׁלוֹם, "...a time for war and a time for peace." Pete Seeger notwithstanding, we have yet to arrive at the point where peace is merely the temporary absence of war; that on its own, rather, is merely the preface to mass tragedy and suffering.

Avraham begins his, and our, journey when he not merely concludes that idolatry is evil, but rather that the idols themselves, evil personified, must be destroyed and removed from the universe before we can even begin to approach holiness.