“If G-d doesn't want it to happen, why does he allow it?” A most logical question, which is often raised as a challenge to absolute faith in G-d. Sometimes we question why G-d allows evil people to do evil things. Sometimes we ask why He created things that are harmful or can be abused, like drugs or unhealthy foods.
Most of these questions can be answered by quoting one verse in the Torah, in the beginning of this week's Torah portion: “Behold I have placed before you today the blessing and the curse.” In simple terms, free will.
G-d could have created a world with no thinking beings at all. But that was not His goal. He wanted to enter into a partnership with His creation: He wanted to give us the opportunity to think for ourselves, to discover Him on our own rather than be compelled. And to allow for this, G-d has to sometimes step back, at least from our perspective, and allow us to experience the consequences of our own behavior. And unfortunately, that also means that sometimes people are free to unleash horrible evil on others. G-d could stop it if He desired to do so. But He prefers that we stop it: that we create a society with safeguards so that such evil never happens, where injustice is not tolerated.
The same is true of our attraction to things we know are unhealthy for us. For whatever reason, we are attracted to a great deal of physically and spiritually unhealthy things. We are pleasure-seeking beings, and often this drive clouds our rationality and our awareness of consequences. To weigh the cost versus benefit of some enjoyable activity involves stopping our quest for a moment to reflect; and this is something the body finds exceedingly difficult to do.
The “evil” inherent in creation doesn't always take an obvious form; in some cases G-d forbids certain foods or behaviors for no discernible reason. However, the fact that G-d forbids something is an indication that it has a negative effect on the soul, and, in some sense, on all of creation.
If we would all be like angels, who are not drawn to evil at all and have no evil inclination, we could remain in heaven and never have to deal with the challenges of the physical world. But G-d sent us here for a reason. He wants us to face challenges and overcome them, and for this reason he gave us freedom of choice. It is difficult indeed, but G-d also gives us the strength to meet this challenge. As this week's portion tells us, "Choose life!" With this statement G-d not only commands but supports and invigorates us in our mission, to live the good life according to Torah.
The deep entrenchment of habit is one of the challenges we face as we transition from exile to Redemption. Our prayer, Torah study and ways of relating to one another will all dramatically change with the dawn of Redemption. We will no longer be challenged by our evil inclination – it will become easy and natural to serve G-d fully and whole-heartedly, and evil will be eradicated forever – no one will have a thought of hurting or taking advantage of someone else. What remains for us to do is to break the long-established habits and patterns of exile, and embrace the Geulah lifestyle.