No Evil; No Omelets!
Have you ever dreamed of a world without evil? That world existed around two thousand years ago. The ancient rabbis trapped the evil impulse in an iron cage. What a celebration! No more murders, rapes, deception, or envy. But the following day, farmers throughout the Land of Israel discovered that no chicken had laid an egg. Suddenly, the world faced a gastronomical existential dilemma: no evil impulse, no omelets! Panicking, the rabbis blinded the evil impulse and released it back to the world. They realized that without the evil impulse, the creative lifeforce vanished. People, they feared, would stop marrying, building businesses, or procreating. Anticipating Freud’s libido by two millennia, the rabbis understood that the “evil impulse” is a core force rooted in our desires.
Sorry, No Evil Garbage Disposal
The bad news is that we are stuck with our evil impulses. There is no internal evil impulse garbage disposal. Unattended or repressed, those dark impulses will re-emerge powerfully in our soul and psyche. The good news is that if we use them as fertile compost, the evil impulse will morph into a formidable source of life energy. But how do we turn evil impulses to our advantage?
Evil’s “Elevation” Pitch
The great Hassidic Mystical Master Rabbi Shneor Zalman (1744-1813) once taught:
Rabbi Zalman is applying a technique I call “evil elevation.” Instead of suppressing the evil impulse, you must elevate it. While he elevated the evil impulse to the Divine, you may redirect it toward the welfare of your family, career, or hobby. Think of the evil impulse as fire. You can use it for cooking the most delicious and nutritious meal or consuming a thriving rainforest.
The Rabbi and the Mix Martial Arts
Every Monday, I go to sleep with bruises all over my body. I practice MMA (Mix Martial Arts). My ideal way of winning a match is a straight solid left uppercut. I’m not too fond of wrestling. Still, I have learned to appreciate and enjoy a skillful takedown. The key to knocking down an opponent is not brute force. Instead, you must reposition your body to harness the opponent’s power.
If we were to confront the evil impulse heads on, we would bruise our soul and psyche.
You may feel tempted to run away from the challenge or deny it. But the price of escaping or denial would be depriving yourself of your flourishing life the forces.
Two Cases of Evil on the Elevator
One of my roommates at a psychiatric word had OCD. His night table displayed an immaculate collection of jelly containers in perfect roads by colors. My night table, just feet away, seemed to have been stricken by a tornado. Every morning, something beautiful occurred. He would wake up ahead of all of us and, with punctilious calligraphy, write on the dining room whiteboard the schedule of the day. He elevated his impulses into the precious gift of giving us a taste of predictability in an unbearable uncertain existence.
I once met the desperate mother of a compulsive gambler. He scoundrel the family savings on online casinos. I encountered her a year later, and surprisingly she hugged me, filled with joy. “Rabbi, my son is not gambling anymore.” “He discovered e-bay!” “He uses his computer skills and love of bartering and actioning and has built a thriving business!” He had elevated his impulses.
Your Evil Journal
Keep an impulse journal. Writing your impulses down will help you bring them into consciousness. “I hate driving” “The other drivers are imbeciles!” Once you recognize this impulse, you can elevate it into being cautious and gentle with yourself and others during the day. The more you exercise impulse spotting, greater the chances that you will achieve elevation. Don’t be afraid of those heights!
A Cautionary Note
Some pathological impulses must be treated by a professional. If your impulses entail harming others or yourself, you must immediately seek help. That in itself is a high form of elevation.