The most comprehensive book on the topic, Thinking about Good and Evil traces the most salient Jewish ideas about why innocent people seem to suffer, why evil individuals seem to prosper, and God’s role in such matters of (in)justice, from antiquity to the present.
Starting with the Bible and Apocrypha, Rabbi Wayne Allen takes us through the Talmud; medieval Jewish philosophers and Jewish mystical sources; the Ba’al Shem Tov and his disciples; early modern thinkers such as Spinoza, Mendelssohn, and Luzzatto; and, finally, modern thinkers such as Cohen, Buber, Kaplan, and Plaskow. Each chapter analyzes individual thinkers’ arguments and synthesizes their collective ideas on the nature of good and evil and questions of justice. Allen also exposes vastly divergent Jewish thinking about the Holocaust: traditionalist (e.g., Ehrenreich), revisionist (e.g., Rubenstein, Jonas), and deflective (e.g., Soloveitchik, Wiesel).
Rabbi Allen’s engaging, accessible volume illuminates well-known, obscure, and novel Jewish solutions to the problem of good and evil.
Rabbi Wayne Allen serves as the co-chair of the Rabbinics Department of the Anne and Max Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto. He is the author of Prescription for an Ailing World and Perspectives on Jewish Law and Contemporary Issues, among other books.
“Rabbi Wayne Allen translates a lifetime of deep reflection about the most vexing question posed for Jewish faith, and indeed all religious faith, into an exceptional encounter with the myriad thinkers who have struggled with it.”—James A. Diamond, author of Jewish Theology Unbound
“A comprehensive, learned, and clear exploration of Judaism’s many answers to the most difficult question: why does God permit evil? Both novices and scholars will find much here to stimulate their thoughts and stir their souls.”—Rabbi David Wolpe, Sinai Temple, Los Angeles
"Allen believes it's important to understand Jewish philosophical thought about good and evil in order to better realize the importance of what he calls the 'two quintessential Jewish values: justice and goodness.' He challenges readers to see where they agree or disagree with each philosopher, which may help them to devise their own personal theology. His book would work well in a classroom setting or for a discussion group about theology. Anyone interested in the subject of good and evil should enjoy this interesting and provocative work."—Rabbi Rachel Esserman, Reporter
"Illuminating analysis. . . . Allen produces a nuanced, vital exploration. . . . Allen's work as a congregational rabbi enables him to imbue this sophisticated yet accessible guide with heartfelt emotion. This remarkable guide will be of interest to any Jewish reader contemplating God's role in suffering."—Publishers Weekly
“Thinking about Good and Evil is impressive for its comprehensiveness, scholarship, accessibility, and originality—dealing with sources largely if not completely ignored, usually because they have never before been translated into English.”—Rabbi David Novak, author of Jewish Justice