Jeffrey Levine
CFO | Seeking a just world I Author

The Power of the Bad

I am drawn into deep contemplation as I sit here in Jerusalem, a place steeped in history and spirituality. The lazy sunrise, casting its golden glow over the ancient city, is a backdrop to my thoughts. At this moment, I am struck by the profound complexity of our world. Amidst the beauty, there is a palpable sense of confusion and hate. This week, I invite you to join me in reflecting on the power of the bad and how its influence distorts the truth. Acknowledging the presence of evil and its pervasive impact is a daunting responsibility that we must all face.

This week’s parsha, a timeless reminder of God’s stark choice, resonates with a sense of urgency. It compels us to choose goodness, be blessed, or choose bad and be cursed. While this choice may seem straightforward, it is far from simple. The ancients understood, and I firmly believe, that the consequences of our choices bind us. Sadly, these choices are often influenced by hatred, ignorance, and a lack of responsibility and understanding. In this context, we must act, for the power of bad is not a distant concept but a force that shapes our daily lives.

As we move forward, we must ask ourselves: How can we choose life? How can we seek peace instead of terror? This week, let’s embark on a journey of self-discovery, exploring how we can foster understanding, empathy, and responsibility in our lives and communities. Let’s envision a world where the power of bad is overshadowed by the strength of goodness, where peace prevails over terror. Together, we can build this world, one choice at a time.

Rabbi Sacks penned these words in his book I BELIEVE – A Weekly Reading of the Jewish Bible (page 188). This book and its words continue to be a beacon of inspiration:

“In their book The Power of Bad, John Tierney and Roy F. Baumeister argue, based on substantial scientific evidence, that bad has a greater impact on us than good. We pay more attention to bad news than good news. Bad health affects us more than good health. Criticism impacts us more than praise. A bad reputation is easier to acquire and harder to lose than a good one.

Humans are designed—’hardwired’—to notice and rapidly react to threats. Failing to notice a lion is more dangerous than failing to notice ripened fruit on a tree. Recognising the kindness of a friend is good and virtuous but not as significant as ignoring the animosity of an enemy. One traitor can betray an entire nation.

It follows that the stick is a more powerful motivator than the carrot. Fear of the curse is more likely to affect behaviour than the desire for the blessing, and the threat of punishment is more effective than the promise of reward.”

Interestingly, the book’s full title is The Power of Bad: How the Negativity Effect Rules Us and How We Can Rule It. Today, the world is engulfed in a world of negativity, and it rules us. The negative view of the Jews and Israel leads to obsession and hate. It clouds and ignores the responsibility of Hamas and the Palestinians to seek to live in peace with Israel. It results in irrational hatred of the Jewish state and ignores facts. Terror, murder, and rape are justified and glorified all because of the “Occupation.”

This negativity ignores the rockets and the single purpose of Hamas’s strategy of tunnels and placing innocent civilians in harm’s way. Yes, it is tragic. But to blame only Israel without putting responsibility on the Palestinians (and Egypt) leads to continued conflict and hatred of Israel. This is Hamas’s strategy, and you, my dear world, are being played. Facts don’t matter. It is all about the headlines—the power of the bad. You are being played. You have been sucked into lies and distortions.

I am sharing this post from LinkedIn (image sourced from post as well):

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi receives much ‘love’ from the Palestinians on social media.

“The mainstream media wants you to forget that Egypt also borders Gaza. Besides smuggling tunnels for weapons, the Egyptians don’t help Gazans, while Israel provides them with water, electricity, and food.”

Indeed, “Nearly 700 tunnel shafts have been identified in Rafah with 50 tunnels leading directly from Gaza’s southernmost city into Egypt,” Israeli attorney Gilad Noam told the International Court of Justice on Friday. In this interview with Gilad – link, he highlights why there is no pressure and accountability in the role of Egypt. What is not said of the role of Egypt in supplying weapons and profiting from these tunnels? It is no wonder that Gazans love Sisi.

Nowhere is this distortion more evident than on Wikipedia: “The Gaza Strip smuggling tunnels are smuggling tunnels that had been dug under the Philadelphi Route along the Egypt–Gaza border. They were dug to subvert the blockade of the Gaza Strip to smuggle in fuel, food, weapons, and other goods into the Gaza Strip.” This article praises Egypt’s efforts in destroying some 1,200 tunnels. link

The Consequences of Choice


In this week’s Parsha, Bechukotai, we are challenged with the consequences of choice and actions.

Continuing with the obsession over Gaza and Israel’s role, it would be prudent to ask:

  • Why was there a so-called blockade in the first place?
  • Is there really a blockade?
  • What are these tunnels for?
  • Why didn’t the Palestinians under Hamas seek peaceful co-existence with Israel?
  • Why didn’t they seek to build a thriving economy and tourism hotspot?

Instead, they chose rockets, terror, and October 7th.

One activist said, “Had Israel chosen another response to the war crimes committed by Hamas, there could have been a different outcome.” While this requires deeper analysis, which is beyond the scope of this blog, we carry the consequences of choices. Our actions have consequences on an individual and a national level.

  • Leaders can choose war – Consequences
  • We can choose to ignore Climate Change – Consequences
  • We can choose to be good – Consequences
  • We can choose to be evil – Consequences

Leviticus 26:3:

אִם־בְּחֻקֹּתַ֖י תֵּלֵ֑כוּ וְאֶת־מִצְוֺתַ֣י תִּשְׁמְר֔וּ וַעֲשִׂיתֶ֖ם אֹתָֽם׃

If you follow My laws and faithfully observe My commandments,


וְנָתַתִּ֤י שָׁלוֹם֙ בָּאָ֔רֶץ וּשְׁכַבְתֶּ֖ם וְאֵ֣ין מַחֲרִ֑יד וְהִשְׁבַּתִּ֞י חַיָּ֤ה רָעָה֙ מִן־הָאָ֔רֶץ וְחֶ֖רֶב לֹא־תַעֲבֹ֥ר בְּאַרְצְכֶֽם׃

I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down untroubled by anyone; I will give the land respite from vicious beasts, and no sword shall cross your land.

We have a guidebook—the Torah. We are given the choice of listening and learning from the rules and our mistakes. We make choices daily—some are small, some are big. Life choices—our choices of where we live, where we buy a house, where we invest, whom we marry, and the lifestyle chosen all have consequences.

Again, I turn to Rabbi Sacks:

“The book of Leviticus draws to a close by outlining the blessings that will follow if the people are faithful to their covenant with God. Then, it describes the curses that will befall them if they are not. The general principle is clear. In biblical times, the fate of the nation mirrored the conduct of the nation. If people behaved well, the nation would prosper. If they behaved badly, eventually, bad things would happen. That is what the prophets knew. As Martin Luther King paraphrased it, ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.’¹ Not always immediately, but ultimately, good is rewarded with good, bad with bad.

Rabbi Sacks titles his essay on this Parsha as ‘The Politics of Responsibility’:

“The twenty-sixth chapter of the book of Vayikra sets out, with stunning clarity, the terms of Jewish life under the covenant. On the one hand, there is an idyllic picture of the blessing of Divine favour: If Israel follows God’s decrees and keeps His commands, there will be rain, the earth will yield its fruit, there will be peace, the people will flourish, they will have children, and the Divine presence will be in their midst. God will make them free.”

But if you do not listen to Me and do not carry out all these commands… I will appoint over you sudden terror, wasting diseases, and fever, which will make your eyes fail and your spirit languish…”


In other words, we bear responsibility for our choices. And there are consequences—“punishments.” There are two sides to the coin: God’s punishment or man-made self-destruction. God has given man free will; we are our worst enemy. It is easy to blame God for bringing death and destruction. We can choose to be blessed or cursed. Or can we?

Man, by nature, is evil. Ancient territorial wars as a way of getting power and money. Colonialism, exploitation of natural resources. Hitler and Stalin are some examples. We, man, are pawns—like ants on the pathway. Vulnerable. We do not only look at the Holocaust for stories of how life can change in an instant. Terror or accidents cause death and pain in an instant, leaving lives broken. How appropriate are these thoughts coming down when remembering the victims of the Merom disaster, the fire that destroyed most of Moshav Mevo Modiin on Lag Ba’Omer, and now, on October 7th?

The survivors are left to pick up the pieces, carrying the scars. Lives that are different forever. Easy to say—if only—better safety, better crowd control, better fire and police services. But—it happened. Can you blame God or man? Was it random? Or was it a “punishment” from God? These are hard choices. We do not have the answers.

Last year, I attended a ceremony for a Sefer Torah for one of the victims of the Lag Ba’Omer tragedy. It was personal and even more personal for my friends who lost their son-in-law. There was music. The DJ said, “ezer simcha—what joy” of bringing a Sefer Torah. I was torn about how we could have simcha—joy—on the yahrzeit of this pure soul leaving a young wife and three children.

Merom was a tragedy. October 7th was the embodiment of evil and barbarism. If we have learned anything from the Holocaust survivors, it is that they built new lives—some with suffering, others with joy. We are cursed (or blessed) by where we are born, which religion we are born into, and where we live. We have no choice in this.

But we can choose life. We can seek peace instead of terror. We can seek truth instead of lies. We can strive for joy instead of depression. Maybe we have no choice.

The world and Israel are living in complicated times. We are bombarded with antisemitism, blood libels, and being labelled occupiers in our land.

Leviticus 26:6: ונתתי שלום בארץ ושכבתם ואין מחריד והשבתי חיה רעה מן־הארץ וחרב לא־תעבר בארצכם׃  And I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid, and I will remove evil beasts from the land, nor shall the sword go through your land.

The Jews are more than a religion. We are a people—a nation—a nation that lost its land and has now returned with Hashem’s help. How we relate to this return and Israel has consequences. We can choose to stay in the Diaspora or make Aliyah, positively contribute to Israel, and share in our destiny. We can choose to despair of our troubles or stand up and call for truth and the strength of our connection to this land.

The message is simple: We need to choose to call a spade a spade. There is no moral or historical ambiguity, whether this is in Israel, war, helping meet the UNSDGs, or fighting evil leaders. Together, we can choose to be blessed. Choose life.


About the Author
Jeffrey is a CFO | Seeking a just world I Author -living in Jerusalem. He is a young grandfather who has five kids and seven grandchildren. Jeffrey is promoting a vision for a better and fairer world through and is the author of Upgrading ESG - How Business can thrive in the age of Sustainability
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