This is the time of year when many mail boxes begin to be inundated by good wishes from friends and relatives. As of late, it is more likely that the inbox of our email will be bombarded with creative designs to wish us a Shanah Tovah.
Personally, I have a slight aversion to the mass mailings, though I understand that limits of time makes sending a personal greeting difficult, if not impossible for some people to do so. Therefore, even though I feel that more effort should have been invested in sending a personalized message , since they are good wishes, why not be grateful. And I answer with a personal note.
Why dont we wish a great year, or a huge year, an adjective that has become politically correct. Why don’t we wish for a successful year, or just a ‘very good’ year. It takes the same effort when writing an email. Shall we start then a contest about who can invent the most cosmic good wish.
Yet, I remember from my Caracas days, a survivor who was want to say: “Ich vill nit besser, ich vill gutt”, “I don’t want better, I want good”. I remember it, because it made an impression on me: “be satisfied with the goodness you have received” because if you want better, all the time, you will never be happy and content.
After all, this is the language of the Torah in Bereshit: “vayar Elokim ki tov”, “and God saw it was good”. Could not God have made a better world? Why only good? Then again, is God comparable to a human artist, who takes several steps back after finishing a work of art, and says to himself: “it is pretty good”. Did Got not know before hand how His work will turn out?
I particularly like a Hassidic interpretation that explains that by a stretch of the imagination, “vayar” can also mean: “He showed, He made visible”. Some astronomers and pysicists posit the possibility of other ‘universes’ that exist in different dimensions we cannot perceive. We know that our vision is limited in the spectrum, some animals have audition that surpasses human abilities. Why not a universe that we humans cannot perceive with our senses?
The above means that God decided to make the universe visible to us. Why? “Ki tov”. Not because the universe, His creation is good. “Ki Tov” means because He, God is good, and He made the universe visible as a manifestation of His goodness. That means that “tov”, “good” means sharing. God made the universe visible because He wanted to share it with us.
Maybe that is the reason that God made a vertical section of the first man Adam (and the Torah calls both man and woman ‘Adam’) so that a human should have the possibility of “sharing” with another human being.
When the Torah affirms: “lo tov heyot haadam levado, eeseh lo ezer kenegdo”, the meaning may be: “if a human being does not have a partner, he will not have “tov”, because “good” means an opportunity for “sharing”. That is the basis of marriage and of human relations, in general.
Now, if you will argue that at the end of the sixth day of Creation God exclaims: “Vayar Elokim et kol asher asa vehine ‘tov meod’”, it is “very good”. Bear in mind the comment of our Rabbis who say “tov meod” comes to include the appearance of the yetser harah, the evil inclination. A very present feature in all men. Maybe, after all, “good” is still good enough.
There are too many mitzvoth in the Torah to ennumerate that recquire sharing. I am reminded of the question the future Kotsker Rebbe, when yet a young boy, asked his teacher: When our ancestors were in the dessert everyone had all their material needs satisfied in food and clothing. In such a scenario, how did they practise tsedakah, no one was in need!
Don’t we teach our toddlers to share, to consider other people. I remember when our two older boys were 2 and 3 years, respectively, my mother in law of blessed memory, offered to take care of the children for a week to enable for us a Miami vacation. When we told our older boy that we were going for a few days to Miami, his reply was: “It is ‘my ami’”, and insisted on it. He did not realize that Miami was the name of a city. He separated the word into 2 parts: ‘my and ami’. Our Rabbis say that when we are born we usually have our fists clenched because we want to keep everything. But we leave this world with open hands, to show we cannot take anything physical with us, only “maasim tovim”, “good deeds” accompany us in the hereafter.
So that our Rosh Hashanah wish of “Shanah tovah” has a dual meaning: ‘a good year’, but also a “year of sharing”, of relating positively to other human beings, of caring for your neighbours. How “good” is the mitsvah: “veahavtah lereacha kamochah”, a mitsvah that Rabbi Akiva thought was the “Klal Gadol baTorah”, the great principle of the Torah because in order to fulfill the mitsvah you need a recipient of your love. It is about relationship between 2 human beings.
Share with others the Torah you have learned, share your wealth with the needy, share your love with your dear ones. Then you will you have a “good year”, a year of sharing, and merit to be inscribed in the Book of Life, so that you can continue to share in 5777 as well.