The Cup is Half Full: Focusing on “The Good” by Rabbi Darren Blackstein


Having emerged from the Yamim Nora’im and Yamim Tovim, we face a great challenge. The New Year is before us. Will we implement the changes necessary to improve our lot? Given the precarious nature of the future of Eretz Yisrael, the status of Israel’s relationship with its neighbors, and the tragic and sometimes bizarre events that happen during a year, how are we to gear up for yet another challenging year? I believe it is no coincidence that we read Kohelet right before we embark on a new cycle of reading the Chumash, beginning with Parashat BeReishit, to inspire us and provide a way to overcome the challenges.

Throughout the unfolding of the days of creation, the Torah uses the expression “Ki Tov,” telling us that the item or items being discussed are “good.” No matter what the deeper meaning may hold, let’s not escape the fact that all of the items of creation are “good.” In that sense, we are constantly surrounded by the “good” the Hashem has created.

In BeReishit 2:17, Hashem warns Adam that eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil will cause his eventual demise. Immediately thereafter, Hashem says that it is, “Lo Tov,” “not good” for man to be alone, and therefore it is necessary to create an “Eizer KeNegdo,” a helpmate. This directly implies that having the helpmate around places Adam in a state that is "good;” Hashem did not conceive of Adam's solitude as proper. By juxtaposing the commandment about the Tree of Knowledge and the Helpmate, the Torah suggests that not being alone will help Adam refrain from partaking in the Tree. We see a similar concept in BeReishit 4:7, when Hashem addresses Kayin after ignoring his offering. Hashem tells him that, “Im Tativ,” if you do that which is “good,” if you improve, all will be forgiven. Since Hashem knows that Kayin’s feeling of rejection is motivated by comparing himself to his brother, perhaps Hashem is telling Kayin that the way to improve is by working with the one that is with you! We can experience and feel the “good” if we would only let that which is inherently “good” into ourselves and into our lives. It seems that “good” is reached by experiencing the wholeness of creation, and this, in turn, is facilitated by the experience of the “goodness” of Adam LaChaveiro – interpersonal relationships.

Shlomo HaMelech makes extensive use of the word "Tov," “good” in Megilat Kohelet. In Perek 4 (Pasuk 9), we are told the famous adage of, "Tovim HaShnayim Min HaEchad," “Two are better than one.” The straightforward meaning is that the atmosphere of two people together is better than being alone. This is not unlike the verse in BeReishit discussed above, where Hashem says it is not good for man to be alone. Perhaps the letter Hey on the word “Echad” indicates something more than the simple meaning. Instead of meaning one person, the Hey transforms it into “the One,” Hashem. Shlomo might be telling us that it is “good” that the One, who is “Echad,” made mankind as two beings. Having each other is the only way humanity can survive and thrive. This condition promotes the “good.”

Shlomo HaMelech also tells us, "Tov Acharit Davar MeiReishito," "Better is the end of a matter than its beginning" (Kohelet 7:8). Simply speaking, this tells us that there is great value in the patience it takes to reach one’s goals. The end of a matter can only be reached with this patience. A Davar Acheir in Rashi tells us that we must focus on the word, “MeiReishito,” “from its beginning.” The conclusion of a matter is nurtured from its beginning. The way that people develop, the way that things in general develop, is intimately connected to their beginnings, their roots. If we look at the word “Reishito” as a reference to the story of BeReishit, perhaps Shlomo HaMelech is also telling us that our lives can be significantly enriched if we focus on our “beginning.” All that which is created by Hashem is for our “good”. Our goals should be designed with the involvement of using all of the “good” that Hashem has given us; the “good” of creation and the “good” of each other! I cannot help but be reminded of a movie from the 1970’s called “Oh God.” At one point, the movie’s main character encounters God and states that humanity needs help, at which point, God says, “that’s why I gave you each other.”

May we all merit, this year, to recognize and experience the “good” that Hashem has placed all around us, and use it to enhance our connection to Hashem and to each other.

Keeping Brothers by Nachum Fisch

Teshuvah, Tefilah, and Tzedakah by Gavi Sragow