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Weekday Taste of Torah for October 13, 2017

A Weekday Taste of Torah

The Portion of B’reishit, Genesis 1:1 – 6:8

October 14, 2017      24 Tishrei 5778

 

Striving for, and Recognizing the Good

 

“God saw that it was good…”

Six times within the story of creation – as found within the first chapter of Genesis – we hear God declare the acts of creation “good”. And at the very conclusion of the creative process, God declares the creations “very good”.

One might think this was self-aggrandizement. But I do not believe this reflects the Divine Mind. As an artist might stand back from the canvas, examine the work-in-progress, add a touch here and there, offer a contented sigh, and consider the next set of brush strokes, so, too, God engages in the process of making something new. The Holy One of Blessing surveys the creative canvas, adds a little shading here and there, decides which step comes next, delves into each creative moment, and brings “good” things into existence.

One might think that a god – all-knowing and all-powerful – would simply declare the world into being using divine plans that were perfect from the start, bring forth a perfect world, and then move on to the next project.

So, it is reassuring that God creates and then evaluates. After all, perhaps new ideas would enter the Divine Thinking along the way, and different creations would result. Perhaps the Holy One would change the Divine Mind when the creations all interact with one another and unforeseen things happen. Perhaps things would not work out at all.

[A midrash of our people notes that God created sixty-nine worlds before this one, and was not satisfied with any of them. Only this world brought about that which God had originally sought to accomplish.]

This Divine creative process is quite human, in a way. Even with the best planning, we humans also act and we create … and only after we’ve seen the results of our work can we evaluate and could declare our work “good”. Even the most carefully drawn-up plans can conceal a hidden flaw. Even in the most careful execution can there be unanticipated interactions that require correction.

Still, in all human efforts, we seek the good and try to achieve perfection. The challenge is to maintain our efforts even in the face of our unsuccessful attempts. This is where each human needs strength; this is where our intentions to recognize the good, change when things are going poorly, and strive again and again for triumph, are put to the test. This is what it means to be human.