‘God saw everything God had made, and behold it was very good.’ Genesis 1:31

On the other days it says God saw that it was good. What did God create on the sixth day that was so special that it made that day “very good”? The Rabbis have many answers (20) for you to think about. After you understand them all, select the four interpretations that you personally relate to best.

Very good refers to the best thing of all creation.

1-Very good refers to the creation of human beings. (Genesis Rabbah)

2-Very good refers to the creation of women. (Midrash on Psalms) (I.e. an anti-misogynist view)

3-Very good indicates that God did not procrastinate but ecstatically enjoyed creation immediately for God took pride and pleasure in creation. (Midrash Tanhuma) (I.e. an anti-asceticism view)

4-Very good refers to all those creatures deemed unnecessary and useless in this world like flies, gnats etc. who have their allotted task in the scheme of creation. (Midrash Exodus Rabbah) (I.e. a pro biological diversity view)

5-Very good refers to God, who is very good, or to Torah, or to Moses. (Midrash Alefbet)

6-Rabbi Hiyya said very good means perfect, and thus creation should remain unchanged forever. (I.e. a very conservative view)

7-Rabbi Simeon ben Eleazar said sleep is very good. (Because it is a blessing for parents of babies, an anti-work-alcoholic view, or a good night’s sleep ie. undisturbed by worries, nightmares of COID-19, thoughts of insult, revenge, envy etc). Michelle Miller, a sleep-medicine professor at the University of Warwick in the U.K. says “Sleep is important for effective immune function, and it also helps to regulate metabolism, including glucose and mechanisms controlling appetite and weight gain,”

Very good refers to the challenge of conflicting possibilities.

8-Rabbi Samuel ben Rabbi Isaac says it alludes to the angel of life and the angel of death. (I.e. human awareness of the blessing of life and the inevitability of death)

9-Rabbi Simeon ben Lakish says it refers to a kingdom of heaven and a kingdom of earth. (I.e. a spiritual realm and a material realm)

10-Rabbi Huna said it refers to happiness and suffering.

11-Rabbi Simeon ben Abba said it refers to God’s bounty and to God’s punishment. (I.e. moral acts have consequences in this world)

12-Rabbi Ze’ira said it refers to Paradise and Gehinom. (I.e. moral acts also have consequences in the world to come)

13-Rabbi Samuel said good refers to the inclination toward good and very good refers to the inclination toward evil. Can the inclination toward evil be good? Yes! If not for the inclination toward evil no man would build a house, marry, or beget children as it says, “excelling in work is due to a man’s rivalry with his neighbor.” (Ecclesiastes 4:4)

Very good refers to the beginning of a more advanced stage of development.

14-Rabbi Abahu said that very good means that God had created previous worlds and destroyed them because they were not good enough.

15-Rabbi Abba said that all God’s creation was through a mediating agency i.e. earth or water. (ie. natural evolution) Now that all was done God praised the whole work. (Zohar Midrash Hane’elam). (ie. a ‘gestalt’ or a ‘God is in all being’ view)

16-Rabbi Maller says that very good refers to language. Animals can act cooperatively but only with language can one be self-conscious of ethical and spiritual principles. Thus mankind’s development of language must precede the ability to internalize morality (eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil).

17-Rabbi Maller also says that good refers to the tree of life that extends human life, and very good refers to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that expands human morality. Some turtles live for more than 200 years but they never study Torah, worship God or do altruistic moral acts. Thank God Eve chose to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and not from the tree of life. Quality is more important than quantity.

18-Or good refers to the comfortable womblike Garden of Eden, and very good refers to the expulsion from Eden into a challenging real world, which occurs after they eat of the morality tree and become like God. Freedom/moral choice is more important than security and comfort. Becoming an adult is better than remaining a happy infant.

19-Or good refers to nature/evolution, which has fashioned the world to this point, and very good refers to human cultural/moral activity, which will fashion the world from this point on. So very good refers to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, plus the stimulus to choose i.e. the snake/Satan/temptation/competitiveness/challenge/free will.

20-Good refers to a Tree of (moral) Knowledge; very good to a Tree of Life. Thus, being judgmental and doing justice is good; but accepting people’s weakness and being kind and loving is a very good Torah of kindness on her lips.

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 450 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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