Leading Idea: What is ‘good’

Download pdf    Leading Idea:   What is ‘good’  (וירא אלהים כי-טוב)


The term ‘good’ is a valuative term; to use it is to judge something in positive light. While the term ‘good’ is often used in moral discourse (e.g.; what it means to be a ‘good person’), not all uses of the term point to ethical judgments – for instance, we often say of our food: “this is good!”, or someone might refer to their car as ‘a good car’. So there are moral and non-moral valuations of the word ‘good’, both in the Tanach and in the students’ daily lives.

We find the term ‘good’ woven throughout this first account of creation. What does it mean in this context? When the text says: “וירא אלהים כי-טוב” ( ‘And God saw that it was good” ) what kind of valuative judgment is being made?  Indeed a number of issues concerning valuations might emerge through reading the text. We might list these as the following:

  1. What is the meaning of the word ‘Good’ ?
  2. What is involved in recognizing something as being good
  3. “God Saw that it was good” – This involves both seeing something (being aware of it) and judging it.
  4. What is the difference between saying something is ‘good’ and saying it is ‘very good’?    Can there be different degrees of good? (v’s. 4,10,12,18, 21,25, to v.31, 5.
  5. There is also the issue of part-whole relations – what is the difference between judging each part of something good and judging the whole thing as good? (also     particularly relevant to Day 6.)

Because the phrase”וירא אלהים כי-טוב”   repeats itself several times in the text, there is an opportunity here to explore a different angle on each occasion. This would help develop a thicker and more textured appreciation of the meaning of the text overall.

Each of these issues and distinctions are explored in the exercises and discussion plans below.

Induction piece: As an induction piece we suggest sections A and B in the first discussion plan “Exploring different meanings of ‘good’” as it opens up the range of meanings ‘good’ carries in everyday life. Each of these give a very different reading to the act of creation. (Section C could come later, after the reading before or during their inquiry).