Good and Sweet – Nitsavim-Va-Yelekh 5777

This week Moses, our teacher, says, “See, I set before you this day life and good, death and evil” (Devarim 30:15).  If only it were so easy, that we could simply pick one and leave the other behind.  However, life has taught me that the yetzer harah and the yetzer hatov are not mutually exclusive, but rather joined at the hip.  In order to have good I must take some bad – in order to have life, there must be death.  As one of my favorite musicians, Nahko Bear, sings, “Well I will always be a part of that darkness – although I’d say it’s pretty equal to my light” (Manifesto II).

Rav Shlomo says, “You know friends, all the good things in the world are not sweet, and all the sweet things are not good.  Good parents are never sweet, and sweet parents are never good.  Sweet children are not so good, and good children are not so sweet.”  Much like candy that is very sweet, but ultimately bad for my health, Rav Shlomo is enlightening us to the fact that, in our world, good comes with bad.

The Rambam (Spain 1138-1204) seems to agree with this running premise.  He says that in our existence, good and evil are innately tied.  In fact, only in the world to come can we merit experiencing them as separate.  In the eighth chapter in his book on repentance he states, “The good that is hidden for the righteous is life in the world to come, and she is the life that has no associated death – the good that has no associated evil” (Teshuva 8:1).  

With the Ramabam in mind, we are able to read our pasuk slightly differently.  Instead of Moses putting before us the pairings of this world, good and evil – life and death, he gives us the opportunity to achieve a higher reality – a choice to experience “life and good.”

And so Rav Shlomo finishes by saying, “this year let everything be good and sweet, sweet and good.  Because really sweet has to be good, and really good has to be sweet.”

I wish us all just that, a new year that is good and sweet.

Shabbat Shalom


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