Is Good Good Enough? by Prof Gerald August

Aug 25th, 2011 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week
This week the Torah tells us to do Htov Vhamativ the good and the straight in the eyes of G-d. Usually we find the word good in apposition to the word bad. Why do we have a modifier here with the word straight? Why isn’t the word good enough?

I think the answer lies in the end of the verse “In the eyes of G-d.” Isn’t that what all good refers to?

So I think the Torah is drawing a distinction between what a person might judge to be good and what an objective outsider might conclude. That is why people have ethical advisers. Because sometimes we will rationalize what the good is even though the situation as seen by the individual is good only for them.

A good example was when a good friend of mine got married. Of course, I was happy for him and danced at his wedding. But, naturally, he was now spending a lot of time with his wife and less time with me. At first I was annoyed, but then I realized that he now had a new best friend, his wife. So even though I had less time with him, it would not be good for me to complain to him since his first allegiance was to his wife. Even though spending time with me would be good for me, is that what he should have expected from me, to complain?

In another situation, I might have to talk it over with a neutral party to check to see if I was being subjective about what was good in a situation and whether I was looking at the whole picture objectively.

We all view things through our own prism, and that can get in the way of us doing what is good and straight. So in our verse in the Torah, the word “straight” is not redundant but an important word that teaches us an important lesson. Good is sometimes not good enough if it is a subjective good.

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