Community Rabbi Corner, Jan. 8, 2021

Rabbi Ethan Prosnit
Temple Emanu-El
Westfield, NJ
Parashat Shemot

And he was Good/Tov – Filled with Light
When a baby is born, a parent typically uses adjectives like cute, adorable, angelic, chubby, or a bundle of joy to describe their newborn.  However, as we begin Shemot, a new book of Torah, this Shabbat, we read about the birth of Moses in which Yocheved, Moses’ mother, uses a different adjective.      
“The women conceived and bore a son; and when she saw how good (tov) he was, she hid him for three months.” (Exodus 2:3).
Yocheved describes Moses as good/tov. What does “good” mean? Does Moses sleep through the night from birth?  Some rabbinic commentaries say that good/tov here might connote that Moses was robust and healthy. However, there are other interpretations for the use of this adjective. Tov is a word that learners of the Torah are familiar with. Seven times in the first parsha of Genesis, God utters the word "good" to help describe God’s creation. In Midrash Rabbah the Rabbis taught: "When Moses was born, the whole household was filled with light, as it is written: When she saw him, that he was goodly, she hid him for three months." And it is written in the creation story: "And God saw the light and it was goodly." (Genesis 1:4)
Yocheved, with her maternal intuition, knew that her son would bring light to all the Israelites. The good/tov that Yocheved felt was the potential that Moses could bring redemption for the Israelites and fix the broken world, the injustices and the inequalities that he would soon see. As we prepare for Shabbat after this particularly distressing week, we too look for the goodness in others and in ourselves. How can we bring light to our nation in dark times? How can we see the potential in others and help them bring their goodness? 
May this Shabbat be tov as we seek peace in our own home and in our nation.