G-d saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good.
It was evening and it was morning, the sixth day" (Genesis
1:31). While the expression "and G-d saw that it was
good" appears throughout the creation narrative it
is missing in one prominent place, namely by the creation
of man. Light, water, vegetation, the stars, animal species; all were good, creation
as a whole was very good. What happened with man? While
man is at the center of creation and while he is the only
one created in the image of G-d it is not so clear that
his creation was actually a good thing. The Talmud tells
us that that the great schools of Hillel and Shammai argued
over this very point for two and a half years. Beit Shammai
analyzing the horrendous brutality of man claimed it would
have been better if we would not have been created. After
all what benefit do we have if we lead o life of much sin,
hypocrisy, and corruption. We are going to have to pay the
price for our wrongs so better not to have entered the .
This idea is similar to what we tell a potential convert.
We explain to them that as a non-Jew they may eat what they
want work 7 days a week, have relations when they please
and no wrong has been perpetrated and hence no punishment
will be received. But if these exact same activities are
done after conversion you will be punished severely, perhaps
even receiving a death penalty.
Beit Hillel on the other hand observing the wonderful potential of man, his sharing, caring and compassion claimed it is better that we were created. The Talmud that after a protracted debate they collectively reached the conclusion that it really would have been better had man not been created but no that we were created we better examine our ways. We must ensure that we do not violate the laws of the Torah and that we meticulously observe its mitzvoth. What a depressing thought. Thus we can understand the Midrashic comment that Tov Meod, very good means the angel of death. At death there is no more potential for sin, we are at peace as we escape the world, which is in need of much improvement.
Perhaps though there is some hope. Tosafot points out that the conclusion of the Talmud that it would have been better had we not been created is only said by "stam bnei adam" plain people but by a Tzadik, a righteous person "blessed is he and blessed is his generation." One who is a Tzadik has little to be afraid of. His deeds make the world a better place and of course we are thankful that he was created.
This entire discussion is seemingly alluded to towards the end of this week's parsha.
"G-d saw that man's wickedness on earth was increasing
G-d regretted that He had made man on earth and He was pained to his very core. G-d said I will obliterate humanity that I have created from the face of the earth
I regret that I created them" (6:5-7). G-d, the source of kindness, was going to obliterate man for his own benefit. After all if man is evil it is better that he not have been created. "But Noach found favor in G-d's eyes" Noach who the Torah describes as Ish Tzadik Tamim, a righteous, faultless man showed that it can be good for man to have been created.
Our sages teach that G-d created an incomplete world, leaving room for man to engage in the ongoing process of creation. By striving to become a tzadik - and Judaism defines a tzadik as one who has performed more mitzvot than transgression - we can (figurtively) add our own verse to the Torah. "G-d created man and G-d saw that it was good. Shabbat Shalom!