[Avodah] A Gutte Yahr - A Good Year?

Micha Berger via Avodah avodah at lists.aishdas.org
Fri Sep 11 11:06:46 PDT 2015

On Fri, Sep 11, 2015 at 01:23:04PM -0400, Prof. Levine wrote:
: It is customary at this time of year to wish others "A Gutte Yahr"
: (A good year)  However,  aren't we supposed to believe that whatever
: Hashem does is for the good,  so no matter what will happen in the
: year to come,  it will be a good year.  (We may not see it this way,
: but again whatever Hashem does is good.)

>From my blog post at http://www.aishdas.org/asp/tireh-betov


Shetir'u baTov

The Bostoner Rebbe (of Boston) commented once on the expression
"Shanah tovah umsuqah - a good and sweet new year", which is related
to the famous custom of having apple and honey on Rosh haShanah.What
does "umsuqah -- and sweet" add, beyond the notion of "tovah -- good"?
As Rabbi Aqiva often said, "All that the All Merciful does, He does for
the good". An echo of the words of one of his rabbeim, Nachum ish Gamzu,
who would greet events that would disappoint or depress most of us with
"Gam zu letovah -- this too is for the best."

So actually, wishing one another a good year could be thought of
as being redundant. Everything is good, how could this year be any
different? However, not everything I was told was "for my own good"
was particularly pleasant. Therefore, the rebbe teaches, we wish that
the year not only be tovah, good, but also be mesuqah, sweet to our
perception as well.

Along the same lines, I had a thought about a phrase in Shabbos and Yom
Tov davening <http://www.aishdas.org/asp/2006/01/vetaheir-libeinu.shtml>:

    Our L-rd, and the L-rd of our fathers, sanctify us bemitzvosekha
    (through Your mitzvos), and put our portion beSorasekha (in Your
    Torah), satisfy us mituvekha (from Your Goodness), and make us (or:
    our souls qua living force) biyshuasekha (in Your salvation)...

The predicate prefix has an oddity: it says bemitzvosekha, beSorasekha,
and later, beyshu'asekha. But by goodness, the prefix is "mituvekha" --
"from", not "be-" ("in" or "through") like by the others.

The reason, I believe, is because we are asking for something inherently
different. We can ask G-d to make us more holy by allowing us to do
more mitzvos, or give us the opportunity to learn more Torah, or make
us happier by saving us more often. This is "be-", we are asking for
more of a gift by asking for more of the vehicle He uses to give it to us.

Since everything G-d does is good, we can't be asking for G-d to give us
more good, and thereby make us more satisfied. There is no more good for
us to get. Rather, we are asking for more satisfaction with the goodness
He already provides. This is why the "mi-" prefix is used.

This is also in contrast to Rebbe's words (Berakhos 50a) about benching,
that a wise person says "uvtuvo chayinu -- and through His good we live",
and a boor, "umituvo chayinu -- and from His good, we live". Rebbe says
that "umituvo" is incorrect because it says that we live through some of
His Good, implying that Hashem gives meagerly. Perhaps it's different
here, when we ask for happiness, because the truth is that if we had
a full realization of even a small part of His Good would be enough to
satisfy. Like the piyut we sing at the seider. We list fifteen things
Hashem did for us when taking us out of Egypt. But had He done any one
of those 15 alone, "Dayeinu"!

R Shelomo Wolbe^zt"l would part someone's company wishing him "shetir'u
batov -- may you see the good!" Because the tense of "tir'u" is ambiguous,
this is both a berakhah and a mussar shmuess.

Taken in the future tense, "May you see", it becomes a blessing that
Hashem allow him to see all that's good in his life. In the imperative,
the same work becomes "Look", advice to the person to take the initiative
and seek out the good of every situation. To aspire to the middah
of Nachum ish Gamzu and Rabbi Aqiva of realizing the Hand of G-d in
everything, and looking to see how even the tragedies in our lives are
necessary steps to something bigger which He has in store for us.

The two together yields a profound combined meaning. Live is the product
of a partnership between myself and G-d. It is the sum of my free-willed
decisions and the hand Hashem deals me. "Shetir'u beTov" addresses both
at the same time, by praying that Hashem show the person good, and that
the person look to find it. A greeting that recognizes the fundamental
covenant by which man is redeemed.

It's a beautiful greeting, one worth adopting. Wishing others could
taste the sweetness.

Shetir'u baTov!

(With thanks to RYGB for helping me find the gemara.)

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1. Anonymous says:
   [21]ז בתשרי תשסז - September 29, 2006 at 1:25pm
   Possibly related - stolen waters are described as sweet, which
   tells us something unpleasant about the human condition. Perhaps
   what we are requesting is not only an objectively good year, but
   the ability to appreciate that goodness, similar to the way in
   which we regrettably now enjoy the prohibited.
   - Moishe Potemkin

1. [23]Aspaqlaria » Blog Archive » כג אלול תשמ"א
   כג באלול תשסז - September 5, 2007
   [...] berakhos for a Shanah tovah umsuqah, as the Bostoner Rebbe
   put it, a year that is we not only conceptually know to be good,
   but has a sweetness we can taste and [...]

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