This past Shabbat featured a little-known but rich phrase in which the God of Israel expects His covenant people to: “serve… the LORD your God with joy and ‘goodness of heart’ for the abundance of all.” (Deuteronomy 28:47)
The word goodness here is a form of the word Tov – good. This short word “good” is so commonplace, so banal, that it feels like it has almost lost its meaning.
“That (it was) Good” – “Ki Tov” in Genesis 1
If so that is a travesty, because the very first chapter of the Bible is built around it – “ki-tov” (pronounced kee – tōve) – there translated as “…that (it was) good.” Genesis chapter 1 repeats seven times how the Creator created things in the physical universe, “and He saw that (it was) good” – light, dry land and seas, plants and trees, day and night, fish and birds, land animals, everything He had made, together.
“God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good.” (Gen. 1:31)
We tend to look around us and see mainly problems, mainly the bad. The omniscient God saw from the start the potential for bad, but Genesis shows Him focusing on the good.
“For (He is) Good” – “Ki Tov” in the Psalms
The writer of Psalm 107 obviously paid attention to Genesis chapter one. He commands us to see and proclaim (God’s) goodness using the exact same phrase “ki-tov.” He picked up the exact same words and concept but in reverse. In Genesis, God looks upon His creation and calls it good. In Psalm 107:1 and again in 136:1 the created human looks up at the Creator and calls Him good:
“Give thanks to the Lord. For (He is) good [ki-tov], for His loving kindness endures forever.”