Who knows what is good for a person in life?

?מה טוב לאדם בחיים - מי יודע

Contrary to the spirit of Kohelet 6:12, please post happy and lighthearted Jewish prescriptions for what is good for a person in life.

If you think that lazy gematria's appropriate for answering such an important question, that's up to you.

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Please include sources for your information wherever possible, as with all other answers on this site.

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4 Answers 4


You ask מַה טּוֹב, what is good. King David provides the answer (Ps. 133):

הִנֵּה מַה טּוֹב וּמַה נָּעִים שֶׁבֶת
Lo, what is good, and what is pleasant? Dill!

Indeed, dill adds flavor to a variety of foods, whether sweet, savory, or bland. King Solomon followed his father's lead, writing (Ps. 127):

שָׁוְא לָכֶם… מְאַחֲרֵי שֶׁבֶת אֹכְלֵי לֶחֶם הָעֲצָבִים
A waste of time for you… who add dill too late! You are eaters of sad bread.

Moreover, dill soothes a troubled spirit. As the poet wrote (musaf service for Shabas Sh'kalim):

חִמַּדְתִּי שֶׁבֶת מְצֹא נֹפֶשׁ
I have sought dill to achieve relaxation.

Dill's importance in Judaism is evidenced by its growing on Mount Sinai when God gave the Torah there (Deut. 1):

ה׳ אֱלֹקֵינוּ דִּבֶּר אֵלֵינוּ בְּחֹרֵב לֵאמֹר רַב לָכֶם שֶׁבֶת בָּהָר הַזֶּה
God, our god, spoke to us on Sinai saying: There is much dill for you on this mountain.

  • Looking at the light is good. HaShem looked at the light because it was good to do so (וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים אֶת הָאוֹר כִּי טוֹב), and as per the dictum of Abba Shaul on זה אלי ואנוהו, we should also (Shabbos 133b, and elsewhere).
  • Likewise, it's good to call dry land "eretz" and pools of water "seas" (B'reishis 1:10), and to create sea serpents and various other creatures (ibid., 1:21,25).
  • Apparently, some trees are good to eat: וַתֵּרֶא הָאִשָּׁה כִּי טוֹב הָעֵץ לְמַאֲכָל (ibid. 3:6).
  • It's good to take naps: וַיַּרְא מְנֻחָה כִּי טוֹב (ibid. 49:15).
  • It's good to maintain your hearing: הִנֵּה שְׁמֹעַ מִזֶּבַח טוֹב לְהַקְשִׁיב מֵחֵלֶב אֵילִים (Shmuel I 15:22), טוֹב הַדָּבָר שָׁמָעְתִּי (Melachim I 2:42), and, וישמע משה וייטב בעיניו (Vayikra 10:20).
  • It's good to be continuously drunk: וטוב לב משתה תמיד (Mishlei 15:15).
  • It's good to be extremely drunk: ולֵב נָבָל טוֹב עָלָיו וְהוּא שִׁכֹּר עַד מְאֹד (Shmuel I 25:36).
  • It's good to live in a city: מוֹשַׁב הָעִיר טוֹב (Melachim II 2:19). (Alternatively, it's good to live on a moshav).
  • Shem MiShmuel has become very popular in recent years. But if you really want a good time, try the sefer Shem MiShemen, which is doubly good: טוֹב שֵׁם מִשֶּׁמֶן טוֹב (Koheles 7:1).
  • 1
    I dunno, Fred. I think your source proves Shem MiShmuel is better than Shem MiShemen.
    – Seth J
    Commented Feb 11, 2013 at 16:42
  • @SethJ You could go that way, I suppose.
    – Fred
    Commented Feb 11, 2013 at 16:42

Per this answer, !מי יודע - is definitely an item that is טוב לאדם בחיים.

  • 2
    8^D Can you cite a source?
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Feb 11, 2013 at 16:10
  • 2
    @IsaacMoses, see edit.
    – Seth J
    Commented Feb 11, 2013 at 16:39

Jewish holidays are good. That's why a Jewish holiday is called a "יום טוב."

And as we all know, אדם מועד לעולם (a man is always a holiday).

So the phrase "מה טוב לאדם בחיים" is not a question, but an exclamatory answer: "How good a man is for life!"

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