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Real Intent

By: Ms. Sepha Sheinbein

There are so many elements about the opening  parasha  in the Torah that beg to be explained and have a plethora of amazing messages to learn from. Many of my favorites are found in the story of Kayin and Hevel. The story begins with the birth of these two brothers and their job descriptions- Kayin, the elder, is a farmer and works the land while his younger brother Hevel is a shepherd. The story then continues saying that after some time Kayin decides to bring a gift to G-d. He brings fruits as the very first korban. Hevel sees this and he too decides to bring Hashem a gift, bringing his choicest and fattest sheep as a gift to Gd.

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The pshat then says that Hashem turns to Hevel and Hevel’s korban and then the following pasuk says “and to Kayin and his korban He does not turn.” Kayin’s reaction is anger and then his face falls. G-d has a personal conversation with trying to encourage him to improve but subsequently Kayin ends up killing Hevel. There are obviously so many questions and issues we can have on Kayin, his motives, his flaws, but I think the stronger issue is on G-d Himself. Why couldn’t G-d accept his korban? Was it a choice, Hevel or Kayin? Why couldn’t both be accepted?! Wouldn’t that have saved Hevel’s  life?

I always think of this part of the story in terms of Mother’s Day. You decide on Mother’s Day to bake your mom a cake.  You’re pressed for time so you start throwing together a Dunkin Hines Yellow Cake. Your sister walks into the kitchen sees what you doing and also starts making a cake for your mom. She knows your mothers favorite is mint chocolate chip so she makes a two tear beautifully decorated one for her. That evening when you mom gets home she sees both cakes that were made for her. Wouldn’t most mothers taste BOTH cakes and appreciate both efforts? I don’t really see a mother only taking the mint chocolate chip and ignoring the Dunkin Hines…so kal v’chomer why would Hashem do that? Or even to make it a more exact parallel -if I am davening in shul I don’t believe that Hashem looks around and says:  ok, I’m only choosing one person’s tefilah to accept today-whose is the best? We believe that Hashem will accept all of our tefillot not just one persons! So why didn’t He accept Kayin’ korban?! It does not seem logical that the answer was because Hevel was better…it should not have been ‘either or.’

Most understand the answer to be found in Kayin’s reaction.  ,

He was super angry. If you give a gift to someone and they don’t take it what is your knee jerk reaction? Disappointed? Embarrassed? Sad? Anger might come after but it’s not the first emotion to surface. Anger would only surface right away if the gift wasn’t at all about the receiver but rather for the giver to feel good about him/herself. Kayin brought the korban to make himself feel like an awesome guy, not because he wanted to be nice to Hashem. Hashem didn’t accept it because Kayin didn’t have the right kavana. Intentions are such a significant part of mitzvot that Hashem is explaining to Kayin and us that we must mean what we are doing and have the right intentions when we are doing them. What’s even more significant to me in this answer is that it is unique to this story that we as the reader get to see the actual kavana in Kayin’s reaction. The story also helps us understand the concept of questioning G-d. One can easily read the pshat and be left angry at G-d as we were a paragraph ago. How could Hashem be so cruel and unfair? Kayin brought a gift, why not just accept it? Especially if it would save someone’s life in the end? We can question G-ds seemingly unfair and unjust actions. But Hashem answers us by showing us Kayin’s reaction. He says “You don’t get to see what I see.” Hashem has a perspective of the world and of each individual that no human can see. And therefore it is not our place to judge or assume “unfairness” in G-ds actions because we will never have His perspective.

Shabbat Shalom.






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