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True Peace

By: Mrs Leora Bednarsh

Cain is the first person to be inspired to bring a gift to G-d and his gift was rejected, while the gift of his younger brother, Hevel, was accepted. While of course we should not relate to Cain’s violent response, we can definitely empathize with the pain of rejection that he experienced. He was a religious innovator, seeking out a way to connect with his Creator, and he was rejected, while his imitator was accepted!

The mefarshim have struggled with the question of what was lacking in Cain’s gift. They pick up on the textual hints – the fact that Hevel brought the firstborn sheep, the better quality offering, that perhaps Cain did not. And yet it would seem that this explanation is insufficient. Interestingly, G-d notices Cain’s disappointment, and reaches out and speaks with him. Cain has a direct communication with G-d, one that Hevel seemingly did not experience. Notably missing from G-d’s communication, however, is any sort of explanation of why He accepted Hevel’s offering and rejected that of Cain. What G-d does offer is the following cryptic advice: “If you do well, you succeed, but if you do not do well, it will lurk on the door of sin.” Rav Ezra Bick suggests that what really troubled Cain was not his own personal lack of success, but rather the success of his brother. The competitiveness, which is inherent in a world where there is more than one person, is what caused Cain’s overwhelming feelings of jealousy. G-d sees this and responds, encouraging Cain to take control of himself, and to judge himself only by his own success, and not by the comparative success of others. This challenge is enormous, and Cain is unable to meet it, and is subsequently punished.

There are two critical messages here. First, we can never really know why G-d does what He does – why are some gestures accepted and others rejected? G-d never deigns to explain His choices. However, we must always do our best and believe that we are judged by what we do, as compared with our own potential and not as compared with those around us. If we can fully internalize both of these messages, we will have true peace between man and his brother and between man and G-d.

Shabbat Shalom




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