© 2016 by Rabbi Zvi Aviner
BLOODSHED-2/Sin Crouches at the Door!
1: Abel, the breath who faded away
Last class we focused on Cain. Today let’s focus on his victim, Abel.
After the dramatic birth of Cain, the verse says about Abel:
“And she, again, bore his brother, Abel.
And Abel was a keeper of sheep,
While Cain was a tiller of the ground “(Genesis 4:2)
What a difference in the way Eve reacted to the birth of Abel! It is as if his only merit was to be Cain’s brother. His mother Eve felt no special elation by his birth, unlike with Cain. She did not designate him to ‘buy Man with YHVH,’ to ‘connect Man with YHVH.’
Abel, the passing breath
Moreover, it seems that Abel himself did not aspire to be the priest of the family. His name Abel, Hevel in Hebrew, means ‘vanity,’ a passing breath. Tradition says that this wasn’t his true name and that the Torah hints that he would pass away like a ‘breath,’ gone with the wind, leaving no child after him.
Abel, the modest
His name ‘Hevel’ also infers that he saw himself as a passing breath, that he was modest . Unlike his older brother Cain, he did not take himself too seriously. No wonder the Modest YHVH loved him!
Abel was not pretentious
Their different character is seen by the trades they chose for themselves:
“And Abel was a keeper of sheep,
And Cain was a tiller of the ground.” (Genesis 4:2)
Cain, most likely, was vegetarian. He raised crops to avoid BLOODSHED, even of animals. After all, wasn’t he the priest of MERCY?
Abel in contrast was a shepherd who slaughtered sheep. He was not pretentious, and he most likely consumed meat.
Some commentaries see here the fingerprints of the historical rivalry between the Farmer and the Shepherd. But the Torah does not speak about Oklahoma or the Wild West. She speaks about rivalry for YHVH’s favor. And as the Torah points out, being vegetarian did not stop Cain from becoming a murderer.
Now: how did Cain attempt to fulfill his mother’s wish, of ‘purchasing Man with YHVH?’
2: Why gift offering?
“And in the process of time, it came to pass,
that Cain brought of the fruits of the ground as a gift-offering to YHVH,
And Abel, he too, brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat parts thereof.” (Genesis 4: 4)
It makes sense. Being so fascinated with the new option of OWNERSHIP on Earth, something they could not do in Eden, Cain attempted to “Purchase Man with YHVH” by offering a Gift. He ‘projected’ his own desire to possess things, on YHVH. This could have worked had it been accompanied with the right attitude. In fact, YHVH accepted Abel’s gifts!
Where did they erect their Altars?
Tradition says that the Cain erected his Altar on Mount Moriah, across of Eden’s Gate, where Adam and Eve had stood first time on Earth. If he wished to draw YHVH into our world, closer to Mankind, there was not better PLACE than the Gate of Eden!
We CAN imagine Cain pacing up the ramp of his Altar. His head was decorated with a colorful laureate, and a long, white rob covered his nakedness. He looked pure as an Angel. Proudly he walked up carrying his fruit basket on his shoulders, his face shining with excitement. Then he lifted up the basket, offered it to YHVH then placed it on the Altar’s fire. His siblings, sisters and brothers, must have watched him with admiration. He was, after all, their designated, beloved spiritual leader.
We can imagine the scene, since the Torah orders us to re-enact it on every Festival of Weeks. At the time of the Temple, every OWNER of a field in the Holy Land used to bring, as a gift offering, the best ‘first fruits’ to the Altar, carrying it in a basket on his shoulder. Standing by the Altar the OWNER (and the standing by priest) used to lift up the basket to HaSheM. Tradition says that the Festival of the Weeks falls on the annual anniversary of Abel’s murder. But in contrast to Cain’s arrogance, the OWNER who brought the gift-offering used to say a text that expressed humility: “My Father was a lost (wonderer) Aramite, and HaSheM took us from Egypt Land to give us this fertile Land…” (Deut.) The Torah wants us to correct Cain’s error.
Next it says that “Abel, he too brought his firstlings.” The language is clear: Abel ALSO offered his gift, following his illustrious brothers. He wasn’t a priest and he did not wish to become one. He simply was a good follower of his elder brother.
We can imagine also how the humble Hevel approached the Altar. He wore no colorful laureate, and he carried slaughtered lambs while their blood was still dripping. Shyly he placed his offering on the Altar’s fire, and said to YHVH: ‘I am Hevel, a nothing, a passing breath. Please YHVH, accept my humble offering…’
Whom do you think would YHVH prefer?
3: YHVH opted for the modest Abel
While no one paid attention to Abel, YHVH opted for him and his offering, as it says:
“And YHVH turned to Abel and to his offering,
but to Cain and to his offering He did not turn…” (Genesis 4:4-5)
Cain the arrogant
The Torah does not explicitly explain the reason for YHVH’s rejection of Cain. She wouldn’t spread a bad mouth on anyone. But we can figure out why She opted for the humble Hevel.
As we recall from Genesis Chapter One, the first thing that ELoKiM showed Adam was to be modest. He id that by consulting His Angels saying “Let Us Make Adam in our Form and our Image.” When the Angles wondered why He was consulting them, He told them: “I want to show Adam that the Superior should consult the Inferior with modesty,” (Rashi.) Adam was born to attract the Merciful YHVH into his heart. And ELoKiM taught him that the first thing he should do is to curtail his Ego and be modest. The Bride, after all, is so ‘Modest’ that She would run away from us if we exhibit arrogance. “YHVH and an arrogant person can’t be in the same room together,” the rabbis said (Midrash.)
Moreover, an arrogant person is one who worships himself. He is guilty, therefore, of IDOLATRY. The sensitive Bride would shy away from an heart that lusts for another, false bride, like our Ego. Take Moses for example: he was elected to be the father of all prophets of YHVH because he was “the modest of all peoples.”
No wonder, then, that YHVH did not ‘lean forwards’ to Cain. She did lean forwards to the humble Hevel.
How did the siblings know that Cain was rejected? They noticed that the smoke coming from Cain’s Altar hang over the mountain, while the smoke form Abel’s Altar ascended straight to Heavens, with no deviation by the wind.
What a public humiliation it was to Cain in front of his watching family! What a disappointment! And he reacted badly as it says:
“And Cain was very angry, and his face fell…”
You may right to ask: why did YHVH offend him in public? Couldn’t She foresee that She had opened the road for the first murder?
4: Cain, you CAN control your emotions!
From the verse we feel that YHVH sensed that question, for She did not give up on him. Turning to him She said the FRIST WARDS YHVH EVER SAID TO MANKIND without ELoKiM by her side:
“And YHVH said to Cain,
why are you angry, and why did your face fall?
For if you do ‘good,’ be elevated!
And if you do not do ‘good,’ sin crouches at the door
And to you shall be its desire
but you shall rule over it…” (Genesis 4:8)
YHVH speaks about our heart
How remarkable these words are! Notably, YHVH did not warn Cain against transgressing the Law. She did, instead, approach Cain like a loving MOTHER. She asked him softly: My child Cain, why are you angry? Why have your face fallen? As if she didn’t know (Rashi.) She initiated the conversation. The same thing happened in Eden, when YHVH ELoKiM turned to Adam and Eve who were hiding in the bush, saying: “Adam, where are you?”
YHVH wishes us to confess and repent.
And Her first wards to Mankind are about our hearts. It fits. The Heavenly Bride whom we aspire to get into our heart, spoke to Cain about what She was seeing in his heart.
She said: I see angry in your heart. So I can’t get in.
She said: tell me about your anger. I’d help you to cleanse it away.
She said: you want to connect with me, so do what I love.
Seeing that Cain did not respond, YHVH continued:“For if you do ‘good,’ be elevated!”
She said: I haven’t rejected you, Cain. I reject your posture. You still CAN elevate yourself and fulfill your mother’s dream
Still seeing that he did not respond, YHVH went on
“ And if you do not do good,
sin crouches at the door
and to you shall be its desire…”
What sin? Which door?
YHVH’s wards here are perhaps the most meaningful in the Bible.
As a rule of thumb, whenever we wish to learn about a concept in the Bible, we need to look at the first site it appears in the text. For instance if we wish to know what ‘Israel’ means we need to go to the first time it appears in the text, which is at the wrestling between Jacob and the ‘Man.’
So here, in the first words that YHVH says to Mankind, She expresses the essence of Her expectation from us. “Sin crouches at the door,’ She says to Cain, referring to the door of ‘our heart’ (Rashi.) ‘Sin’ is any sin, in this case: murder. YHVH sees it crouching at the door of Cain’s heart, aspiring to get in and conquer it: “and to you shall be its desire.”
Note that ELoKIM would interfere AFTER the act of murder has been done, to punish the murderer. YHVH in contrast interferes BEFORE the murder itself, while the THOUGHTS of it are still brewing in Cain’s heart. She is not here to execute Justice but rather to prevent the evil doing from happening. And what She wants is a clean heart to enter it herself.
As long She sees the thought of sin crouching at the door of our heart, She would not enter. As an extremely sensitive Bride, She would fly away from a heart that is full of arrogance and thoughts of evildoing like murdering.
And her message to Cain was: As long the sin crouches at the door of your heart, you CAN control it: “and you shall rule over it.” And in one stroke of a pen YHVH dismissed claims such as “my passion overcame me and I killed,” or “I raped,” or “I stole” or “I committed injustice.”
So if the Serpent of Eden was condemned to forever entice our hart to sin, here it is depicted as crouching at the door, chasing YHVH away, aspiring to get in and conquer it. The Serpent becomes here the ‘Evil Inclination’ of our heart that YHVH hates. If you ever wonder what happened to the Serpent, here it is.
Sin crouches as the Door of Eden
YHVH’s words, “Sin crouches at the door” may refer to the door at the Gate of Eden. This makes sense, since the brothers erected their altars “In the field” (Genesis 4:8) which is a nickname for Mt. Moriah. They aspired to bring YHVH into our world “through the Gate of Eden.” When She ‘leaned forwards’ by Abel’s Offering, She did enter our World through that Gate. No wonder that the Holy Ark with the Golden Cherubs later stood at the same site, opposite the Gate. Form there YHVH spoke to the prophets of Israel. Here She spoke the first time to Cain.
By saying “Sin crouches at the door of Eden,” YHVH warned Cain that his soul would one day try to ascend back to Eden to sit by the Throne, but the Way would be closed by the sin crouching by it. You soul, Cain, would then face the Hot, Revolving Sword and would not be allowed to go back.
5: Planning a mass murder
YHVH warned Cain that the THOUGHTS of sin are crouching at the door of his heart. They would aspire to get in, GROW and conquer it so that he would finally e commit the sin.
And She said: be aware of the process. So as long it is brewing, you CAN stop it and overcome it, lest it would overcome you.
So what were the THOUGHTS of murder that were brewing and growing in Cain’s heart?
Let’s remember that killing Abel was tantamount of killing half of humanity, a MASS MURDER. It is extremely important to us to decipher and learn all his thoughts.
Since here are the first words of YHVH to Mankind, the foremost important message of the Bible, it behooves Mankind to know them by heart, inscribe them on the walls of our public institutions such as the UN corridors. Every human being should be familiar with them, no less and even more so than with the Ten Commandments!
The murder itself is described in just a few words:
“And it came to pass, and Cain said to Abel his brother.
And it came to pass, when they were in the field
That Cain rose up against his brother Abel and he slew him,” (Genesis 4:8)
The verse starts by saying that “Cain said to Abel his brother,” without specifying what exactly he said. It is as if the Torah is avoiding speaking a ‘bad mouth’ about Cain and Abel.
But tradition fills the gap and offers several options: (1) He said something bad TO Abe (2) He said something bad ABOUT Abel.
To whom was he talking? To his other siblings. He told them bad things about Abel to justify the prospects of murder in his own eyes.
What did Cain say about Abel? Several options, all true:
(1) he told the siblings that Abel was Hevel, a passing breath, less than a human, unworthy of living.
He dehumanized Abel
(2)That Abel was not only a sub human, but rather a evil man.
He demonized Abel
(3) That he, Cain was a victim of Abel. He cried and blamed Abel for doing bad things to him, to Cain.
He saw himself a victim
(4) Thant the only way Abel could prevail was by using sorcery over YHVH.
he attributed evil power to his victim
(5)That Hevel was a liar. He presented himself as modest person while in fact he was omnipotent.
He empowered his victim
(6) That it was a morally imperative to get rid of Hevel; that killing Abel would be a honorable service to Mankind and to G-d.
(7) That he was ready to sacrifice himself for eliminating Hevel.
Altruistic evil is the term that Rabbi Yonathan Sacks (Chief Rabbi of England) has called the stage when the person who contemplate mass murder sees it much an honorable moral obligation that he is even ready to sacrifice himself for it.
For instance: The Nazis justified their contemplation to commit a mass extermination of the Jew by passing the following claims:
(1) That the Jews are sub humans, rats, unworthy of living.
(2) Then they said that Jews are evil, drinking blood, demonizing them.
(3) Then they said that they, the German peoples, were the real victims of the Jews over centuries.
(4) Then they depicted the Jews as a clandestine cult planning to control the world
(5) Then they said that Jews control Washington as well as the Russian Kremlin, that they are capitalists and communists, that they control the media, Hollywood as well as the international banking. In short, the Jews are omnipotent, worthy of our hatred.
(6) For years the Nazis taught their youth that killing the Jews is a morally good act, a service to Mankind.
(7) They convinced themselves so much about the merit of eliminating the Jews that they were ready to do it at all cost.
The Torah is right. We can detect these steps in anyone contemplating a mass murder. Today, Muslim terrorists are showing the same posture towards their prospect victims: the West.
They teach their youngsters: The West is Satan, Evil. We, Muslims, are its victims. It is our religious and moral obligation to eliminate the West at all cost, even by our own lives.
So how did Cain kill his brother? On that we’ll learn next.
Read also: “Genesis Vs. Science, Can They Match?” By Zvi Aviner, at www.smashwords.com