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 that Eve reacted to the birth of Abel! I t 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.
Abel was not pretentious
Their different character is reflected in 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 only, 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 most likely he consumed meat.
Some commentaries see here the fingerprints of the historical rivalry between Farmers and Shepherds. But the Torah does not speak about Oklahoma or the Wild West. She speaks about a 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 first-lings of his flock and of the fat parts thereof.” (Genesis 4: 4)
It makes sense. As we’ve said, Cain’s name is rooted in the new fascination with OWNERSHIP they acquired on Earth, something they could not have in Eden, Cain attempted to fulfill his mother’swish to “Purchase Man with YHVH” – by offering a Gift.
Now, where did they erect their Altars?
Tradition says that the Cain and Abel erected their Altars on Mount Moriah, across from Eden’s Gate, where Adam and Eve had stood first time on Earth. If Cain wished to “draw YHVH into our world,” closer to Mankind, there was not better PLACE for that than Eden’s Gate
We CAN imagine Cain pacing up the ramp of his Altar. His head decorated with a colorful laureate, and a long, white rob covering his nakedness. To his watching family he looked pure as an Angel. Proudly he paces up that ramps carrying his fruit basket on his shoulders, his face shining in excitement. Then he lifts up the basket, offering it to YHVH ,then throwing it on the Altar’s fire. His siblings, sisters and brothers, watch him with admiration. He is, 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.</font size>
Next it says that “Abel, he too brought his first-lings.” 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…’</font size=2>
Whom do you think would YHVH prefer?
3: YHVH opted for the modest Abel
No one paid much attention to Abel, yet YHVH opted for “him” and for “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, Mankind was created to offer the Merciful Attribute YHVH a room on our hearts. No other creature on Earth, made by ELKM alone, could do that.
And the Modest YHVH despises haughtiness. It is said that She and an haughty person can’t be in the same room. A person who has an inflated ego would chase away YHVH from his heart. (Midrash.)
No wonder, then, that YHVH “did not lean forwards’ to Cain.” Instead, She leaned forwards to the humble Hevel.
Here the special expression “lean forwards” fits the idea that YHVH came forwards closer to Hevel , through the Gate of Eden, in the Space where the Two Golden Cherubs would later stand on the Holly Ark,
The family noticed that Cain’s offering was rejected, seeing that the smoke coming up from his Altar hang over the mountain then dispersed, In contrast, the smoke coming out of Abel’s Altar ascended straight up to the sky with no deviation, DESPITE THE WIND. (This miracle was later observed by Israel at the Holy Temple. )
A public humiliation for Cain it was, and he reacted badly as it says:
“And Cain was very angry, and his face fell…”
4: Cain, you CAN control your emotions!
Every ward here is paramount, since we deal with the First Murder, the prototype of all future murders. The verse says now that sensing Cain’s heart, YHVH interfered to CALM HIM DOWN. The Attribute of JUSTICE, ELKM< would not do this.
And it is said –
“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
Remarkably, YHVH did not warn Cain against transgressing the Law of BLOODSHED. Instead, She approached 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 was the one who initiated the conversation.Back in Eden YHVH ELoKiM did the same by turning to Adam and his wife saying: “Adam, where are you?”
YHVH seeks our confession and repentance – even before the sin. She seeks to prevent evil doing.
How remarkable it it is that Her first words to Mankind ever were about bad feelings in our hearts. Evil thoughts in our heart prevent Her from coming in
Since Cain did not respond, YHVH continued:“For if you do ‘good,’ be elevated!” Cain, you CAN still elevate yourself and overcome your feelings.
Seeing that Cain still 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?
“Sin crouches at the door’- of your heart’ (Rashi.) Sin here may refer to any sin, in Cain’s hear and in our hearts. Sin aspires to conquer Cain’s heart, chasing YHVH away.
Note that ELoKIM would interfere AFTER the sin, with retributions. YHVH interferes BEFORE the sin (of murder) while the THOUGHTS of it are still brewing in Cain’s heart. She is not here to execute Justice and punish but rather to prevent the evil from happening. She wants a clean heart where She can enter and Dwell .
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.” There is a stage when we CAN stop our bad feelings from brewing.
Some say that the Sin crouching at the door of our hearts is the Serpent of Eden
Sin crouches as the Door of Eden
Some read the verse “Sin crouches at the door” as referring to the “door of Eden. This fits the story, since the brothers erected their altars “In the field” (Genesis 4:8) which – a nickname for Mt. Moriah. As we’ve said, they aspired to bring YHVH into our world “through the Gate of Eden.”
Warning about his soul
The warning “Sin crouches at the door of Eden” can be read as a warning to Cain that his soul would one day try to ascend up to Eden to sit by the Throne, yet his sin would close the door for him. .
5: Planning a murder
The first 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)
“Cain said to Abel his brother” – the verse does not specify what 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 Abel (2) He said something bad ABOUT Abel.
To whom did he say? To the other siblings. He told bad things about Abel to justify the murder, even in his own eyes.
What then did Cain say about Abel? Several options:
(1) That Abel was Hevel, a passing breath, less than a human, unworthy of living. He dehumanized Abel
(2)That Abel was an evil man. He demonized Abel
(3) That he, Cain was a victim of Abel. He reversed the order .
(4) Thant Abel used sorcery to gain YHVH’s favor he attributed evil power to his victim
(5)That Abel was a liar. He empowered his victim
(6) That it was morally imperative to kill Abel, doing favor to God .
(7) That he was ready to suffer as a price foe eliminating evil Altruistic evil
You see that self justification for any murder.
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