© 2020 by Rabbi Zvi Aviner
NOAH and BLOODSHED-3/
Cain Murdering Abel
We call our class Noah and BLOODSHED, since the story of Cain and Abel leads us to Noah’s Rainbow Covenant with its BLOODSHED Laws.
Since we’re studying the First Murder, the prototype of all murders, every point in the story is paramount.
Last class we saw that to justify the murder, Cain did what all future killers would do: He dehumanized his brother, demonized him, presented himself as a victim, and attributed to Abel magic power and control over everything. He told his siblings that Abel is nothing, a passing breath, unworthy of living.
YHVH had warned him that the sin was sitting at the door of his heart, that he could still avoid it and do good, yet he opted for pursuing the killing.
1: The Scene of the First Murder
“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)
YHVH is mine!
“And they were in the field…” (Genesis 4:8) which is the classical nickname for Mt. Moriah. Cain’s decision to murder his brother had already been made, and all he needed was a spark of rage to push him forwards and execute his plan. The rabbis in the Talmud debate about the nature of that final spark.
Some say they argued about a woman. (The first generation married their sisters.) Indeed, how many people would be killed in the future for that very fight? .
Others say they argued about the ownership of “the field,” of Mt Moriah Indeed, how many people in the future would be killed for the same claim of ownership over Mt Moriah and Jerusalem?
And what an irony! Each brother could have for himself half of the world, yet they clashed about the ownership of a small strip of land: Mt. Moriah.
What a paradox: Jeru-Salem, the ‘City of Peace,’ is where the first murder took place.
“And it came to pass when they were in the field,
And Cain rose up against his brother Abel and he slew him.” (Genesis 4:8)
What happened? The rabbis filled the gap: One day, the brothers were alone “in the field,” in Mt. Moriah. They wrestled for a while, as brothers often do, and Abel, whose physique was stronger, prevailed and pushed Cain to the ground. He then released Cain, laughing. But the humiliated Cain couldn’t stand it anymore. He arose up and attacked his surprised brother. He pushed Abel to the ground, and tried to kill him in different ways:
Four ways of execution
He first tried to chalk Abel by his bare hands, but this did not work.
He tried to choke him with a rope but this failed too.
He hit Abel with a stick which also did not work.
Then he smashed Abel’s head with a stone, and this did kill him.
Hence, he tried to kill his brother by the four classical methods of executions by the court
Thus, the real reason for the first murder was jealousy for the favor of YHVH.
What a paradox! To do the ultimate evil, murder, in the name of MERCY!
How many people would be murdered in history for the sake of loving MERCY?
2: YHVH Intervened
ELoKiM would have executed Cain immediately, had not YHVH intervened, saying
“Cain, where is Abel your brother?”
As if She did not know. She expected Cain to repent, confess, ask forgiveness. She had done the same in Eden, when She asked “Adam, where are you?”
But Cain misses that offer and said :
“I did not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9)
He did not know
“I did not know” can have different meanings –
(1) “I did not know” that a blow by stone could kill my brother.
(2) “I did not know” that I would be punished severely.
(3) “I did not know” what I was doing. The rage overcame my mind….
Cain, you did a cruel deed!
But YHVH did not buy Cain’s arguments. She turned at him in rage saying – :
“And He (YHVH) said: what have you done?
The voice of your brother’s blood cries for me from the ground!” (Genesis 4:9-11)
How meaningful! – Here, YHVH accuses Man the first time ever. And She does NOT talk about transgressing the Law. Instead She charged Cain emotionally:
Cain, you’ve committed a cruel, evil deed!
Cain, your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground!
Cain, you’ve terminated a whole line of Abel’s descendants! !
Cain, what have you done? You have disappointed me!
He faced a double sword!
Although the Merciful One defends us in the Heavenly Court, yet when it comes to murder, to do evil, to be cruel, the Merciful YHVH herself turns into a prosecutor,
Cain faces now two swords lifted against him- the Sword of ELoKiM and the sword of YHVH.
3: Cain’s Hell
YHVH continued to pound Cain:
“Therefore, you are cursed from the ground which
opened wide its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hands.” (Genesis 4:11)
The ground that swallowed Abel’s blood, would become Cain’s Hell.
Since the murder took place on Mt. Moriah, where would Cain’s Hell be?
The crack in the rock
But Abel’s blood did not remain on Mt. Moriah. It was soaked into a crack in the rocky ground, and then absorbed into the abyss underneath the Mountain.
That crack in the rock, would later be the base for the Holy Altar at the Temple’s courtyard.
Thus the sacrifices’ blood would atone for Abel’s blood.
The Shiloach Spring
Abel’s blood then surfaced back onto the ground at the water spring at the eastern slope of Mt. Moriah, called the Shiloach Spring.
“Shiloach” means “sending away.” Abel’s blood was washed away by the spring waters.
Valley of Hell
The waters washed Abel’s blood into the valley at the southern flank of Mt. Moriah.
There it fertilized the ground which became Cain’s Hell. It has remained cursed for posterity.
The Tophet and the Gehinom
This cursed valley, which absorbed Abel’s blood, was used by the Canaanites to burn children for the sake of the idol Molech.
After them, the evil kings of Judea also burned their children to the Molech, calling the place Tofet, a nickname for burning hell.
At Jeremiah time it was called “The Valley of Hinom,” after its owner, Hinom, in short ‘Geihenom,’another nickname for Hell.
This cursed valley has remained barren till our days.
4: Cain’s Exile
YHVH condemned Cain for exile. That brought Cain to confess and repent with the following moving words:
“My sin is greater than I could bear,
behold, you’ve driven me out this day
from the face of the earth, and from your Face shall I hide?
And I shall be fugitive and vagabond in the earth,
And whoever finds me will kill me!” (Genesis 4: 13)
Cain, worried that someone would avenge Abel’s blood, asked YHVH for help. So YHVH said:
“Therefore, whoever slays Cain,
vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold”
These prophetic words meant:
(1) That Cain would live seven generations before he would finally be avenged
(2) That whoever kills Cain prematurely, he would be avenged ‘sevenfold.’
Those prophetic words would play a major role in Noah’s life story.
To farther protect Cain in exile, YHVH also placed on his head a ‘sign’ as it says:
“And YHVH set a mark (‘ot’) upon Cain
lest anyone finding him should smite him…
“And Cain went out from the presence of YHVH
And he dwelled in the Nod Land, east of Eden…” (Genesis 4: 15)
The Sign (aut) on Cain’s head can be also read as:
1. ‘Aur,’ a light ray that radiated from his forehead to enlighten his way in the woods
2. ‘Aor,” a skin horn that protruded from his forehead so scare animals away
3. ‘Aot’, the letter ‘H’ as an emblem on his head (H is taken from YHVH) to scare people away
4. ‘Aur’, a tumor that protruded from his head, causing him to lose his mind, a sort of blessing in exile
5. ‘Aur’ Light dresses. Whoever wears these dresses would comprehend the animals and would also see Earth from above.
Adam and eve had received these dresses from G-d when they were driven out of Eden. Now they gave the dresses to Cain.
Cain built a city first
Before going to exile, Cain married and begot children. He built a city near the woods, then left society for good and wondered alone, in “No Man’s Land.” He walked naked, with a ferocious dog by his side. .
For long seven generations Cain wondered in the wood. The protruding horn from his forehead gave him a look of an ape with horn. Some say he also gradually lost his mind.
Yet his children flourished.