Cain and Abel | Two perspectives
BY NETIV / THE PATH · JANUARY 22, 2016
Cain and Abel | Two perspectives
By Lewis Ludovit Kulcsar, Prague Czechoslovakia
“Now it came to pass at the end of days, that Cain brought of the fruit of the soil an offering to the Lord. And Abel he, too, brought of the firstborn of his flocks and of their fattest, and the Lord turned to Abel and to his offering. But to Cain and to his offering He did not turn, and it annoyed Cain exceedingly, and his countenance fell. And the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you annoyed, and why has your countenance fallen? Is it not so that if you improve, it will be forgiven you? If you do not improve, however, at the entrance, sin is lying, and to is its longing, but you can rule over it” (Genesis – Bereshit 4, 3-7)
Not so long ago, an explanation one on the story of Cain and Abel found on Christian server struck me:“God didn’t like the sacrifice of Cain, since he sacrificed his offering without faith and from the ground that has been cursed. Abel brought a blood sacrifice (a Lamb) of reconciliation having faith in God’s promises and accepted the fact that “without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins” The fact that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted by God – as appropriate – and Cain’s was not, ignites in the heart of Cain hatred and he kills his brother ”.
I will try to contemplate over what Torah says on this matter and what it does say to the contrary in explanation to the Christian server.
So what this narrative says, as we read the text
The Lord sees the heart of Cain “Why are you annoyed, and why has your countenance fallen?“ Cain is not able to conceal anything, nor the very last nook of his heart.And, despite that he tried to, he cannot bribe HaShem, neither he can placate Him. HaShem looks into Cain’s heart, and something there is not in order.
HaShem is however still interested in Cain: “and it annoyed Cain exceedingly, and his countenance fell. And the Lord said to Cain“..and right away, and very fairly, says to Cain his diagnosis and prescribes how to treat this ֵתי ִטיב problem: „Is it not so that if you improve, it will be forgiven you?“ Torah uses term(improve -> make better, mend), which does imply to us, people of other languages, that Cain is asked to correct or fix something in order to be accepted.
As far as Cain makes corrections (repents; does his teshuva), he can be sure, he will be accepted.
HaShem goes appearently even further in determining a treatment. Not only He stipulates how to get out of the problem, but is also accurate in consequences caused by neglecting or ignoring the treatment: „If you do not improve, however, at the entrance, sin is lying, and to is its longing, but you can rule over it”
HaShem clearly says to Cain that he has the potentiality to rule over sin, and also says that it is up to him, and in his control. Cain therefore must have the capacity to get this evil inclination under his rule.
So in summary:Cain could not make sacrifices (whether as gratitude, or for his own iniquities) unless he has “corrected heart” “Corrected heart” is manifested by acts of remedy (teshuva) and doing what is good. If it was not so, HaShem wouldn’t ask Cain to do so. Once Cain does this correction everything will be fine (and HaShem accepts his sacrifice). Cain has the power (if HaShem says so, it must be truth) to rule over a sin.
What does the Christian explanation say about the story of Cain and Abel
It says that Cain sacrificed his offering without faith and from the ground that has been cursed.So if this explanation alleges, that it was “without faith” then there is minimally arising one question – on what basis does it says so?What does the writer of this explanation understand under “faith”?Man is constructed in a way that he does what he believes in. If I drive a car, and I want to turn left, I turned the steering wheel to the left, because I believe that the car turns that way. If I invest all the time into business, it is because I believe that money is what will make me happy and fulfilled.
Let’s take two scenarios of that explanation:Cain (acting as he believes – or in accordance with his faith) brings his victim and something he expects and anticipates will be accepted by HaShem, based on this his faith. Consequently, as he believed and acted so, he gets angry and frustrated particularly because he sacrificed having this faith.
Cain brings his sacrifice without faith (knowing that his act is just a farce), and thus what would he be expecting from HaShem, which knows all about him, with whom he communicated (at perhaps a different level than a nowadays man)?Would he be disappointed and angry?
Furthermore, in the explanation it says that: Abel brought a blood sacrifice (a Lamb) Reconciliation of faith in God’s promises and accepted that “without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins”The question is whether this claim is accurate or correct.
When one reads in Torah about the sacrifices, one matter stands out. There is always a comment saying that the sacrifice is for unintentional or unknowingly committed sins.Why is that?
It is written also that “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; O God, You will not despise a broken and crushed heart”. (Psalm 51, 19)
Equally king David repented And David said to Nathan: “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “Also the Lord has removed your sin; you shall not die, and David was forgiven. Without shedding of blood?
And what about residents of Nineveh? Were they not forgiven when they seriously repented?
How is it with a sin?
Cain committed in his heart intentional and willful sin. In case the sacrifice of both brothers served also as a sin offering, then it only could have been for unconscious and unintentional sins.
Let’s stop at the word “intentional”. What is the essence of this word, intention? It’s the idea, a plan, setting of ones personality to be able to execute the plan (which means to accept the plan by heart, fortify it with emotions, arouse those emotions and, in fact, the whole being into action…)This is a deliberate deed, regardless whether in essential or marginal matter, regardless of whether it is a case of one occasional deed or an endless series of repeated deeds of the same kind.
On contrary, an unintentional act (or sin) lacks many of the previous type. In particular, it lacks the awareness that something is wrong, that something wrong is about to be performed, or planned, or thought of.
Why not sacrifice for deliberate and conscious sins?
HaShem loves us – his creations – and cares about us. Giving us free will, he made us not robots, but potential partners. Whether we become actual partners is our own decision. But again – decision is an act producing fruit of existence of a free will.Once we realize that Creator exists and subsequently we recognize there is some relationship between Him and us, we than have to admit that this relationship has its own life, progress and rules. Man to man, or better husband to wife relationship is very analogical, and is sort of a reflection of this primary relationship.Let’s take a relationship between husband and wife as a parable.
The husband is faithful and loving, only he is too scatterbrained, and is constantly immersed either in business, work or study. His beloved one is basically happy, however from time to time, there is more or less harsh reproach from her side. Then him, realizing he did something wrong in being inattentive, he has to pay a penalty. He has to make it up to her. And, realizing his mistake, he does it willingly. He willingly sacrifices his time, attention, effort or money in order to iron it out. This is unintentional failure or sin, when penalty (which is in fact sacrifice) plays its role.
But what if the husband was unfaithful and his heart would be after another woman. She would figure it out, got really frustrated and they would have a serious talk over the issue. The deed of unfaithfulness is without any doubt planned and perpetuated deliberately and intentionally. The question then is, what would she do, if he was bringing her flowers for example? I believe, any normal woman would get even more angry or at least the moment of flowers being brought to her would be ruefully distressed.
At that moment, let’s say, he would feel offended she didn’t accept his “penalty” (his countenance would fall), and would offer his ultimate sacrifice, his life as for remedy. Would that work? Or what if he brought to her some innocent human being as a sacrifice to shed his or her blood, as a substitutionary sacrifice for his iniquity. Would that work?? More probably it would make her exceedingly angry and disappointed…
It simply wouldn’t work. Somewhere in her heart, if she loved him still, she would want him to be different, and then her heart would forgive and accept him back. She would be longing to see him rule over that matter with a change of heart.
Returning back to the story on which this article is about, we see that if Cain has the capacity, or let’s say there is an option (and if God says there is, then there indeed is!) that he would rule over and that this is the only matter that would solve the problem, why then is there suddenly a need for a sacrifice, and for bloody one?If the problem laid in the character of sacrifice, as it was portrayed in Christian server explanation, why wasn’t HaShem fair enough to Cain, and why didn’t He tell him “I didn’t turn to you because you brought me only miserable wheat, however your brother brought me real sacrifice full of pouring blood, which is what I love and respect”. Or something in this sense…
The problem is that HaShem did not say anything like that. He only asked (or proposed to) Cain to improve. He only asked him to repent.