27 Tishrei 5777 פרשת בְּרֵאשִׁית,כ”ז תשרי, תשע”ז
Last year when speaking on Bereshit, I mentioned that the Torah defines Science; Science does not define the Torah but corroborates what it says. Although our Creator spoke in seemingly simple terms to a simple people, the depths of the Torah are just being revealed by scientists who study quantum physics. The six days of creation are considered by fundamentalists to be a literal six days while more liberal thinkers regard the earth as being billions of years old. With the advances of quantum physics they compare the universal clock with the earthly clock. The Psalms say that one day is like a thousand years and this now makes sense to these scientists who now look at time differently than the average person. This however is not what I would like to focus my message on for today.
I have been speaking about bechira chofshit or free will, the greatest gift that our Creator could have given us, with the understanding that each one of us is responsible to the Creator for our actions and our behavior. Religious people try to remove this responsibility from us passing it on to someone else or “passing the buck”. The offerings or korbanot were interpreted as the means of pacifying or appeasing an angry god. This theological invention teaches that since man cannot atone for his own sins, he needs someone else to do that for him. This is not what our Creator is teaching us. Most of us prefer to blame others or to have someone else pay for what we do. This concept is more of an insurance that we will get to heaven rather than an act of obedience to a loving God. Religions teach ideas that are self- serving rather than loving and serving God and being thankful that He has simply given us life. The fifth commandment states that we are to honor our mother and father. It doesn’t clarify why we are to honor them; it is simply so that our lives can be extended. We are to compare them with the Creator who gave us the gift of life. Today’s younger generation is one of entitlement where so many children today blame their parents when things don’t go exactly as they imagine it should. It is time for us to get back on track. Parents are wrong when they do not teach their children to be responsible. The Proverbs tell us to teach the children the way they should act because we want the best for them.
Let’s turn to Bereshit 4: 1-16. 1 The man had intercourse with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain. ‘I have acquired a man with the help of Adonai,’ she said.2 She gave birth to a second child, Abel, the brother of Cain. Now Abel became a shepherd and kept flocks, while Cain tilled the soil.
The Creator never accuses. He waits for us to respond to Him. We are responsible for how we respond to Him. Here, after they had been expelled from Gan Eden, their life became very hard. Adam would work the land with the sweat of his brow and Eve would bear children with pain. Certain religions state that they are no longer under the law, free from the curse of the law. I ask their women who have given birth if they did so with no pain. Their response is obvious. They cannot say they are no longer under the curse of the “Law” no matter how much they may try to justify it. The Torah contains many allegorical stories which are to be used as teaching tools for everyone. It is best to extract its teachings rather than to take it so literally.
3 Time passed and Cain brought some of the produce of the soil as an offering for Adonai, 4 while Abel for his part brought the first-born of his flock and some of their fat as well. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering 5 but he did not look with favor on Cain and his offering, and Cain was very angry and downcast.
Here we see that Cain was a farmer and Abel was a cattle-man and both have brought their offerings to the LORD. Theologians have tried to differentiate between the offerings according to produce and animal. They argue that Abel’s offering was considered better because God rejoiced in the blood of the slain animal. This is a totally pagan understanding where blood has to be poured out in order to pay for sin. This is not what the Torah actually says. Our Creator judges us though the heart, by our intentions. If you read carefully you will see that it says that Abel brought the “first born of his flock.” The message is subtle but clear. Cain brought an offering while Abel brought the best – the first fruits of his labor. Later we will see that the commandments of our Creator exhort us to bring Him the best, the first of everything as we give Him thanks for all that He has provided for us. Our Creator knew Cain’s heart and weighed Abel’s. That is why He accepted Abel’s offering. He did not reject Cain himself but wanted to show him that he had a long way to go. Cain however was not happy with this. This became a case of sibling rivalry where Cain believed that God preferred Abel. My brother is more gifted or better than me so I’ll kill him!
The next passage is very interesting. 6 Adonai asked Cain, ‘Why are you angry and downcast? 7 If you are doing right, surely you ought to hold your head high! … In other words, if Cain did the right thing, God would accept it and rejoice with him. He as His Creator doesn’t need anyone’s leftovers. He wanted to see that his heart was grateful to Him for all his provision. It demonstrated that Cain was doing this simply for the sake of doing it however there was no joy associated with this act of giving. How many of us come to the congregation to supposedly worship God but we come for the wrong reasons: perhaps we think that God will punish us if we don’t attend, or our business won’t prosper. Do you think you can fool the Creator? How many of us are deceiving ourselves?
…But if you are not doing right, sin is crouching at the door hungry to get you. You can still master him.’ Here the word for sin is chataat. – purge meaning he would be purged within and then be able to overcome. The Creator was telling Cain that He knows that we as humans will fail; that it’s okay for us to get upset and have a temper tantrum but after this we need to come to our senses and start over with the right attitude. Cain was unable to overcome this. He allowed his emotions to rule over him. When we cannot control our emotions and we react, it usually has bad results. There is a difference between a crime of passion and a premeditated crime.
8 Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let us go out’; and while they were in the open country, Cain set on his brother Abel and killed him. We see “his brother” repeated seven times representing completeness. Why did the Creator accept Abel’s offering? It was because of his attitude; it had nothing to do with the offering; it could have been anything. Cain was given the opportunity to think about what he had done. He would have been accepted if he had changed his attitude. The Creator always gives us the choice to choose life but Cain chose death.
9 The LORD asked Cain, ‘Where is your brother Abel? I do not know,’ he replied. ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ If He is the Creator wouldn’t He know where Abel was? He spoke these same words to his parents, Adam and Eve. The Creator is constantly reaching out to us with extended arms giving us the opportunity to make things right. He is not a god who waits to point a finger at us ready to accuse us and condemn us. We are the one who condemns ourselves. I have dealt with many people who were upset saying that they cannot believe in a God who allows so much injustice and evil in the world. If they could they would kill everyone but themselves. They forget about free will and that we make our own choices. The Creator doesn’t intervene so that we can learn to live with the consequences of our own choices.
10 ‘What have you done?’ The LORD asked. ‘Listen! Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground.11 Now be cursed and banned from the ground that has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood at your hands.12 When you till the ground it will no longer yield up its strength to you. A restless wanderer you will be on earth.’
These are the consequences of human behavior and they affect all of creation. We see this in the world today. We read the news about the Middle East and the result of this behavior at the city of Mosul. These holy people who say that they are defending the honor of their god by holding at least 5000 people hostage. If they are attacked these people will die. They can kill but they cannot be killed. This is their god!
13 Cain then said to Adonai, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear. Here it seems that there is finally a little light of teshuva by Cain. This is an important lesson for us. The Creator is not only speaking about Cain’s punishment. How do you feel when you have a guilty conscience? Did you know that much of the mental illness today comes from a guilty conscience together with unresolved issues, evil desires, unforgiveness, lack of trust and so forth?
14 Look, today you drive me from the surface of the earth. I must hide from you, and be a restless wanderer on earth. Why, whoever comes across me will kill me!’
When we are in sin, God hides His face from us until we make it right. He has not abandoned us; we are the ones who have closed the doors. That is why we are to take the time at Yom Kippur to make it right. This is the beginning of starting a new life. This is such an important aspect of the Moedim, the Appointed Times given to our by our Creator.
15 And the LORD said to him, whoever kills Cain, vengeance shall me taken upon him seven fold. The Lord set a mark on Cain lest anyone finding him should kill him. 16 Cain went out from the presence of the LORD and dwelt in the land of Nod, east of Eden.
Cain would begin his life as a vagabond, trying to find himself and the Creator’s forgiveness. I believe that the Creator forgave Cain when he came to him acknowledging that his punishment was too great for him to bear. However He didn’t remove the consequences of his sin. We often have the problem of accepting the Creator’s forgiveness, not because we don’t want it but what we actually want is to be relieved of the consequences of our disobedience. Then we are set free as our Messiah Yeshua told us in his prayer, “Our father who art in heaven….forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Examine the image that our Creator is giving us here and that we are being reminded of by our Messiah Yeshua. The person, who doesn’t forgive, lives in the prison of unforgiveness. It is as if the one who we don’t forgive is still controlling us. Forgiveness allows us to be released and allows the Creator to perform His justice. Yeshua brought us back to Torah so that we could follow our Creator in a better way. My God is the God of beginning again!