Noahide Seven Commandments Torah classes
© 2016 by Rabbi Zvi Aviner
BLOODSHED-3/Cain Murdering Abel
”Cain, where is your brother?”“”
“Cain, where is Abel your brother?”
Last time we learned how Cain prompted himself to commit his bloody action. It did not happen without mental preparation. Cain first dehumanized his brother, demonized him, presented himself as a victim, and then attributed to Abel magic power and control on everything. These steps are taken by anyone perpetrating a MASS MUDER.
Now let’s focus on the murder itself:
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 a classical nickname for Mt. Moriah. (Isaac went out to ‘stroll in the field’ when he met Rebecca. King David bought ‘the field’ to set on it the Temple.)
So the brothers Cain and Abel were on Mt. Moriah when the murder occurred. Now Cain had already have bad thoughts of murdering Abel brewing ‘at the door’ of his heart. But he needed a spark to enkindle and explode his rage. The rabbis in the Talmud argued about the nature of that final spark.
Some say they argued about a woman (the first generation married their sisters.) Indeed, many murders have been committed in that context.
Others say they argued about the OWNERSHIP of “the field,” or of Mt Moriah. This makes sense, since OWNERSHIP, as we’ve said, was the first generation’s PASSION; something they could not have had in Eden. You can see evidence for that passion in the name Eve gave to her firstborn son Cain, saying: “I’ve PURCHASED a Man with YHVH.”
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.
We can see their logic. Adam and Eve had been born on Moriah, and on that site they, the brothers, had set up their Altars to YHVH.
What a paradox: Jeru-Salem, the ‘City of Peace’ is where the first murder occurred.
Indeed, this was a sign for the future: More blood would be shed for Jerusalem, than for any site on Earth.
And more people would claim ownership on Jerusalem than on any other site on Earth.
How did he commit the first murder?
“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)
The verse says that Cain “arose.” It may be a poetical way to describe the ACTION. But the rabbis took this literally: Cain arose from the ground and attacked Abel.
What happened? The rabbis filled the gap: One day, the brothers were alone “in the field,” on 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. Now he pushed Abel to the ground, and tried to kill him in different ways:
He first tried to chok 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 hands, rope (hanging) stick (fire) and stone, the classical four methods of executions by the court. In return he should receive one of these methods on his own head.
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.
Appearing to him from the sky, or better: from his own heart, YHVH asked:
As if She did not know. She had approached Adam and Eve in Eden the same way, after they had committed their sin. YHVH ELoKiM then asked: “Adam, where are you?” As if He/She did not know. YHVH initiated the dialogue, expecting Cain to profess and repent. This had been the first time YHVH showed Herself in Her capacity as a FORGIVING Attribute. Now Cain, like Adam and Eve before him, missed the opportunity. Instead of confessing he said:
“I did not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9)
He did not know
The Midrash noticed that Cain spoke in the past tense: “I did not know.” It can be a poetic expression, but the rabbis saw here the prototype of claims that may murderer offer to the court:
(1) “I did not know” that a blow by stone could kill my brother; I’ve never seen it happening before. Today’s killers would claim: I did not know that my gun would fire. I did not know that the person I hit was standing there…
(2) “I did not know” that I would be punished severely, by execution, for the murder. No one has ever told me about the retribution for killing….
(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. Now it was Her turn to get mad. She told Cain:
“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. We note that YHVH did not charge Cain for having transgressed the Law. She charged him, rather, 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 descendents! I hear them crying!
Cain, what have you done? You have disappointed me!
He faced a double sword
If Cain had thought that the Merciful YHVH would protect him or understand him with COMPASSION, he would be disappointed. In fact, his ‘defense’ in the Court, YHVH, had turned against him. Instead of more Mercy, he received more Anger. Instead of forgiveness, he heard only accusations. Instead of facing one Sword of ELoKiM, he faced now a double sword of YHVH and ELoKiM joining in Oneness against him.
A killer turns the Merciful YHVH to a vengeful JUDGE. (Midrash.)
Here is an evolution in the story of YHVH entering our Universe.
She first came as a Shy Bride, Her Name hidden in the text as an Acronym.
Then in Eden She appeared as a Lover, Side by Side with Her Groom, ELoKiM.
Then She appeared alone in Eve’s words naming Cain, seen in her full capacity as Compassionate and Merciful ‘Mother.’
Then She showed at Cain’s heart, warning, still loving him.
After the murder, She turned into an angry Attribute, vengeful, He sword raised Side by Side with the Sword of Her Groom, ELoKiM.
She would raise Her Sword against any exceedingly evil people: like the generation of the Flood, of Sodom and Gomorrah, as well as against the evil Pharaoh.
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)
According to YHVH, the ground that swallowed Abel’s blood would become Cain’s Hell.
A killer should not expect to enter Hell in Heavens. His Hell lies in the very ground the blood of his victim has penetrated.
The Hell of those who operated Auschwitz is in Auschwitz itself, in its barracks, in its ovens.
Now since Cain killed his brother on Mt. Moriah, would his Hell be on that holy site? How could that be?
The crack in the rock
The rabbis therefore said that Abel’s blood did not stay on Moriah. It was soaked into a crack in the rocky ground and went down into the abyss underneath the Mountain.
That crack in the rock, the rabbis said, would later become the base for the Altar that stood in the Temple’s courtyard.
The blood of the sacrifices would atone for Abel’s blood.
The Shiloach Spring
Abel’s blood then returned to the surface through a Water Spring that is still seen at the eastern slope of Mt. Moriah, called the Shiloach Spring. “Shiloach” means “to send away.” Abel’s blood did not stay there. It was washed away by the Spring’s waters.
Valley of Hell
The Shiloach Waters carried Abel’s blood to a valley located at the southern flank of Mt. Moriah. There it fertilized the ground which became Cain’s Hell. It has remained a cursed valley for posterity.
The Tophet and the Gehinom
This cursed valley, which absorbed Abel’s blood, was turned by the Canaanites into a horrible place where children were burned for the sake of the idol Molech.
After the Canaanites were gone, the evil kings of Judea burned their children to the Molech in the same valley. The furnace was called Tofet, a name which has become a nickname for any hot place where bodies are burned. It is Hell.
Later, in Jeremiah’s time, the site was called “The Valley of Hinom,” after its owner, Hinom.
Hence the name ‘Gai-Ben-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, saying 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)
Worried that someone would avenge Abel’s blood, Cain asked YHVH for help. So YHVH said:
“Therefore whoever slays Cain,
vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold”
These prophetic wards 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. Before leaving home for exile, Adam and Eve gave Cain a present to protect him in the woods: their miraculous dresses. YHVH ELoKiM had given them those airy dresses when they had left Eden to exile on Earth. Whoever wears the dresses would comprehend the animal’s languages and see Earth from above.
Again, those gifts to Cain would play a major role in Noah’s life story.
Cain built a city first
Before going to exile, Cain married and begot children. He even built them a city near the woods. Then he left society for good and wondered alone in the woods, also called “No Man’s Land.” He lived there with only a ferocious dog for company.
For long seven generations Cain walked naked, his long hair and the protruding horn from his forehead made him look like an ape or a mythical figure. Slowly he lost his mind and he had no more contact with people till his death.
END OF BLOODSHED 3