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The Art of Parenting

Bereishit (Genesis 1:1-6:8 )

by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

The world’s first experience of parenting was a total disaster. What happened?

In Parashat Bereishit we learn how tragedy struck the first family on earth. Adam and Eve were blessed with two children – Cain and Abel. One was murdered and the other was a murderer.

How could this be explained? The world’s first experience of parenting was a total disaster. Adam and Eve couldn’t blame this on the neighbours, nor on negative peer pressure, nor on the grandparents or on television.

There is a clue as to what went wrong through the exclamation of Eve at the time when the first naturally born child came into this world. She said ‘Kaniti Ish Et HaShem’, I have acquired a person with the Lord.

You see, in the same way that God had produced Adam and Eve and they belonged to Him, Eve felt that she had produced Cain, together with God and therefore he belonged to her. Consequently, Cain was called Ka-in, from ‘Kaniti Ish’, I have acquired, he was her acquisition, a possession that she believed belonged to her. So he grew up to be a mollycoddled child, a mummy’s boy and as a result, he lacked self-confidence and he couldn’t handle failure.

So in a situation when Abel’s sacrifice was accepted by God and Cain’s was not, Cain reacted violently because he couldn’t take the situation in which he had failed, while his brother had succeeded.

I believe that there is a very powerful lesson that emerges from here for us. Surely for parents there can be no greater gift on earth than the gift of children. But parents need to remember that we need to love our children, to respect them, to strive to inspire them, to motivate them, to generate the best out of them, but we don’t own them. We always need to respect their independence and the individuality of each one of our children. In order to be able parents, we shouldn’t raise a son like Cain.

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