> Weekly Torah Portion > Beginner > Straight Talk

What Did Cain Say?

Bereishit (Genesis 1:1-6:8 )

by Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt

Rather than look inside to find the fault and its solution, it is far easier to shift the blame to someone else.

In the story of Cain and Abel, we see the first ever act of wanton violence. It didn't take us long and, unfortunately, it was just a taste of things to come.

Let's recap for a moment: God accepts Abel's sacrifice, but not Cain's (because Cain brought second rate goods whereas Abel brought the best). Cain is upset and angry. God questions his reaction, telling him that good and evil are completely his to choose. There is no need to be upset, merely to choose. The fact that he has made a mistake has not made him a bad person. He still has the same ability to choose good as he had before he made his mistake.

All well and good, but then comes a very strange sentence: "...Cain said to his brother Abel and then, when they were in the field, he rose up and killed him..."

The Sages point out that surely there are some missing words here. The verb "said" has no object. What exactly did Cain say? And why would the Torah say he said something if it's not going to tell us what he said?!

The Sages explain: What Cain said is irrelevant. What is relevant is that he said. Cain was picking a fight. He could have said anything; it wouldn't really have mattered. He was looking for an excuse to blame someone else for his own failures and shortcomings.

Is this not the root of so much strife and argument in our own lives? We are dissatisfied with our situation, and rather than look inside to find the fault and its solution, it is far easier to shift the blame to someone else. Very often those "someone elses" are the people we love the most.

The Sages tell us that when we are upset and frustrated with anyone, but especially those we love, the first question we must ask ourselves, and answer with all honesty is this: Is it their problem or mine? Much of the time, the problem is our own. We need to be brave and honest enough to recognize that. For as long as we seek to blame others for our own frustrations and shortcomings, we will never change.


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