by Rabbi Yisrael Kaniel – Oct. 16, 2011
In synagogues around the world, as we culminate the Sukkot holiday and complete another cycle of readings of the Torah, we begin once again with the first Torah section of Bereshit. In the Torah section of Bereshit, we read of G-d’s creation of the heavens and earth, the sun, moon and stars, grass, living creatures and mankind. The creation of mankind first consisted of Adam and Eve. We then read of Adam’s and Eve’s transgression of G-d’s singular prohibition of eating from the Tree of Good and Evil and their pursuant punishment, and then Eve gave birth to Cain and Hevel. As they grow up, Cain begins to grow jealous of Hevel. “And Cain spoke with his brother Hevel; and it happened when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against his brother Hevel and killed him” (Bereshit 4:8).
Upon reading the above verse, it strikes us that Cain spoke to Hevel but we do not see what he actually said. In explanation of this, the famed Gaon of Vilna points out in his commentary on this verse (Peninim M’Shulchan HaGra al Ha’Torah, p. 32) that, according to our Sages (Bereshit Rabba 22:8), Hevel was actually stronger than Cain. Therefore, Cain could not have under normal circumstances overcome Hevel. In order to overcome Hevel, Cain, consequently, was compelled to resort to trickery. He continuously and deliberately referred to Hevel as “his brother,” as emphasized by the verse, and, thereby, through his expressions of brotherhood, lulled Hevel into a false sense of security. Once Hevel dropped his guard and “they were in the field”, far from their parents, then “Cain rose up against his brother Hevel and killed him.” It is this sort of behavior that King David alludes to when he states (Tehillim 28:3), “Do not cause me to be drawn with the wicked and with doers of iniquity, who speak peace with their companions though evil is in their hearts.” According to the Gaon of Vilna, the verse’s emphasis on the term “his brother” indicates that Cain spoke to Hevel in terms of brotherhood. In fact, he points this out even more by G-d’s asking Cain in the following verse (Bereshit 4:9), “Where is Hevel your brother?” Was there another Hevel in the world that G-d needed to specify that He is referring to Cain’s brother? Rather, the Gaon of Vilna suggests that G-d was asking, “Where is the brotherhood that you were constantly expressing?”
All the above notwithstanding, one may still wonder why we were not told anything of what Cain would say to Hevel. In answer, we may say since Cain’s expressions of brotherhood were not sincere, amounting to mere lip service, none of what he had to say was worth repeating.
Expressions of brotherhood should not be mere lip service. Brotherhood is important for mankind, but it must be sincere. Any false expression of brotherhood is meaningless and even harmful and does not rate being mentioned. We must encourage true brotherhood and be on guard from its perversion. Its perversion led to mankind’s first murder and to much harm and bloodshed since. May G-d never take one of us to task, berating us about false expressions of brotherhood and the like that we portray. By false expressions of brotherhood and other such trickery, as in the case of Cain, one will have little to say and much to suffer after being confronted by G-d. May we choose the proper path, the path advocated by G-d, and choose to express true and real brotherhood for our sakes and the sakes of all around us.