Sunday, August 14, 2005

Concerning sinat chinam: My husband's D'var Torah on Shabbat Chazon

Perhaps my favorite part of the Chumash is the very beginning of it. However, I never get a chance to comment on it because the Rabbi is always here at that time of the year. So, today, I am going to use the story of Cain and Abel as my takeoff point. After Adam and Eve are thrown out of the Garden of Eden, Eve conceives and gives birth to Cain, then to Abel. Cain becomes a farmer and Abel becomes a shepherd. Those are the two major occupations of earliest society. As such, Cain and Abel represent the two opposing forces of the Jew. The tolerant force and the hostile force. The text tells that Abel brought of his best flocks, but does not say how Cain chose which of his fruits to sacrifice. G-d chose to favor Abel’s sacrifice over Cain’s. As a result, Cain became angry and killed Abel. As punishment, Cain was to be a ceaseless wanderer, but to keep him alive, G-d put a mark on him.

Later on, the earliest Hebrews left the Holy Land and became slaves in Egypt, until G-d decided it was time to get them out and bring them back to the Holy Land. The Garden of Eden can be symbolic of the Holy Land. On the way back, we see the same forces among the Israelites as between Cain and Abel. Moses had a deuce of a time dealing with those who kept complaining that they were taken out of Egypt to die in the desert. There were threats against Moses’ authority.

Roughly fifteen hundred years later, during the second temple era, different sects of Judaism had arisen that were opposed to each other. Some were in cahoots with the Romans. Early Christianity arose during that conflict which was to be a menace to Jews during the upcoming exile. The main point was that Jews hated Jews and that led to the destruction of the temple and dispersion. Cain again was killing Able and Cain became a ceaseless wanderer, living in hostile lands outside the Holy Land. Which was worse, idol worship which led to destruction of the first temple or causeless hatred which led to the destruction of the second temple? Evidently, this causeless hatred turned out to be a worse desecration of G-d’s name.

Now, let’s come to the present. The Jews have lived through two thousand years of ceaseless wandering and now by force of history have possession of the Holy Land again. We still are seeing those same two forces today, represented by pluralism and fundamentalism. Particularly in the last twenty years, we see a split in the Jewish community between the religious and non-religious, the Orthodox and non-orthodox, the Haredi and other orthodox groups. They are co-existing today in Israel and America and elsewhere. But for how long? Each criticizes the other’s life styles, styles of davening, clothing, studying, and the list goes on and it gets ugly. When I was in Israel back in 1978, I noticed then a tug of war between the two opposing forces. I thought to myself then that if the Palestinian problem is ever solved, the two opposing forces will destroy the country from within in ways in which the Arabs could never do it. Since then we had an assassination of a Prime Minister over issues related to these opposing forces. I shudder to think of what I may see when I go there next week, during the proposed Gaza pullout with the hope of making peace with the Arabs. This Cain vs Abel conflict is putting the Israel on the brink of a civil war which will destroy it.

Think about that when lamenting for the temple tonight and tomorrow. Ask yourself these questions: Do we deserve a temple today? Should its mode of worship be left in history? Which force is Cain and which is Abel? Should we better be praying for a reconciliation o.f Jewry?


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