As I mentioned in a previous post, I have had the zechus to be able to listen to my Rosh Yeshiva’s vaadim. They are just a pleasure to hear, as they deliver such a sharp message, albeit guised in the form of stories that bring across the point. Recently, I was listening to a piece where he is reading from the sefer Madregas Ha’adam, which was written by the Alter of Novhardok. There, the concept of Kayin and Hevel (Cain and Abel) is discussed, specifically in the context of Hashem’s admonition to Kayin, before he killed Hevel, to be aware of the sin that is crouching in wait for him at the doorway. He explains that the Yetzer Hara’s job is to get us through the doorway of sin. Once we have passed a certain threshold, human nature is to say, “It’s too late for me.” Thus, despite the fact that the person may not have sinned, a person feels that the sin is already inevitable. Thus, the job of the Evil Inclination is accomplished even before the sin – just by getting one past this threshold. This is an amazing insight into how our minds are programmed.
In reading this piece, my Rosh Yeshiva explained the story of Kayin and Hevel in a very interesting light, which started the gears rolling in my mind.
The Torah describes how Kayin brings an offering to Hashem. Hevel sees this, and then offers his own sacrifice. The difference between the two, however, was that Kayin did not bring the highest quality of his produce, whereas Hevel did. Hashem acknowledged the offering of Hevel, and Kayin became upset that his own was rejected. Eventually, this anger fueled his murderous act on his brother.
Rabbi Perr explained that if we look at the story carefully, we see a remarkable thing. Imagine you come home one day, and your mother had prepared a wonderful meal for you. You sit down to eat, and you think to yourself, “My mother spent so much time preparing this meal. I want to show her appreciation. I think I will give her some of my food to show her how thankful I am.” Your mother made food for herself as well, so she does not need the piece you are giving back. Nevertheless, you want to express your gratitude.
I think we can safely say that most of us have never done such a thing. This was Kayin’s chiddush – even though Hashem does not need the offering, He wanted to express his gratitude for all Hashem did for him. The concept was there, but it was marred by Kayin’s one provision. He said to himself, “Hashem does not actually need this offering for Himself, it is just a token of my appreciation, so it is not necessary for me to give Him the best.”
Hevel saw the great concept that Kayin had introduced, but he took it one step further. He realized that if the entire purpose of the offering was to show gratitude, it needed to be done with something that was precious to the one showing his thanks. It is natural for one to feel that he has accomplished on his own, especially when he experiences the thrill of the first of his crops, or the first of whatever he has produced. It was specifically this item which Hevel realized must be dedicated to Hashem, to recognize that all is from Him.
When Kayin saw that Hevel had imitated his own initiative, and only Hevel’s sacrifice was accepted, this angered him and led to his heinous act of murder.
End quote of my Rosh Yeshiva.
If we follow the story here, a very interesting theme becomes apparent. In essence, Kayin was the one who introduced the novel concept of this offering to Hashem. Hevel was the one who perfected it and brought the concept to its completion. It could be said that when Hashem accepted Hevel’s offering, in truth he was accepting Kayin’s offering as well. Hevel’s sacrifice represented the completion and perfection of Kayin’s new concept, and the acceptance of the second sacrifice meant that the concept that Kayin had introduced was a pleasing one to Hashem. What Kayin failed to see was that although his own personal sacrifice had not been accepted, the reception of Hevel’s offering actually represented a greater acceptance – the acceptance of the combination between Kayin’s concept and Hevel’s addition.
Here we see a clear parallel to the concepts of Moshiach ben Yosef and Moshiach ben Dovid. Moshiach ben Yosef corresponds to the idea of the chiddush – the novel concept – the almost infinite and incompletely defined mode of service of Hashem. This is also represented by the fact that Yosef corresponds to the Bris, which is the infinite potential of the creative force of Man. Moshiach ben Dovid corresponds to the Female force that defines and constricts, refining the infinite force into a single child. In this case, Kayin was working in the mode of Moshiach ben Yosef, bringing down the concept of the service of Hashem through this show of gratitude. Hevel, acting in the role of Moshiach ben Dovid, refined and perfected this concept, completing it by bringing the greatest tribute possible.
Kayin’s failure was the classic failure of a Moshiach ben Yosef, as we have seen in regards to Esav, Shaul, and Yeravam ben Nevat. Each one fails to see that his role is to facilitate the completion of the tikkun that is necessary, to act as the first step in the service of Hashem. They fail to realize that the second stage can only be completed by Moshiach ben Dovid (Yakov, Dovid, and Rechavam), but the second stage is, in reality, a true completion of their own efforts, representing a greater achievement than either could have accomplished alone. As a result of this failure, there is a psychological separation that takes place, where Moshiach ben Yosef sees his counterpart, Moshiach ben Dovid, as a threat to himself, instead of seeing him as a completion and complement to his role, as he is in reality. The result is the desire on the part of Moshiach ben Yosef to murder Moshiach ben Dovid. In the story of Kayin and Hevel, the murder is indeed achieved. In the successive stories of Esav and Shaul, there was only the attempt to do so, which did not meet with success.
I would like to take this concept one step further and share an insight with you that I had recently. I received an email from a good friend which expressed a difficulty with something he had understood from the deeper wisdom of our tradition. It is ironic, but whereas the non-Orthodox Jewish world superficially sees Halacha and Torah as looking down on women, in truth, as one learns the deeper sources, it would seem that women are on a much greater level than men in many different areas. Thus, the woman’s lack of obligation in certain areas represents her more perfect nature. A man needs greater rectification, thus he must have more mitzvos to accomplish that. A woman has a more refined sense of spirituality, as opposed to the man whose spiritual nature seems to be more coarse and hidden. Even in the physical sense, man seems to merely be there to facilitate the woman in her ability to bring a human being into the world. My friend therefore asked, Are we men just second-rate citizens here?
The truth is that this question is really predicated on the mistake of the fallen Moshiach ben Yosefs, because the question assumes that in order to accomplish, one must do so alone. This is a classic male mode of thinking, and indeed if one looks around, very generally speaking, men usually accomplish as solo acts, whereas women are known to be better team players.
The truth, however, is that Hashem’s intent with creation was that man and woman act in tandem, realizing that each one can not accomplish to the fullest without the other. The male force is the force of conception, of infinite potential. The female force is one of definition and bringing the potential to its realization. This is ultimately the lesson of the balance between Moshiach ben Yosef and Moshiach ben Dovid. It is truly the balance between the male and female forces.
It is our obligation to understand that ultimately we must work together, whether we represent the male force of Moshiach ben Yosef or the female forc
e of Moshiach ben Dovid. The final result will not be the product of any individual force by itself, it can only be the beautiful synthesis of the two forces coming together into a perfect whole, which is the perfection that Hashem will ultimately accept, just as he accepted the perfect sacrifice of Hevel.