Obsession With Earth: What We Can Learn from Kain

A gitte voch! There’s an interesting aspect of the story of Kain and Hevel that I noticed doing sh’nayim mikra v’echod targum (twice Hebrew and once Aramaic translation) before Shabbos, and some thoughts came to me during seudas shlishis. As the story is known, Kain brings from his vegetable crops to Hashem as an offering, and Hevel brings meat and fat from his choicest animals. So now the commonly asked question is why should Hashem have been so displeased with Kain’s offering, wasn’t it the best he could give with the material he worked with? The answer is hidden in the exact wording of the pesukim and the concepts we can elaborate therefrom.

Kain is described as עבד אדמה, a servant of the earth, in Aramaic פלח בארעא, working in/with earth. Hevel is called רעה צאן, a shepherd of sheep. The metaphysical difference shown by the archetypes of these two people is quite profound. Kain represents the person who serves the earth, essentially a pagan. Though he recognized Hashem, he was primarily involved with serving the earth, essentially a form of Avodah Zarah (idol worship). Hevel reigned over his flock in a sense, rather than serving it. We can learn how to conduct ourselves in parnossoh from this.Kain is the person who is invested entirely in making money, the things of this world, represented by the word for earth in Hebrew, אדמה. The earthly things in and of themselves become the focus. Hevel on the other hand is the person who does business with emunah. He reigns over his livelihood, but it isn’t his obsession. To be like Hevel is not too difficult: the key thing is to avoid obsession with making money. The best advice for this is to have an established time for learning Torah in the morning and in the evening, just as brought as halacha in the Shulchan Aruch.

A gitte voch and a git choidesh everyone! Hashem should help us that Mar Cheshvan should no longer be bitter (Mar), and rather we should have a Cheshvan Masuk (Sweet Chesvhan)!

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