Home
In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

The World’s First Murder: A Closer Look at Cain and Abel — Living the dream of Eve

By Rabbi David Fohrman


Printer Friendly Version

Email this article

To sophisticated moderns, the Bible can sometimes seem like a collection of fairy tales. No longer.

Combining a careful reading of the text with ancient rabbinic analysis, the author takes us behind the scenes in Scripture, revealing a startling tapestry of meaning in stories that many have written-off as fiction.

As before, he has designed the series to be interactive. You are encouraged to pose questions and offer comments. Try to stump the rabbi — he'll respond!

The fifth in a series

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | We asked a question a little while ago that I'd like to start turning our attention back to now: Why would Cain, the first person ever recorded to have offered something to G-d, choose to bring merely average produce in that offering? Why would an innovator choose to do something half-way?


In looking around for some clues that might help us with this, it's hard to know where to turn. The text itself is very sparse, which is to say, it doesn't tell us all that much about Cain before he goes and offers his offering, before he goes and kills his brother. But it does tell us something. We are told Cain's name and his profession. He is a man called Cain, and he chooses to become a farmer, a worker of the land.


I mentioned last week that these two things we know about Cain seem related: They both appear to revolve around "land". But I also left you with a homework assignment: To see if you could discern an even deeper level of connection between these two facts, the fact of his name and the fact of his livelihood. If we can succeed in doing this, it may help us understand what motivates Cain, and why he makes the choices he does.


It's time, then, to get to your homework.

CAIN AND EVE

The truth is, we know more about Cain's name than just what it was. We also know how he got it. The text clues us in to the words his mother spoke when she was giving birth to him:


[Eve] conceived and bore Cain. And she said: "I have acquired a man with G-d" (Genesis, 4:1).


At first glance, Eve's exclamation seems a trivial piece of information — a nice bit of color commentary to be sure — but rather unrelated to a larger story that revolves around offerings, jealousy and . Surely, though, the Bible is not reporting mere delivery room banter here. Eve has said something significant. She has said something that matters to our story, otherwise, we wouldn't be hearing about it. But why does it matter?


To see the true significance of her words, the first thing we have to do is gently un-tether ourselves from our English translations. In English, the verse seems to be telling you two disconnected facts: That Eve, after having a child named Cain, just happened to utter such and such a phrase. But the Hebrew tells an entirely different story. Listen to the Hebrew for a moment:


vateled et kayin, vatomar: "kaniti ish et Hashem."


After giving birth to kayin, Eve says kaniti ish et elokim. The name Cain, or in Hebrew kayin, is a paraphrase of the words his mother utters when giving birth to him — that she has "acquired", kaniti, a man with G-d. (1)


Evidently, Cain's name derives, somehow, from what his mother had to say when birthing him. It behooves us, then, to see if we can understand what she was trying to say.

THE WONDER OF IT ALL

"I have acquired a man with G-d".


The phrase, at first, seems kind of strange and cryptic. We might understand it, though, if we consider what we might have said had we found ourselves in Eve's position.


Eve just went through an event we've gotten used to calling "childbirth". Yet Eve didn't just experience any run-of-the-mill act of childbirth, if indeed one can call any birth "ordinary". She was a principal in the first human birth in the history of mankind.


THE RABBI RESPONDS
Following last week's installment we were again flooded by reader participatory mail!

Please click HERE for an 11-minute presentation in which the rabbi highlights and responds via Real Audio to a sampling of your exceptionally smart and perceptive questions.

As this series was designed to be interactive, we encourage you to challenge the rabbi. Don't feel shy about doing so! Use the link in the bio at the bottom of this article to e-mail him.

As a father, I am obviously limited in my ability to talk from experience here. But if I can extrapolate anything from the way my wife looks back at the moments she gave birth to our kids, I can tell you that a woman experiences this event as a supreme wonder. Yes, the experience is usually painful beyond words — but, at least in my wife's case, the enormity of the pain mixed with her palpable sense of awe at what was happening. She was experiencing the creation of a new being, literally, from the inside out. She was not a passive bystander in that experience. She was herself a partner in a new, bold, visceral act of creation.


A partner with whom?


Well, the obvious answer would be "me", the father. But I'm actually not referring to myself here. It is humbling to say so, but the man's role in all this is rather fleeting, and a woman, in the throes of childbirth, can easily overlook it. At least Eve apparently did. The partner I am referring to is another being — the force, as it were, behind the womb.


The womb is an astounding organ. Hundreds of years of medical technology and billions of dollars of research have proven unable to replicate it, let alone design one from scratch. We have learned how to conceive fetuses in test tubes, but we cannot grow them into children without a womb. A child that leaves this special place more than a few months before his time simply has no chance of surviving. There is no such thing as an artificial womb.

Donate to JWR

The uniqueness of the womb is a bit surprising, since at first glance, it doesn't seem to do all that much. But it is precisely the womb's quietness — its ability to be still, to "listen", and to gently respond — that is its genius. Modern science has revealed the womb to be an exquisitely sensitive organ, a vehicle that senses its occupant's every need, and tailors itself to accommodate that need. It provides a precise and ever-changing balance of nutrients, it maintains perfectly calibrated PH levels; it discreetly disposes of toxins; it provides the right enzymes and antibodies at precisely the right time, and in just the right doses. The biochemistry is complex beyond imagining. A womb is not the work of humans. We could have never devised it. Through her womb, a woman encounters not just her child, but the Almighty Himself. In her creativity, she experiences the nearness of the Creator of All.


If every woman who goes through childbirth is at least dimly aware of this mystery — if every woman, at least to some extent, senses the "science-fiction-like" quality of childbirth — think of how Eve must have felt. What she went through didn't just seem utterly new and unprecedented. It was utterly new and unprecedented. This was the first human birth in history. No one had ever been through this before. She must have experienced herself as being part of a miracle beyond imagining.


Eve saw clearly, perhaps, the breathtaking implications of her experience. Until now, there was only one Creator in the world. He alone was responsible for the existence of everything, from moon and stars to grass and trees, elephants and zebras, sky and earth. But all that changed now. Now, G-d had taken a partner, and had ushered her into the great secret of Creation. That partner was Eve.


"I have acquired a man with G-d!", Eve cries exultantly. Look what G-d and I have done. We have created this little man together! Yes, of course, Adam was involved too, but his piece was relatively incidental. A moment and it was all over. Eve carried the child and brought it successfully into the world. I have become a partner with the Divine in the very secret of the Universe. I have shared with him the sweet taste of Creation.

MOSHE, THE CEILING FAN, AND THE TOMATO PLANT

We are now, I think, in a position to see a deeper, more vibrant, link between Cain's name and his profession. It is not just that, as we pointed out last week, both of these revolve around land. Rather, both Cain's name and his profession speak to one of the most intoxicating pursuits that we as human beings can hope to be engaged in. Each speaks to the possibility of becoming a partner with G-d in the act of creation.


Think about it: What's the big deal about being a farmer? Yes, you get the obvious utilitarian benefits. You can get food by raising crops. Plus, you remain connected to land, you remain "grounded", as we suggested last week. But there is something more. There is a great joy to be found in farming. A joy that many of us moderns have become too jaded to see.


In our world, we are used to seeing fruits and vegetables as mere things. We either consume them at our table, if we care about nutrition, or we trade them on the commodities exchange, if we care about our pocketbook. Tomatoes, as any good city-child will tell you, come from the supermarket, not from the ground. But there is another story that fruits and vegetables tell, and it is a story that can leave us awe-struck. We can still access that wonder if we try.


I, personally, discovered that wonder through my child. It sounds ridiculous to say it now, but when my son, Moshe, was maybe three or four year old, I used to regale him at bedtime with stories about him and his imaginary friend, his ceiling fan. Yes, "Moshe and the Fan" had all sorts of adventures together. There were the usual cops and robbers tales, of course, but the story that really captured my son's attention was the one about the tomato garden. It goes like this:


Once upon a time, Moshe took some little seeds from a pouch and sprinkled them on the ground. "What are you doing?" asked his trusty fan. Moshe explained that he was planting tomatoes. "Don't be ridiculous", said the fan, "those aren't tomatoes. Those are little tiny crumbs. And why are you wasting them by putting them on the ground?" Moshe told his fan to be patient, and went to fetch his shovel. "Why are you burying those things?", shrieked the fan, "now you're really ruining them!" But the fan had seen nothing yet. Soon, Moshe started dumping water on the ground with his bucket. "You're drowning everything and just making a muddy mess", said the fan, "let's go home".


But Moshe, the story goes, would not be deterred. He patiently explained to his friend that he was planting seeds; that these would soon grow into green, leafy plants, and that these plants, in turn, would soon give him lots of tomatoes. The fan couldn't contain his laughter. He thought Moshe had lost his mind.


Every day, Moshe would drag his chortling fan back to the same spot in the backyard and would look to see if his plants were growing. And every day, the fan would make fun of him. "This planting thing is ridiculous", chided the fan, "when are you going to outgrow these childhood ?"


Well, you know what happens next. One day, as Moshe was dejectedly walking back from his plot of land, he turned around for one last peek. "There!" he shouted, "do you see that little green shoot? That's my plant!" And sure enough, there it was. The tomato plant continued to grow, and suffice it to say that, by the time bedtime was over, a vindicated Moshe and his no-longer-skeptical fan were delighting in a feast of newly harvested tomatoes.


Every time I would tell this story, my four year old son would be enthralled. It was just the most fabulous tale in the world to him. He wanted to hear it over and over. And he wanted to start planting his own tomatoes.

LIVING THE DREAM OF EVE

Children aren't dumb. One of the big differences between us and them is that we've seen the world more than they have. Often, that translates into valuable life experience — but sometimes, it just means we're more jaded than they are. In the case of Moshe and his tomato plant, I am convinced that it is the child's unabashed wonder and joy that is the more genuine human response to the saga of the tomato plant. A little child knows to pay homage to its spectacular journey from seed to stalk. A grown-up's failure to stand in awe at the tomatoes he puts in his supermarket bag is not, by comparison, anything to be proud of.


So Cain chooses to be a farmer. A strange coincidence, wouldn't you say? Eve exclaims that she has become a partner with G-d in creating new life. And then, Cain, her son, chooses his own path to that same, thrilling, goal. He is not a woman. He cannot bear fruit of the womb. But he can do the next best thing. He can cultivate the fruit of the land. He can do through land what Eve does through her body. He can place a seed in that which is fertile, and become a partner with the Divine in the wondrous unfolding of life.


Cain's name and his profession both point to the intoxicating wonder of the tomato plant. Eve's jubilant exclamation is the seed of Cain's name, and Cain, in turn, devotes his life to planting seeds — seeds which carry forth his mother's dream, bringing it to fruition in the new dimension of agriculture.


Our quest to understand Cain, though, is not over yet. For all of this, somehow, must be relevant to the rest of the story. To jealousy, to offerings and to . In order for us to see how, we need to look a little more carefully at Eve's exclamation of wonder. For in fact, there is something just a little bit odd about what she is saying. Instead of exclaiming, as we might have expected, that she has "created" [Hebrew: barati] a little man with G-d, or that she has "formed" [yatzarti] a little man with G-d, she says something else entirely. She says kaniti… that she has "acquired" a man with G-d.


What does she mean by such strange words? The odd part of her declaration cannot be dismissed as incidental — for it is precisely that "odd" part of what she says that is the genesis of Cain's name: Kayin is named for her word kaniti — I have acquired.


Eve was trying to say something more. And that thought, whatever it was, found living expression in her son. Now we just have to figure out what it was.


(1) Kayin is actually an anagram formed from the first three letters of kaniti . "Kuf", "Nun, "Yud" is transposed, and becomes "Kuf", "Yud", "Nun".

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes uplifting articles. Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment by clicking here.

Yes, send a note. We're waiting to hear from you!

Rabbi David Fohrman teaches Biblical Themes at the Johns Hopkins University, and directs the Hoffberger Foundation for Torah Studies. His intriguing talks on a wide array of Biblical themes are available on tape and CD at jewishexplorations.com


Previously:

Blood on the ground
Echoes of Eden
The enigmatic genius of Cain
A Closer Look at Cain and Abel
Sure, the Bible is holy, but does it really mean anything?


© 2005, Rabbi David Fohrman