The story of Cain and Abel is deeply troubling. For some unstated reason, God accepts the offering of Abel and rejects the offering of Cain. In his bitterness and jealousy, Cain murders Abel, the first homicide.
Angel for Shabbat
As we enter the holy day season, it is important for us to remember that we each stand before the Almighty, who Alone knows the essence of who we are. The ultimate Arbiter of the value of our lives is the One to whom we are answerable. There is no point in pretending to be what we aren't, or in posturing to make ourselves more important in the eyes of others--God always knows the Truth about who we are.
Such is the nature of Godliness: to use our God-given talents to raise ourselves and others to a more spiritual level of perception. “Fraudliness” is —fraudulent. It is pretend religion. It is egotism dressed in the cloak of religion.
Professor Gershom Scholem wrote: “The Jewish mystic lives and acts in perpetual rebellion against a world with which he strives with all his zeal to be at peace” (Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, p. 34). I think this statement is true not only of mystics, but of all truly religious individuals.
I recently met with a friend who is a very successful entrepreneur who deals with top people at leading high-tech companies such as Microsoft, Google and Amazon. He told me that when these companies look to hire new employees, they especially value applicants with entrepreneurial experience—even if these applicants had run their own businesses and failed
The famed American Jewish novelist, Saul Bellow, coined a phrase: "warehouse of good intentions." People had intended to contact an old friend...but didn't get around to it. People had planned on supporting a particular charity...but didn't find time to write the check. People had wanted to express their appreciation and love to a special person or persons...but the opportunity seemed never to arise.
The Torah may be teaching us--by the silence of the Israelites--something very deep (and troubling) about human nature. It wasn't that the Israelites were bad people. No, they were simply "normal" people who wanted to get on with their lives. They "used" Moses as long as he was available. When he could no longer deliver them goods and services, they turned their thoughts to the next leader and to their future journeys.
We always need to be deeply connected to our historical roots, and to feel as though we are an organic part of Jewish history. At the same time, though, we need always to be alert to new realities and to respond appropriately to the present challenges.
As we prepare for the observance of Tisha B’Av, let us take time to ponder the mystery and the wonder of Jewish peoplehood. The Exodus was the formative experience that propelled our people into history. The Exile was the experience that underscored our national courage, resilience, compassion and determination. The Torah was—and is—the foundation of our spiritual teachings, our ideas and our ideals.
In his essay “Fate and Destiny,” Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik delineates two aspects of Jewish peoplehood: the camp and the congregation. “The camp is created as a result of the desire for self-defense and is nurtured by a sense of fear; the congregation is created as a result of the longing for the realization of an exalted ethical idea and is nurtured by the sentiment of love. Fate reigns in unbounded fashion in the camp; destiny reigns in the congregation….”