Thursday, December 18, 2008
Was G-d's Rejection of Kayin's Sacrifice Just? What Does "Also" Mean?
Here's another kasha that my reform rabbi asked against Chazal, our sages, when I was studying with him as either a Sophomore or Junior in high school. I have not heard a satisfying answer to this kasha yet.
He pointed out that Kayin and Hevel (Cain & Abel) both brought offerings to G-d. But that G-d favored Abel's offering but not Kayin's. This sparked Kayin's jealousy of Hevel, which precipitated his murder of Hevel soon afterward. This rabbi pointed out that Chazal (Rashi, Onkelos, Tanchuma, Sifsei Chachamim) say that Hevel brought the best sheep, while Kayin brought his worst produce. He pointed to the pasuk in Breishis 4:4 though that says "וְהֶבֶל הֵבִיא גַם-הוּא מִבְּכֹרוֹת צֹאנוֹ," "And Hevel also ("גַם") brought from the firsborn of his flock." He argued that the word "also" implied contrary to what Chazal say (in explanation of G-d's preference for Hevel's Korban) that Hevel brought a good Korban while Kayin brought a bad one. The word "also," he argues, implies that Kayin and Hevel both brought equally good (or bad) korbanos.
I had thought that perhaps the word "also" does not necessarily imply a sameness in kind or quality between things. However, Rashi's explanation in this week's parsha belies that approach.
In this week's parsha, Vayeishev, the Torah says that Er married Tamar. He committed a certain sin that cost him his life. Then his brother Onan marries her and also dies. In regard to that, the pasuk in Bereishis 38:10 says, "וַיֵּרַע בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה, אֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה; וַיָּמֶת, גַּם-אֹתוֹ." "And what he [Onan] did was evil in the eyes of G-d and He also ("גַּם") killed him. Rashi infers from the use of the word "also" that Onan committed the same sin that Er committed. You can see from here the logical inference that whenever the Torah says "also" does mean that the described idea is the same for the thing before the "also" and the thing after the "also."
So at this point, I don't have an answer to why the word "גַּם" by Kayin and Hevel doesn't imply that their korbanos were of equal quality! I think I've looked in the mikra'os gedolos for a satisfactory explanation in the past but haven't found anything. If anyone else knows a good mehalech, approach, to this question, please let me/us know!
(Picture courtesy of geographyofgrace)
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