This is my uncle‘s first contribution to BMid. I’m so excited to have his writing here. This piece definitely touched me. Deena
One morning, I awoke with anxiety-plus stemming from the pressures of life and its many confrontations. Rather than letting my cyclical thoughts go on like a clothes dryer spinning wildly during the rinse cycle, I got out of bed – to do something different, something that might bring me peace of mind.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” I read this perhaps for the 45th time in my life. I read this for the very first time ever. Excitedly, I studied the inventiveness uncovered in each of the first six days of our world – the seas, insects, animals, fruit trees, man and then woman. “And he saw that his work was good.” Then Shabbat was created.
The parshah talked to me. I saw it was good and it gave me peace. It did as I looked to the “great light” – the blue heavens of the morning – and glimpsed the moon, which would soon bashfully hide its face until light turns to darkness.
An aloof chilly autumn wind tapped me on my shoulder – in fact, accosted me – but my tallit, a sacred woolly shawl, was impenetrable. My usual cold skepticism of ritual dissipated momentarily and my tallit became blessed armour.
Then my world became unformed, haphazard. My old nemesis returned – a deep inner awkwardness, a blend of fear, confusion, angst and a sense of being far too small. The moon hovering above my deck began to fade and the welcoming blue hue of the 7 a.m. sky became clouded. “Cain rose up against his brother (Abel) and slew him.”
In only a few short psukim (lines in the Torah), I had walked through a garden eastward, in Eden, with the man He had formed and the woman He had made, only to end up witness to a murder perpetrated by a brother against his brother. Did it have to be the very first brothers? Did murder have to come so soon “in the beginning”?
I attended a housewarming the next day, hosted by a B’nai Yisrael, an East Indian Jew – Shai Abraham. It was ritualistically complex, layered with spiritually beaded intricacy. I asked Shai’s father and uncle these questions as they exuded such an eastern elegance in their interpretation of the “offerings” we blessed and ate at the ceremony. One can often sense when they are sitting amongst wise men.
Was hurt, killing, deceit and madness created with creation?
Shai’s father and uncle conceded that indeed this is the case. “This,” they explained, “is the reality of our world – that what lies within all of us is the option to choose the light or the darkness. The Torah tells it as it is.”
So, I am Cain, and I am Abel, as you are. The Torah, in a literal sense spells it out. God created life. God created knowledge. Must be, that God too created evil.
And so my angst returned and my peace of mind left me. I have more questions now than I had before. How can pure goodness – God – create evil? How do we find our way back to the Garden? Can we ever rid ourselves of the wars, the tyrants – the Cain in us?
Sitting on my deck, as darkness turns too light, watching the birds peck at the seeds of grass still to catch, brings me great joy. I try not to allow Cain into my backyard, but he seems to know where it is. If I could only share my coffee with Abel, how full the world would be.
(Avrum Rosensweig is the president and founder of Ve’ahavta: The Canadian Jewish Humanitarian. Avrum has been writing for over twenty years and focuses on issues having to do with Judaism and Israel, humanitarian subjects and slices of life. He is the uncle of the author of this wonderful blog you are reading and advices that you share it far and wide. My writing can be read and discussed at http://avrum.net)