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Friday, October 19, 2012

Raising Cain

The first few chapters of the Torah tell us the story of the family of man. It all started, of course, with Adam and Eve. Cain and Abel were born; Cain killed Abel; Cain had a family and Abel had no descendants.

Adam and Eve continued their process of procreation and gave birth to a third son, Seth. Seth had a family. Everyone in the world were descendants of either Seth or Cain.

Seth had a descendant called Enoch, after whom humankind was named.

We tend to think of the descendants of Cain as children of the killer while the children of Seth were the hope for the future of humanity.

Cain, however, had some very impressive descendants who contributed much to civilization. He had a descendant called Lemech. Lemech had 3 sons and a daughter. According to the Torah one of his sons was the inventor of musical instrumentation; another was the discoverer of iron and weaponry and the third was a master shepherd.

It is commonly pointed out that Noach was a descendant of Seth, and the rest of the world, the descendants of Cain, were killed out in the Great flood. That would make all of us the descendants of Seth.

According to Rashi, however, this is incorrect. True, Noach was a descendant of Seth but Noach also had a wife. Her name was Na’ama. Na’ama was a daughter of Lemech and therefore a great granddaughter of Cain.

The survivors of the flood were the sons of Noach and Na’ama; Shem, Cham and Yefet.  From them came forth all of humanity.

In other words - we all have a little bit of Cain in us. We are all a struggling combination of two forces.

The Holy Ari (Shaar HaGilgulim) identifies in the personalities of history the souls of Cain and the souls of Seth. Astonishingly, some of the greatest Rabbinic leaders of all times, according to the Arizal, possessed the soul of Cain. This did not make them killers. It made them assertive, creative and leaders of men.

We often feel guilty about our deep inner struggles. We idealize our spiritual heroes as perfectly righteous men and women. We assume that they are not even capable of having the thoughts that we are thinking.

This is not so. Our ancestors and role models were not made out of plastic. They were men and women who inherited the forces of Seth and the forces of Cain. They struggled.

We are all programmed to struggle. That is how we grow and that is what makes us unique.

There is hardly a biblical character that was exempt from the base struggles of being a descendant of both Seth and Cain. They were great men and women not superheroes.

To struggle is to be human. Welcome to the club.

Posted on 10/19 at 10:32 AM • Permalink
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Meet Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Rabbi Yaacov HaberRabbi Haber has been a leading force in Jewish Outreach for the past 25 years. A founding trustee of AJOP, the Association of Jewish Outreach Professionals, he was the founder and director of the Torah Center of Buffalo from 1980-1990 while serving as a community rabbi in Buffalo. From Buffalo he and his family traveled to Melbourne, Australia where as a project of Kollel Bais HaTalmud he founded the Australian Institute of Torah, a national outreach and adult education program. He directed that program from 1990-1995, at which time he was sought out as National Director of Jewish Education for the Orthodox Union in the United States where he created the Internationally acclaimed and highly successful "Pardes Project."

In addition to his duties at the OU, in 1996 he replaced Rabbi Berel Wein as the spiritual leader of Congregation Bais Torah in Monsey, NY. In keeping with the position of Congregation Bais Torah in the Monsey community, Rabbi Haber was involved in issues involving the greater Monsey community, and counseled hundreds of individuals in the surrounding area.

Rabbi Yaacov Haber is the founder and driving force behind TorahLab. Through TorahLab, Rabbi Haber is bringing together educational and media specialists to create dynamic learning experiences which will be accessible to adults of all backgrounds and levels. Rabbi Haber has published numerous articles and books and is a sought after international lecturer.

Rabbi Haber and his family are presently living in Ramat Beit Shemesh where he is the Rabbi of Kehillas Shivtei Yeshurun.

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