Archive for October, 2009

What did Cain “say” to his brother, before killing him?

The verse in question reads:

Genesis 4:8: “Cain said to his brother Abel; Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him.”

The biblical narrator does not disclose what was actually spoken between the two brothers. Ibn Ezra suggested that Cain spoke to his brother about the words YHWH had said to him. However, one might argue that it is doubtful Cain would have told his brother everything God disclosed to him, namely, the divine reprimand. Abel’s silence is striking. The ...

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Did Cain Repent?

Genesis 4:13: וַיֹּאמֶר קַיִן אֶל־יְהוָה גָּדוֹל עֲוֹנִי מִנְּשֹׂא –Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is greater than I can bear!”

This statement is a direct response to the punishment God had just given him! It doesn’t occur to him that he is deserving of death! Instead, he complains about losing his livelihood and having to wander. Ultimately Cain builds a city rather than accepting his punishment in defiance of God’s judgment. Like his father Adam, Cain refuses to take responsibility ...

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When Did Adam First “Know” Eve?

Rashi is of the opinion that Eve’s pregnancy occurred before Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden,[1] since the verb for “know” יָדַע (yāda‘) is written in the pluperfect, signifying that Adam had known Eve just as he always “knew” her—before the “Fall.”[2] Had they not procreated in the garden, Adam and Eve would never have been able to observe the first of God’s commands, “Be fruitful and multiply.”

The Torah purposely utilized a euphemism of “knowing” rather than ...

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Jewish Ethics 101: Do not place a stumbling block before the blind … (Lev. 19:4)

One of the most important and yet neglected ethical proscriptions of the Torah is the famous passage, “Do not place a stumbling block before the blind” (Lev. 19:4). Talmudic tradition stresses the importance of not taking advantage of another person’s ignorance. Thus, we find: “ How do we know that one should not hold out a cup of wine to a Nazirite  or a limb from a living animal to a Noahide? From Scripture, which says, “You shall not ...

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More Reflections on Abortion

Abortion, as such, is not discussed in the Tanakh. Explanations  as to why it is not legislated or commented are at best speculative. The biblical world was much more concerned with the survival of its members, rather than with the willful termination of its unborn. Archaeological evidence suggests that in ancient Israel the infant mortality rate was about 50%.

Discussions concerning abortion are ancient indeed. The Torah imposes a fine on the assailant for causing abortion of a woman’s fetus in ...

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