We’re turning 100 in 2022! Help us share the wisdom of Kabbalah for our next 100 years! DONATE NOW
Beresheet is the first Shabbat of the year, the first reading of the year. And the kabbalists explained that in this first Shabbat and this first reading, we really begin renewing our spiritual work and spiritual process for the year. So I'd like to focus on a teaching from the story of Cain and Abel that gives us insight and direction as we begin a new year and its spiritual work.
The Ramban, Nachmanides, tells us that Adam and Eve, and their sons Cain and Abel, were growing crops and raising cattle. In those days, there was nobody else on earth, so they had endless resources. One day, Cain says, “It doesn't make sense that we only take for ourselves and do not, through our resources and wealth, also in some way bring a connection to the Light of the Creator.” So Cain comes to, as Nachmanides tells us, a tremendously elevated state of clarity, and tremendous state of connection with the Light of the Creator, saying that even though it's just them and they can only share among themselves, he also wants to bring what's called a sacrifice. The idea of a sacrifice is a connection, a bringing of closeness, between the individual and the Light of the Creator. And the Ramban speaks at length about the tremendous state of consciousness and connection that Cain reached in coming to this understanding.
Cain brings a sacrifice and does an action of sharing to awaken this connection between himself and the Light of the Creator and the awareness that he is not here only to take for himself. Then it says Abel sees his brother come to the state of consciousness, and even though he was on a lower level and clearly not able to come to this clarity on his own, saw the importance of sharing and said, “I'll learn from you, my brother.” So, at this point in time if you had to gauge the level of connection, spiritual growth, and height, Cain is at his height and Abel is sort of coming after him.
And Cain, although he is the first to come to the understanding that he has to do an action of giving back, chooses to share only from the worst crops. Now think about this for a moment. In the world at the time, there's nobody else. So whatever is growing, those four people, Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel, could have whatever they wanted. And Cain, at this high level of understanding and consciousness, says, “I need in some way to do an action of sharing back to the Creator to show that I do not want to simply be receiving for myself. There are acres upon acres of fruits and vegetables that I and the people on earth will never finish, but I'll give from the lower, the lesser, of the crops.”
How can it be that Cain can have clarity on the one hand, but be so stupid on the other?
However, Abel, although he was of a lower level of consciousness, said, “If I'm going to give something back and there's so much that none of us can ever finish, let me take the best of my cattle.” Therefore, the Creator says, “This will cause a connection with Abel, but not with Cain, because he chose to bring of the lowest, of the worst.” So the sacrifice, the action, of Abel, is accepted and the action of Cain is not. Again, as we said, Cain is so elevated, yet still also being stupid at the same time; tremendous Light residing at the same time as darkness.
Now Cain is depressed and upset. He says to himself, “I am the more elevated one, I am the more connected one. It was my idea to bring the sacrifice to the Creator, and yes it's true I made a stupid mistake and chose not to bring the best, but why would the Creator accept from Abel and not from me?” The Creator comes to him and says, “Don't be so upset. It's about growth. You just need to learn, to remove a little bit of the darkness that existed within you. All you need to do is continue growing. You're on the right path. You're connected. You're growing. Just keep removing some silliness and blindness from within yourself.” The Creator is coming directly to him and trying to guide him on a spiritual path, but Cain can’t accept it. He says it is all a lie. Even though the Creator has been speaking to him and directing him, he tells himself the Creator doesn't even exist, and as we all know, then goes and kills his brother Abel.
When the Creator comes to Cain after he kills Abel and asks where his brother is, Cain says he has no idea. But he's not just lying to the Creator; he is lying to himself. He was in such a state of denial, such a state of blindness, such a state of darkness that he convinced himself he did nothing wrong. But even though nothing can be worse than murder, even in that moment of tremendous darkness, there still existed tremendous Light within Cain.
Looking at this one story, we see great Light, great darkness, great clarity, and great silly stupidity. Because, and this is the important understanding, we often think that we are in one state; I am either a very good person right now for this day or week, but I can be not such a great person next week or next month. But what has to be clear, and this has many important ramifications, is that right now as we sit here, we need to know that even if right now in this moment we are feeling a tremendous amount of connection and acting in tremendously good ways, even in this moment, darkness also resides within us. And even if we are feeling a tremendous amount of darkness and negativity right now, in this same moment we have to know that great Light resides within us, as well.
It is not that one goes from a state of Light to a state of darkness, and back and forth. It is that almost always, until we complete our journey and elevation, in each one of us at every moment there is both great Light and great darkness. So what we should gain from this is first to understand how even in moments of great clarity and connection we could be blind to something. Whenever we look externally at other people, it's actually how we truly look at ourselves.
Therefore, we need to be aware that both this darkness and Light exists within us at the same moment. Because when we’re aware of it, we might say, “Even though I'm in a state of connection and elevation, maybe there's more that I need to be doing. And maybe I should be giving something better.” The humility needs to exist even when we think we're connected and think we see with clarity. That humility has to exist because we must know that even in the greatest states of Light, even in the greatest states of connection, this darkness still exists within us. Therefore, with humility, we always need to remember that what we think we see clearly, we might not be seeing 100% clearly - about others, and certainly, about ourselves. We need to be aware of the fact that Light and darkness do not exist at different times within us, but within us at the same time.
The understanding that comes from this teaching from the portion Beresheet is the humility that must exist with how we see ourselves and what we are doing. Yes, I have clarity about this, but is there more around it to which I am blind? Is there more darkness there that I need to remove that also exists? Just because we are feeling a tremendous amount of connection, does not mean that no darkness exists.