Rabbi Dunner looks at the narrative in Parshat Bereishit that records the first homicide in history – Cain murdering his brother Abel in an act of vicious fratricide, prompted by jealousy and envy.
You may think you understand this story. It seems so simple: Cain is the villain, Abel is the victim. Cain’s callous act is punished by God – and so we move on to the next story.
But things are never as simple as they seem, especially in these very early chapters of the Torah. For example, why is Cain’s name explained by Eve, but Abel’s name is not? Why would Abel become a shepherd if the consumption of meat is proscribed? Why is Abel constantly referred to as Cain’s brother? What did Cain actually ‘say’ to Abel before he killed him? Why was Cain not punished with death if he killed his brother – surely premeditated murder deserves capital punishment?
These are just a few of the many puzzles that lie beneath the text. Rabbi Dunner examines the recorded verses, to see what they say, and – more importantly – what they do not say. Although he looks at the traditional understanding of the story as presented by Rashi, Rabbi Dunner shows how it is through the eyes of the Ha’amek Davar that this story finally begins to make sense.
With incredible insight and ingenuity, this commentary presents us with a narrative that is so startlingly different from what we think we ‘know’ about Cain and Abel, and which makes so much more sense – it will literally take your breath away!
Image: Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), Kain draeber Abel, c.1650