“God did not turn to Cain and his offering. Cain became enraged and his face fell.” (Gen. 4:5)
In the story of the world’s first murder, it was God’s decision not to accept Cain’s offering that triggered Cain’s anger and jealousy, and ultimately his murder of Abel.
Why did God refuse to accept Cain’s offering? What was wrong with it?
The Cainite Philosophy
Rav Kook suggests that the very fact that Cain, soon after this incident, would go kill his own brother, indicates that terrible evil was already lurking in Cain’s soul. The potential to kill a human being was inside Cain’s personality makeup at the very hour that he brought his offering to God.
Such an offering is an abomination. It only serves to amplify the power of evil. The Cainite approach does not seek to purge itself from evil and immorality. Rather, it prefers to cover up inner evil with an outward appearance of holiness. In this fashion it gives strength and influence to evil within that which is good and holy.
This is the core philosophy of paganism and heresy. They do not try to refine human desires and sanctify life. They reject God’s great plan to elevate the world through the formation of Israel as a holy people, a people from which all nations can draw inspiration and benefit.
But in its inner soul, heresy knows that God rejects it and its path. Its face falls, and rage smolders within. At every opportunity, the violent hand of a murderer is revealed.
Only by Toil
The world must recognize that one cannot gain admission to Paradise solely on the basis of a one-time pronouncement of theoretical faith, while an entire storehouse of evil, cruelty and atrocity permeates every chamber of one’s spirit. The purport of such a philosophy is that there is no need for character refinement and ethical study, inner inspection and spiritual growth.
An end, however, will come to this darkness. Humanity will realize that all of its energies need to be directed toward purifying the spirit. Elevating the nations requires the essence prepared by God, the establishment of one nation in the world, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. The Jewish people is a sign that Divine light penetrates the lives of nations.
Then it will become clear that holiness is not some cheap trinket to be grabbed by tainted hands. It is a treasure that is acquired through tenacious toil and self-sacrifice, through the merit of a heritage of generations who carried this sacred burden with love. Heresy’s mask of hypocrisy will be exposed. Its path of appeasement will be recognized as a sham, an ideology that blinds the eye and contaminates the soul.
“They will no longer harm nor destroy on My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of knowledge of God” (Isaiah 11:9).
(Adapted from Orot, pp. 32-34)