Torah Fax
Friday, October 20, 2006 - 28 Tishrei, 5767

Torah Reading: Bereishit (Genesis 1:1 - 6:8)
Shabbat Candle Lighting: 5:50PM
Shabbat ends : 6:48 PM
We bless the New Month of MarCheshvan
Religious Anarchy?

Of Adam and Eve's many children, the Torah discusses the progeny of only two of them with some degree of detail - Cain and Seth. These two children represent two diametrically opposite ideals. Cain killed his brother Abel and was punished by G‑d to become a wanderer; he was never allowed to settle in one place. Seth, by contrast, is the one whose progeny settled the land and eventually populated the world. Indeed, the Torah tells us that Seth's very name means "foundation," as the Torah says, "From him the world was founded."
Despite their great dissimilarities, it is noteworthy that both Cain and Seth had progeny named Chanoch. But the common denominator ends there. Cain names his son Chanoch in conjunction with a city he builds by the same name. So Cain, the wanderer, the symbol of instability, links his descendants with a city - the very embodiment of stability and security.
Conversely, Seth - who is the personification of stability and continuity - loses his descendant Chanoch prematurely, as the Torah tells us that Chanoch "is no longer among us, for he has been taken away by G‑d."
Why does the Torah tell us of these two paradoxical Chanochs? Cain, the ultimate nomad, names his son after an established city and Seth, the father of the human race, has a descendant named Chanoch whose life is cut short?
History can generally be divided into two periods - pre-flood and post-flood. Life before the flood was chaotic and anarchic, whereas life after the flood introduced a period of stability and relative tranquility.
But tranquility did not take hold until the Torah was given at Sinai. At that time, the world received its raison d'être. After Sinai, people learned of the direction toward which G‑d expected them to steer their lives. Sinai thus solidified the world and put creation's goal in focus.
But even after the giving of the Torah, there are still two directions that Jews have chosen. There have been Jewish sages who have chosen the pre-flood approach of detachment from G‑d's goal for creation. To be sure, they were not anarchists who looted and robbed as the people who perished in the flood did, but they certainly didn't connect with G‑d's plan of making the world a more settled and holy place. These individuals, sought to divorce themselves from the world and escape their material surroundings as much as possible. They ate very little and slept even less. Their sole goal was to accumulate Torah knowledge and be alone with G‑d. Other leaders, among them the Ba'al Shem Tov, the founder of the Chassidic movement, sought to bring holiness to the world and its inhabitants, thus engaging the world and working within its parameters.
To a certain extent, both approaches have merit. Certainly, we cannot divorce ourselves from the world nor view materialism as our enemy. This is antithetical to the teachings of the Ba'al Shem Tov. But there are times when a healthy escape from our corporeal surroundings is positive. Prayer is such a time. The Zohar says that prayer is compared to Jacob's Ladder that can help us climb heavenward and forget about our worldly environment. Similarly, there are times when one should learn Torah solely for the G‑dly experience; while at other times, one should learn it for its practical applications, deciding how the Torah rules can relate to everyday life.
The seeds for these two approaches were sown by Adam's two sons, Cain and Seth. Though Cain embodied the vilest traits of hatred, jealousy and murder, the Torah tells us his story because we can learn something from his spiritual source and soul, if not from Cain himself. Thus, Cain, with his temporal existence, symbolized the temporal nature of the world and the desire to escape the physical constraints of existence. Seth, whose name means foundation, represents the down-to-earth approach to life that keeps us focused on building a G‑dly world that is solid and enduring.
Not only are both approaches valid, but a person should ideally try to combine a bit of both approaches in his life. A Yeshivah student who spends most of his time in the theoretic world of Torah study must also find time to do acts of charity and help those in need. Conversely, the educator or community worker who spends most of his time in changing people's lives for the better must also find time to commune with G‑d - be it in prayer or Torah study. Thus, Cain, who personifies disconnection from the norms of society, establishes a city that symbolizes an organized society. And Seth, who embodies the development of a G‑dly race, has a grandchild whose premature death reminds of detachment from the world.
The incorporation of these two approaches will ultimately be realized by Moshiach, who will represent both detachment from this world, while at the same time be very much a part of the world. For this reason, our tradition tells us, Moshiach will both be a king - the loftiest and most regal of personalities who has very little to do with day to day common living - and a "poor person riding on a donkey" - a regular person involved and aware of the needs and issues of all people.
Moshiach Matters
Moshiach will come through the joy we have in the Torah (Rabbi Ya’akov Emden, Siddur Ya’avetz)

Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue. For more info, visit
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