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  Parashas Bereishes from
Entering The Covenant
An Anthology of Divrei Torah for Bris Milah and Pidyon Haben

By Dr. Mandell I. Ganchrow 

Parashas Bereishes

Rabbi Dr. Moshe Tendler

“Just as he entered the Covenant so may he enter into the Torah, the marriage canopy and good deeds.” This blessing is bestowed upon the happy parents of a son who has just been inducted into the Covenant of Abraham. It is more than an expression of good wishes by those assembled for the future development of the child. The word, “just as,” adds an ancillary blessing – the blessing of the proper balance between nature and nurture during the formative years of this child.

The first Sidrah of our Torah records the tragic, horrifying fratricide committed by Cain. The Creator of Heaven and Earth, all contained therein, and of man and woman, demands of Cain, “Where is yourbrother?'' Cain's response would seem to be the epitome of chutzpah and disrespect toward the G-d he knows so well. “Am I my brother's keeper?'' evades the piercing question of Hashem. Cain knew very well that it meant “Why did you kill your brother?'' Indeed, we must question why Hashem ordered Cain's response to be included in the sanctified text of our Torah. So brazen a response would seem not to deserve to be eternalized in our Torah text.

Its inclusion in the Sidrah compels us to search for deeper meaning in Cain's irreverent retort. I suggest that it was a brilliant rebuttal of Hashem's accusation. “Am I my brother's keeper? You, Hashem bear the responsibility. You gave me the nature, the genetic predisposition to be a murderer. It was within Your power to fashion mankind without the ability to murder members of their own species. Most infrahuman species were so fashioned by Your Hand!''

Cain's retort is recorded to reject Cain's genetic defense. No one is coerced by his genome to violate Hashem's laws for mankind. Indeed, people have different personalities and varying dispositions that expose them to temptation and to sin. Hashem had previously instructed Cain when he displayed anger and disappointment at the refusal of Hashem to accept his less than gracious sacrifice: “ . . . the sin lies at the threshold and it is attractive to you, but I gave you the ability to master your desire to sin'' (Bereishis 4:7).

How this new son of our people will balance the tensions between his genetic predispositions, the secular cultural forces he will confront during maturation, and the imperatives of a Torah life-style, will determine his success as a Jew and a ben Torah. Therefore, all assembled extend their blessing to his parents: just as today he has participated in the great mitzvah of Milah without the impact of the negative forces of a secular culture, so too, when he matures to a life of Torah and Mitzvos, the education he will receive from his parents will give him full mastery over all the negative influences, as he achieves his goal to live a life that finds favor in the eyes of G-d and Man.

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