The Torah relates that G-d formed man out of the soil of the earth and then He blew life into his nostrils. Man then became a living entity. And so it is with the creation and birth of each human being, G-d, by breathing life into us, is the third partner in our creation.
Adam was eager to find a mate but couldn’t find any compatibility with any of the species of the animal kingdom. G-d then created his mate, Chava ― Eve, from Adam himself.
Adam and Chava were created on the sixth day of creation, and on the same day, their children Kayin and Hevel were also born.
From inferences in the verses, our Sages teach us that Kayin was born with a twin sister and Hevel was born with two sisters. The intent was that they would marry their sisters for G-d initially permitted such a relationship to populate the world.
The Torah tells us that Kayin decided to offer an offering to G-d. His brother Hevel copied his brother’s idea and offered an offering to G-d as well.
G-d showed His appreciation and approval of Hevel’s offering by sending a fire from heaven that consumed it, while Kayin’s offering was not accepted. Why was Kayin’s gift not accepted? Because Kayin offered a cheap, low grade, flax sacrifice, in contrast to Hevel who offered a healthy and fit animal.
G-d’s display of approval to Hevel disturbed Kayin and the Torah relates that he wasn’t able to overcome it. It got to the point that Kayin became so overwhelmed that he killed his brother Hevel.
Was it only because Kayin’s sacrifice was not accepted that led him to murder or there is more to it? Our Sages explain that there is more, and it all stemmed from jealousy. Yes, Kayin was jealous that his sacrifice was not accepted and Hevel’s was, but there were other disputes that consumed him.
The brothers argued over who was entitled to marry the extra girl that was born with Hevel. Kayin said he was the first born and was entitled to an additional wife, while Hevel claimed that since she was born with him, he was to marry her.
They also disputed their inheritance, how the world and its possessions should be divided between them. As ridiculous as this may sound, they were arguing over dividing the entire expanse of the world in half, yet this was an issue that led Kayin to murder his brother. The Medrash relates that their dispute had a spiritual component to it as well. Each one was vying to inherit the area where the Holy Temple would eventually be built.
Rabbi Ahron Leib Shteinman o.b.m. points out something very interesting. The bottom line is that neither Kayin nor Hevel ended up inheriting their father’s possessions, because both sons predeceased their father Adam.
After Kayin killed Hevel, the Torah relates that G-d asked Kayin where his brother was. He responded, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Rashi points out the contrast between how Adam reacted to G-d after he sinned by eating from the tree of knowledge, and how Kayin reacted to G-d after he sinned. After Adam sinned and became aware of his nakedness, he and Chava covered up themselves with shame. Since Adam and Chava displayed and expressed their repentance over their sin, G-d forgave them.
This was not the case with Kayin after he murdered his brother. When G-d asked him where his brother was, he initially brushed it off showing no remorse.
However, once G-d confronted Kayin, the enormity of what he did began to seep in. He repented and became worried that the animals would take revenge for his deed and kill him. G-d placed a sign on Kayin’s forehead that served to prevent any animal from harming him. Kayin was expelled from his land and had to continuously settle in different areas. Wherever he stood the land began to shake.
Rabbi Shteinman continues, “We see that Kayin initiated bringing an offering to come close to G-d. Yet when he saw that G-d did not accept his offering, while He accepted Hevel’s, he got upset with his brother. Why did Kayin get upset with Hevel? After all, it was G-d who did not accept his sacrifice. It had nothing to do with Hevel! We see that although Kayin had a most intense spiritual drive, since he had flawed character traits it failed to safeguard him from doing the worst, odious and detestable act.
It is our life’s mission and goal to continually work on refining our character traits. As we begin reading the Torah anew, there is no better source to glean lessons and directives for character development than from what G-d imparts to us in His Torah.