The Baal Shem Tov is attributed to saying, “A person is where his thoughts are.” There is a set of passages early on in the Torah that is overlooked as instruction and is only seen as part of a story. These passages are given to us by the Creator early on in human history to help us live our daily lives. The Creator shows us how dangerous our thoughts can be to us.
The passages fall in the conversation the Creator had with Cain after he had failed to bring the proper offering to the Creator.
“After a period of time, Cain brought an offering to Hashem of the fruit of the ground; and as Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and their choicest. Hashem turned to Abel and to his offering, but to Cain and to his offering He did not turn. This annoyed Cain exceedingly and his countenance fell. And Hashem called out to Cain. “Why are you annoyed, and why has your countenance fallen? Surely, if you improve yourself, you will be forgiven. But if you do not improve yourself, sin rests at the door. Its desire is toward you, yet you can conquer it.”
Cain had failed like many of us do on a daily basis, but there is something missin in this conversation. You do not see the Creator addressing failure of Cain. We are shown here that the Creator dealt with Cain’s attitude of his failure.
Cain was dwelling on dangerous thoughts, by him dwelling on his failure he became exceedingly annoyed and it caused his countenance to fall – he became depressed over his failure and instead of heeding the Creators instructions to improve himself, his depression of his failure caused him to sin even more by leading him to murder his brother.
In this story we are shown that the Creator did not confront Cain with details of what caused his failure – He dealt with Cain’s reaction to his failure.
The Creator has given us all very important instruction and insight in our relationship with Him. It is not about our failure, it is about our reaction to our failures. Our reactions are guided by our thoughts and our thoughts are where we are at.
We are told in Proverbs 24:16 “For though the righteous one may fall seven times, he will arise, but the wicked ones will stumble through evil.”
We can see here the parallel with Prov. 24 and Bereishis 3 – those that follow the Creators instructions of improving oneself after a failure will rise up, in Bereishis 3 we are told that if we improve our self we will be forgiven; the Hebrew word that the word forgiven is translated from literally means to be lifted up or rise up.
We see in Prov. 24 the wicked ones stumble through evil. By examining the passage in Bereishis 3 closer we see that there is a correlation Cain’s annoyance and depression of his failure would be considered evil – it was his dangerous thinking and dwelling on his failure that led him to murder so we now can see how these passages in Proverbs and Bereishis are tied together.
What have we learned here?
We have learned that our Creator is more concerned with our reaction to our failures than what caused us to fail in the first place. He allows us to fail so that we can work on our self-improvement. His desire is for us to improve and we will be forgiven/lifted up – but if we do not improve sin desires us and it waits for us.
But our Creator tells us that we have the power within ourselves to conquer sin by self-improvement – this is what He was wanting from Cain – This is why the Creator questioned Cain’s reaction to failure and not the details of what caused him to fail to begin with.
We are where our thoughts are – if we dwell on our failures it will bring depression that will lead us to be called wicked and evil. All of this by our wrong reaction and thoughts to our failings.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov teaches us a lesson on understanding that we can at any time start over afresh as though we have never started before. He helps us understand the words of Hashem; His mercy is new every day.
Every moment that passes is a new moment that never existed before – it is a new creation – and in that new creation contains the mercy and loving kindness of the Creator that is also new – so you fail – do not dwell on the failure make corrections/improvements and go on – this is the instruction given to us in Bereishis 3.
If Cain had improved, his failure would have been rectified and Abel his brother would have lived. Cain would have not let his reaction to his failure lead him to further wicked and evil acts brought on by his dangerous thoughts.
Our self-pity and depression over our failings is a very dangerous place to be. Sin waits for us there and its desire is toward us – but we can conquer it – we can rise up by improving our actions and reactions. This is the message of our Creator to us.
Terry W. Hayes 4/21/15