Thursday, October 15, 2009

meshech chochma on why kayin's offering was rejected

Why was Kayin's korban rejected? The Meshech Chohcma explains that in Sefer VaYikra the Torah prohibits bringing date honey as an offering (2:11-12). Not only is date honey not acceptable, but no fruit is acceptable as a korban. Therefore, Kayin's korban from his crops was rejected, while Hevel's offering of animals from his flock was accepted.

The Meshech Chochma offers an insightful rationale for this halacha. Items which are acceptable as sacrifices all share the common denominator of requiring an investment of human effort in their production. Wheat is turned into flour before being used for menachos or baked into lechem hapanim; grapes are processed and turned into wine before being offered as nesachim; an animal is only acceptable as a sacrifice after it is eight days old because only after eight days does it require the farmers care. When one of these items is offered, the farmer makes a sacrifice not only of the object itself, but also sacrifices the labor and effort that he invested in producing the offering. Since fruits naturally ripen on the tree without any need for human intervention, their sacrifice does not demonstrate that same dedication of human effort. Therefore, they are unacceptable as a korban.


  1. I wonder if this is related to the Meshech Chokhmah's general principle that qedushah isn't inherent in objects or places, but is imbued by the people who act with them.


  2. Daas Yochid10:59 PM

    How about whole wheat? Surely there is plowing, sewing, and reaping involved?

  3. Anonymous8:18 AM

    Is the manufacturing process for "date honey" not as arduous as the manufacturing process for wine ?
    Or was/is the "date honey" readily available as the dates "came of age" ?

    jaded topaz

  4. The honey just dripped from the dates, no processing required.
    I don't get the whole wheat -- is that a question?
    I don't think this point is related to any larger theory about kedusha - take a look at how he expresses it inside.

  5. Anonymous12:40 PM

    What about nisuch hamayim?

  6. but nisuch hamayim is somewhat different. Fruits, too, are offered as bikkurim.
    On the offerings of the 2 brothers, I remember seeing somewhere that it is a source for shatnez. Hevel's offering of sheep represents the wool, and Cain's offering of flax represents the linen.

  7. A problem I have with this is that plowing the field in the time of kayin and hevel was a very hard task. Remember, the earth was cursed and plowing the field was supposedly very difficult. After Noach it got easier, but in the times of adam the field was a very hard task.

  8. How do you know he plowed a field and did no pluck a fruit off a tree?

  9. Well let's see what the pasuk says:Hevel became a herder of flocks and Cain became a tiller of the ground. Then it says Cain brought G-D a sacrifice from the fruit of the ground and Hevel brought a sacrifice from his flocks.

    Earlier it said in perek 3:17 that accursed is the ground because of you, through suffering shall you eat of it all the days of your life. then pasuk 18 says thorns and thistles shall it sprout for you and you shall eat the herb of the field.

    Here's my point. Cain had the harder job here. Sheep were not cursed, but the ground was cursed. Cain was the tiller of the ground so he brought fruit from the ground. This was a tougher job in general. Hevel brought a sheep. Sheep just need to be led to a green pasture and a body of water and they are happy. If you want to raise them in a place like the sahara desert than that is one thing, but they were in the same place as Cain growing crops, so we know there was water and herbage.

    The idea of the korban is that you put effort into the korban, so cain put much more effort than hevel. Cain worked the accursed land, by the sweat of his brow. Where in the Torah does it say that hevel raised the sheep by the sweat of his brow?

  10. The point I am trying to make here is that according to the meshech chachma it seems like the work that is done for the sacrifice is what is important. We see that Cain was a tiller of the soil which is supposed to be extremely difficult at that time. So why, according to the meshech chachma was it not accepted? But he was working so hard for that fruit to grow, the sweat of his brow the torah tells us.

    It just seems like the difference is that Hevel offered the best of his flocks whereas Cain offered the leftovers. Hevel put G-D before himself whereas Cain put himself before G-D.

    I just don;t understand the meshech chamchma based on the fact that the Torah says being a tiller of land was extremely difficult. His labor was just as intense if not equally so as that of hevel's.

  11. Also, nisuch hamayim is not considered a korban is it?