Today, 28 Tishrei, is the 19th yahrtzeit of my dear friend, Daniel Scarowsky, z"l.
This week's shtikle is dedicated leiluy nishmaso, Daniel Moshe Eliyahu ben Yitzchak.
Just after the Torah recounts the sin of the eitz hada'as, we are told about the birth of Kayin and Hevel and almost immediately of the tragic murder of Hevel. There does not seem to be any significant time lapse in between. The only hint given in the Torah is the term "vayehi mikeitz yamim," and it was at the end of (some) days. But there is no elaboration on this ambiguous time span. It seems altogether possible that this episode happened quite soon after the sin of the eitz hada'as.
It is well known that before the sin of the eitz hada'as, the physical realities of pregnancy were quite different, if not non-existent. The gemara (Sanhedrin 38b) recounts that on the day of creation two (Adam and Chavah) ascended to the bed and four (Kayin and his twin, see Tosafos) descended. When the eternal punishments are ultimately doled out to Adam and Chavah, Chavah is told, (3:16) "I will intensify your pain and travail, with great pain you will bear children." As Rashi notes, the travail is the pain of pregnancy and the child-bearing pain is the pain of the birth itself. By inference, these pains did not exist beforehand. If not for the sin of the eitz hada'as, babies would be born smoothly and easily and immediately upon conception. However, the first Rashi on this pasuk seems to get overlooked. The first pain referred to in the pasuk is "tza’ar gidul banim," the pain of raising children. This too was a direct consequence of the sin.
So what does that tell us about Kayin and Hevel? Tza’ar gidul banim can be understood on two levels – physical and spiritual. Raising children brings with it the obvious challenge of bringing a poor, helpless little being into this world, teaching him and guiding him through everything that we, as adults, take for granted. We start from zero and slowly work our way up. This is indeed no small feat. But equally challenging is the battle to steer one’s child on the right path to follow in their ways and in the ways of the Torah.
It is conceivable that both these components of the child-raising challenge were also consequences of the sin. In a pre-sin world children were born fully formed and did not need to be taught the basics of physical life, just as Adam and Chavah clearly did not. This would explain the apparent chronological proximity between the birth of Kayin and Hevel and Hevel’s demise. (Although it does make you wonder how there could possibly have been no pain involved.) They were also born without the need for their parents to guide them and toil in their upbringing. This is logical as the inclination toward sin was not yet present.
After Adam and Chavah sinned, the physical realities of Kayin and Hevel’s birth understandably could not be reversed. But the yeitzer hara that was created with that first bite meant that one could no longer assume their children would follow in their ways. Kayin’s murder of Hevel made this point painfully clear.
It is interesting to note that HaShem mentions the pains of child rearing before those of pregnancy and childbirth. (In truth, for Chavah, this decree was given after her first two kids were already born so tza'ar gidul banim did indeed come first.) Perhaps this is meant to teach us that the long, arduous battle that is gidul banim does not begin when a child is born. It begins before they are even conceived. From the moment a couple is wed, as they build their home, they are building the very foundation for their children’s upbringing. If a couple recognizes the challenge of chinuch as beginning well in advance of childbirth, they are already ahead of the game.