Ever Since Adam and Cain Part Two
People have been having difficulty finding their place ever since Adam and Cain. Adam was sent out from the safe environment of the Garden into a strange world. God told Cain, “You shall become a vagrant and wanderer on earth.” (Genesis 4:12)
Abraham wandered for many years, as did Jacob until he settled in Egypt. But even that settling ended in a sense of exile. (Location! Location! Location!)
We need a sense of place, and a sense of belonging. When God punished Cain as a “Vagrant and wanderer,” He deprived Cain of both a sense of place and that of belonging. Both are certainly seen as punishments.
“The son of an Israelite woman went out – and he was the son of an Egyptian man – among the Children of Israel; they fought in the camp, the son of the Israelite woman and an Israelite man. The son of the Israelite woman pronounced the Name and blasphemed.” (Leviticus 24:10-11)
Rashi explains that since he did not have a Jewish father he wished to dwell among the people of Dan, his mother’s tribe, but they refused him a place in their area of the camp on the grounds that his father was not a member of the tribe. The man ran to Moshe’s court for justice, and Moshe ruled against him, whereupon he uttered his curse.
It seems that this man literally bore the “Mark of Cain,” at least as a vagrant. He was Jewish. He left Egypt with Moses, crossed the Sea, ate Manna, and stood at Sinai, but he remained an outsider. He was desperate to be part of a tribe and was rejected. He probably knew that if he did not have a place among a tribe that he would not receive a portion in the Land of Israel. He would always be outside the community. He probably had a place to pitch his tent, but would live as did Adam and Cain, outside the place he wanted to be his.
As a child of an Egyptian man and an Israelite woman, he had probably grew up without being part of either the Egyptian or Jewish communities. He was desperate to feel that he belonged.
I can picture the scene as he walked out of Moshe’s courtroom: He is angry with the world, and frustrated with the injustice he suffered, at least in his mind, and soon came to blows with someone else. The Outsider fought an Insider. He made himself the ultimate outsider with his blasphemy.
Wherein we learn that he was an outsider long before the dispute over a place in the camp. He shared another characteristic with Cain: He was an angry man, and an angry person is the ultimate outsider.
Yes, we can say that he felt provoked, but we know that his response to the provocation was to come exit the court and provoke a stranger until they came to blows. He was so consumed by his rage that he blasphemed God’s Name.
The Talmud describes an angry person as being an outsider to himself – he is a different person when angry, a stranger – no matter where Moshe would find a place for him, he would remain an outsider, even from himself.
Ever since Adam and Cain, angry people have been the ultimate outsiders. Some things never change.
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