13 Principles of Torah-based Faith that were enumerated by Rambam (Maimonides):
11. I fully believe that He rewards those who keep His commandments and punishes those who break them.
Kayin and Hevel sacrificed to G-d – on what would later become one of the Jewish holidays, one of the days mentioned by the Sages is that they sacrificed on Rosh HaShana. The day when all men will be judged according to their works. G-d accepted Hevel’s offering and Cain’s He rejected.
Kayin was furious and went into the field with his brother and started a discussion with him to “justify” his anger. There are 4 mentioned in the tradition, one of them is that he started a discussion with Hevel about “reward and punishment”.
Kayin argued that G-d does not reward for good deeds or punish for evil, and that there is no World to Come. Hevel disagreed and said that G-d judges fairly, each person according to their actions, and also that in the World to Come G-d rewards the righteous and punishes the wicked.
We all know how the story ends. Hevel is dead and Kayin flees as a wanderer to the land of the wandering.
At first glance, Kayin’s argument seems to be correct. The righteous man is dead – where is his reward? And the murderer walks free – where is his punishment?
If we look at Kayin, we see that he is being punished. Wandering around and not finding a place to rest can certainly be seen as such.
Radak: “Kayin, being the first murderer, had not known that the penalty for murder is execution. Subsequent generations knowing the penalty for murder, could not expect to be treated so leniently. It is even possible to consider Kayin’s killing Hevel as having been an inadvertent killing, seeing that he did not know what injury would prove fatal. He had never seen a person who had been killed, and when hitting Hevel he had not thought that he had injured him fatally. If that is so, the penalty of exile, i.e. נע ונד תהיה בארץ, “you will not be at home anywhere on earth,” is exactly the penalty devised by the Torah for people who killed inadvertently”.
We can even say that he did end up getting the death penalty when he was “accidentally” shot by his great-grandchild. In fact, all his descendants would perish in the flood. Just as the children of someone who has been killed cannot be born again, Kayin has no descendants.
This is in contrast to Hevel, who fully trusted – bitachon – and believed in G-d’s Righteousness.
Hevel believed in the reward of good. His name Hevel is linked to the meaning of vapor. Hevel considered all the material as air and focused only on the spiritual. The reward he relied on was therefore not material but spiritual, and that is what he got.
The reward of Hevel was that he reincarnated in Seth. From Seth eventually came forth Noah and with him all the people who arose after the great flood. But more than that, his soul would pass into Moses and thus into the Messiah.
Trust – bitachon – is that which we must have in G-d.
As written in Tanya:
“As for trust in G‑d regarding the reward of this world and of the World to Come, which He has promised the righteous for their Divine service—that He will compensate those who deserve it and mete out punishment to those who deserve it— the bitachon is obligatory for every believer in G-d His trust in G‑d in this area completes his belief in G‑d.”
“Your trust in G‑d that He will reward your good deeds completes your belief in G‑d.”
By Angelique Sijbolts
Sources: Tanya, Chabad Article: The Story of the first sibling rivalry, Targum Yonatan; Rashi, Genesis 4:3.
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