Saturday, October 21, 2006

Kayin and Hevel

I think this short poem by Yehudah Amichai is thought-provoking and refreshing. Read it carefully! It comes from the book פתוח סגור פתוח which has many poems on Biblical and "Jewish" themes. Feel free to add your own commentary in the "comments" section. I will add my own thoughts on this poem in the course of the week.

:קין והבל, אי-הבנה של אהבה
קין רק רצה לחבק אותו חזק
.וחנק אותו, שניהם לא הבינו
Feel free! The (virtual) floor is open!
UPDATE: I said that I'd add some comments so here goes...
I believe that this poem is not the peshat. Despite the repeated use of the word אח - brother - in the verse. The term "brother" is used repeatedly not to indicate love and warm feelings but rather to drive home the moral horror that a person can concieve of killing his brother - even a brother to whom a person feels natural emotions of love, responsibility, loyalty and kinship. (And through this, we should realise that any human being is a brother.) This is about accentuating the terrible nature of this crime.
And yet, I like Yehuda Amichai's poem because it raises situations in life in which we think we are embracing someone in love, and yet we suffocate them. The classic stereotype of this (I think it is a stereotype but a stereotype comes to warn us that we might do this to a lesser extenet) is the parent who "loves" his child so much that he dominates the child, planning every element of their lives because "father knows best" figuratively enveloping them in a bearhug, overpowering the child with imposed plans and dreams, and thereby choking and strangling the child. That parent loves his child to death, as he enforces how he must learn a musical instrument and study for school and do this and that and attend that university and engage in that career and marry that person. Today, we see less of this but there are still people like this.
I think about this as well when I hear Charedi groups talk about imposing Shabbat laws on secular society because "it will be good for them too." Maybe the religious think that it will be good for the secular, but do the secular feel that it enhances their lives? Maybe it suffocates them? And there are many other examples.
Whenever we impose something on someone else because we "know" how good it will be for them, we should always check how they are breathing!


Anonymous said...

How could it be an error?
Did Kayin want to hug Hevel? No! He hated him! He was envious of him and deliberately murdered him.
strange poem!

Andy said...

There is a lot of ambiguity in the verse. It's not clear what he said to him, or what they were doing in the field. So the idea that they didn't really understand what was happening and that the result was a surprise to both is a possible nuance.

Can the term "vayichar," be interpreted to mean some emotion other than anger and hostility such as emotional instability as a result of affection gone Awry?

That's an interesting possibility.

Also, in addition to the ambiguity in the first verse, the next verse "vayakom kain", is pretty clear that Kain meant to kill Hevel.

So in conclusion, the poem has a nice idea that highlights an ambiguity in the verse.