Cain and Fable: Radicals Re-Exploring the World's First Murder

Cain and Abel. The story is classically instructive, and straightforwardly simple - Bad Cain and Good Abel, two brothers, bring sacrifices to Hashem. Hashem likes Good Abel’s sacrifice, but not Bad Cain’s. Bad Cain gets jealous, and (spoiler alert!) strikes down Good Abel. Hashem freaks out, casting Bad Cain out to wander the rest of his Bad Bad days.

The message? Jealousy is Bad. Fratricide is Bad. Don’t do it. Cain is Bad. Don’t be him.

But -

this is a story, passed down from hand to hand, mouth to mouth, teacher to student, for at least 4000 years. And as radicals, abolitionists, and feygeles of various stripes - we know that the first read isn’t usually the only one.

What were Bad Cain’s motives besides being Bad? What were Hashem’s roles and responsibilities in this act of violence? Was Hashem’s response purely punitive, or did it hold abolitionist potential? What can we learn here about cycles of violence, the human relationship with the Divine, and (poor) communication’s role in engendering harm?

Join Shel Maala - your digital-first queer Yeshiva - in our first deep-dive into Torah text together. Over 4 heart-and-mind-expanding weeks, we’ll look at the primary source text of the Cain and Abel story, as well as various translations (as we also craft our own with Xevrutas and biblical dictionaries). We’ll seek radical commentators outside the Jewish tradition, and revel in the hot takes we’re adding to the mesora together

Let’s raise some cane as we wrestle with Cain, and see what this story from the dawn of history has to teach us weirdos & queerdos today.