G-d told Cain “If you improve, you will be forgiven” Genesis 4:7. Cain’s true failure was that he didn’t learn from G-d’s positive response to Abel, who had offered up the choicest of his animals. Had Cain presented a second offering, this time from the choicest of his crop, G-d would have forgiven him and accepted it. G-d here tried to teach him that if an individual learns from his errors, his slate can be wiped clean.
However, Cain refused to admit his error. Convinced of the rightness of his action, he felt that if Abel were eliminated, Cain’s own view would necessarily prevail. Our challenge, as well, is to learn from our failures, rather than to stubbornly refuse to admit them and even rationalize them. By learning from our failures, we can transform every one of them into an impetus for further spiritual growth.
~ Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l
The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression. (Proverbs 19:11)
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Rabbi Menachem Meiri relates the following story:
There was once a righteous king who had but one major fault; he was angered very easily. To overcome this tendency he wrote three lines on a sheet of paper and appointed one of his servants to show it to him whenever he started to grow angry.
The lines read:
1. Always remember that you are merely a creature, and you yourself are not the Creator.
2. Always remember that you are flesh and blood and will eventually perish.
3. Always remember that there will be mercy for you in the future only if you have mercy on others.
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– Tom Irvine
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge. (Proverbs 1:7)
The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant. (Psalms 25:14)
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever. (Psalm 111:10)
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The Hebrew word for fear (yirah) is the same as revere, or to show devotion to. So the secret of the Lord is with those who devote themselves to Him.
Rabbi Alan Lew describes yirah as:
“The fear that overcomes us when we suddenly find ourselves in possession of considerably more energy than we are used to, inhabiting a larger space than we are used to inhabiting. It is also the feeling we feel when we are on sacred ground.”
Rabbi Fern Feldman wrote:
“When we experience yirah, it can mean we are terrified, or it can mean we are in awe, or it can mean we are experiencing some feeling that is both awe and fear.”
Rabbi Yoel Glick explained:
“To feel awe at the beauty of God’s creation is also yirat shamayim. To rejoice in the miracle of birth and the splendor of a sunset; to be dazzled by the incredible diversity of life in its manifold forms, to marvel at the amazing array of personalities, cultures and religions that have emerged from the human race – all these experiences are expressions of yirat shamayim, the awe of God.”
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– Tom Irvine
“The Jew of today holds in Jesus an inspired ideal of matchless beauty. While he lacks the element of stern justice expressed so forcibly in the law and in the Old Testament characters, the firmness of self-assertion so necessary to the full development of manhood, all those social qualities which build up home and society, industry and worldly progress, he is the unique exponent of the principle of redeeming love. His name as helper of the poor, as sympathizing friend of the fallen, as brother of every fellow sufferer, as lover of man and redeemer of woman, has become the inspiration, the symbol, and the watchword for the world’s greatest achievements in the field of benevolence.”
Rabbi Kaufman Kohler (1843-1926)
Rev. Hugh Robert Orr: Judaism vs. Christianity– A Unitarian View
“And so there came to be what was know to be a ‘Christianity as a system’ — Christianity as a system is not and never was the religion of Jesus. Christianity as a system is an agglomeration of absurd theological dogma infiltrated with all kinds of Pagan superstition, all gathered about the person of Jesus, so surely obscuring the great teacher with its falsehoods, that it is only with difficulty that the probable Jesus can be discovered at all.
“What Christian theology has done to Jesus is worse for the world than what his crucifiers did. It stole Jesus the Jew from Judaism, dressed him up in a strange and bewildering costume more disgraceful than any crown of thorns, fabled a false pedigree for him and then audaciously insisted that the Jewish race must accept this impossible caricature in place of their kinsman of Nazareth. And if the Jews would not fall down and worship this strange Pagan Christ that the Christians had substituted for the real Jesus, then they and their children should be sought out and tortured unto death.
“Many orthodox Jews, knowing little of the real Jesus, but knowing well how for centuries their race has been excluded and hounded and murdered in the name of Jesus Christ, have a horror of that name as of some spectral devil who is responsible for all their centuries of suffering. Can you blame them? And who fault is it?
“To be sure, Christianity does profess to embody the teachings of Jesus, and in a way practices them; that way may be judged, in part at least, from some of the things I have already pointed to. And true it is today, Christian theology is beginning to divert itself very cautiously of some of its Pagan superstition. Some of its younger and better educated ministers do come dangerously near repudiating some of the falsehoods of the Christian theology at times. But when you remove from Christianity all the ignorant superstitions, what do you have left? Why you have left simply the teachings of Jesus, which are no more Christian that they are Jewish, for they are Judaism at its best. Is it not about time that Christendom should lay aside its superstitions and be converted to the religion of Jesus? When it does it will then realize how far it was from the way of the great teacher when it was murdering his kinsmen.”
Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. (Job 38:3)
Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them. (Jeremiah 1:17)
– Tom Irvine
There are differing opinions as to who was the first Jew.
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Abraham, 1813-1638 BCE, is considered by many as the first Jew.
A native of Mesopotamia, he rejected the idolatrous ways of his ancestors and contemporaries; he was the first person to use his own cognitive abilities to discover and recognize the one G‑d. He then actively publicized his newfound monotheistic beliefs among his fellow citizens.
Eventually G‑d revealed Himself to Abraham and commanded him to leave his ancestral home and travel to the land of Canaan (later known as the Land of Israel). G‑d then promised this land as the eternal inheritance of his descendants.
Abraham took upon himself the observance of the mitzvot (divine commandments) and at the age of 99 he followed G‑d’s command to circumcise himself and the men of his household.
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The original name for the people we now call Jews was Hebrews. The word “Hebrew” (in Hebrew, “Ivri”) is first used in the Torah to describe Abraham (Gen. 14:13). The word is apparently derived from the name Eber, one of Abraham’s ancestors. Another tradition teaches that the word comes from the word “eyver,” which means “the other side,” referring to the fact that Abraham came from the other side of the Euphrates, or referring to the fact Abraham was separated from the other nations morally and spiritually.
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The term “Jew” didn’t arise until after the Syro-Ephraimite wars of 735-721 BCE, when the tribe of Judah became the dominant tribe. The first “Jewish” reference [as a national identity] comes no sooner than with its appearance at 2 Kings 16:6 KJV. The Midrash after Rashi establishes the reason why “Jew” is accepted throughout when referring, Talmudically, to any Abrahamic desendant in the Pentateuch.
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Other sources claim that the Jews originated with Jacob’s son Judah.
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