Be willing to accept constructive criticism. We must not assume that it’s ‘the other guy’ who deserves admonition and not us.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is “Bereishit” (Genesis 1:1 – 6:8), and with it we began the annual Torah reading cycle anew. Hence, you can probably find this week’s Torah portion in your Bibles quite easily – try page 1!
Among the many exciting stories in this week’s Torah portion is the episode of Cain and Abel. The brothers each offered a sacrifice to God. As we know, God accepted Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s. Cain became very angry about this, to say the least.
When God saw Cain’s reaction to His acceptance of the brother’s offering, He essentially told him: “If you will commit to bringing better offerings in the future I will forgive you for your poor offering. But if you do not change your attitude you will need to deal with the evil inclination forever (See Gen 4:7).
Godly advice. Literally.
Immediately after this encounter, according to the Torah portion, “Cain said to his brother Abel,” and then, “And it happened when they were in the field that Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him”.
What in the world did Cain say to Abel regarding the verse that says “Cain said to his brother Abel”?
The sages explain that Cain repeated to Abel what God had told him moments ago. And then Cain killed Abel.
It is explained that Cain felt that what God told him simply didn’t apply to him. Cain believed that he was beyond reproach and that God’s chastisement wasn’t relevant to him but, rather, to his brother Abel. We are then told that Abel answered Cain, telling him that God’s reproof was meant for him (Cain), not Abel.
Cain didn’t like what he heard, so he killed Abel.
And so it is today. People think that they are perfect, beyond reproach or criticism, and hence, any criticism is meant for others, not for them.
The message here is clear. We have to be willing to accept constructive criticism, We should not think we are perfect or beyond reproach. We must not assume that it is ‘the other guy’ who needs the criticism and not us.
It also goes without saying that we must not get angry and lose our cool when given words of reproof, as Cain did. We must always be willing to accept good advice and improve ourselves!
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.