Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spent two-and-a-half hours Thursday afternoon
studying the Cain and Abel story, telling some 17 rabbis and academics gathered
at his residence that the jealousy in the tale is a “powerful engine” that he
has come across once or twice in his own profession.
The question he
asked, but which no one answered directly, was what was the Torah’s recipe for
dealing with someone inflamed by jealousy and unable to control himself.
Netanyahu made no reference, either directly or indirectly, to anyone currently
on the political scene.
Thursday's study session was the second
installment of a Bible study circle he initiated in May, just before Shavuot,
dedicated to his father-in-law Shmuel Ben- Artzi, a noted Bible teacher and
enthusiast who died last November. Two pictures of Ben-Artzi were placed in the
corner of the outdoor porch where the study session took place, behind a
flickering memorial candle.
Netanyahu opened up the discussion, led by
Rabbi Benny Lau, only hinting at the election season by saying – “without
reference to current events” – that “we have arrived again with Simchat Torah to
There is continuity and a cycle in this lovely tradition, and we
see in it the eternal nature of the Jewish people.”
arrived directly from a tour he took of the security fence nearing completion in
the Negev on the border with Egypt, said he came from the biblical desert
landscape back to Jerusalem to “connect to the foundations of our existence, and
there is no firmer a foundation than the Bible.”
The Prime Minister’s
Office, along with the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, organized the event, a
reincarnation of a tradition David Ben-Gurion began when he hosted a regular
Bible study circle when he was prime minister. Begin also held regular Bible
One of the questions Netanyahu posed was why the
punishment God meted out to Cain for the murder of his brother was lenient, and
why he was not punished with death himself.
One of the participants
responded that lesson to be learned was that repairing the world – Cain went on
to build a city and beget offspring that enriched the world in various ways –
was more important than vengeance.
Among those who attended were Rabbi
Yehuda Ben- Yishai, whose daughter Ruth was killed with her husband and three
children in a terrorist attack in Itamar last year; Avshalom Kor, the legendary
radio linguist; Dr. Micah Goodman, head of the Ein Prat Academy for Leadership;
Prof. Moshe Bar-Asher, head of the Hebrew Language Academy; Nili Wazana,
a Hebrew University Judaic studies scholar; Esti Rosenberg, head of the Migdal
Oz Beit Midrash for Women; and Prof. Binyamin Ish- Shalom, founder of
Jerusalem’s Beit Morasha.