D'vrei Torah by Rabbi Ellie Shemtov
The road to resentment is paved with expectation.
When we expect something from another person it’s an all or nothing proposition. When our expectations are dashed we can begin to feel resentful, hurt, or even angry. But, if we instead hope or want someone to do what we ask, our response is likely to be less extreme when what we hoped for or asked for doesn’t happen.
In this week’s Torah portion, Bereshit, God creates man and woman on the sixth day. That man and woman, Adam and Eve are driven out of the Garden of Eden for disobeying God when they eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. We are then introduced to their two sons, Cain, a farmer and Abel, a shepherd. The first thing we learn about Cain and Abel is that while each brings an offering to God, God only notices Abel’s offering. Feeling snubbed וַיִּחַר לְקַיִן מְאֹד וַֽיִּפְּלוּ פָּנָֽיו, Cain became angry and his face fell (Gen. 4:5). If God doesn’t notice Cain’s offering, God does notice his anger and disappointment and tries to counsel Cain. But Cain’s anger prevails and in a fit of jealous rage he murders his brother Abel.
Some commentators have observed that Cain and Abel made an offering as a way to show gratitude to God. But in showing gratitude did Cain expect something in return from God? Did he expect God to notice him in the same way he noticed his brother? The road to resentment --and in this case murder, is paved with expectation.