I read the following Dvar Torah this past weekend on Bereishit. It spoke about the first instance of free will, as in the Kayin having a choice to either go down the dark side or come to an understanding regarding the acceptance of his brother’s sacrifice over his. As I was reading this, I was struck by a couple of problems with Rabbi Bieler’s approach which I want to share.
1. He implies that there was no free will before the sin of eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. To be more specific, the argument is that by G-d telling Adam not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, he was placing an ultimatum but not actually presenting a choice. Of course, if we think about it, all commands have choice. If Adam chooses to ignore the command, there will be a consequence, which G-d spells out. When Kayin is presented with a choice, he is not given a direct consequence, so much as G-d presents the two roads Kayin can travel depending on his choice (“If you do well, you will be uplifted. And if you do not do well, sin crouches at the door, and to you shall be its desire. Yet you can rule over it.”)
2. The dvar Torah implies that G-d made a mistake the first time by placing an ultimatum on Adam as opposed to laying out the options before him. As such, when we get to Kayin, G-d fixes the mistake. To me, that seems to be the polar opposite of how the creation story is to be read. Adam and Eve live in a Utopian world. G-d, being the all knowing, perfect, etc. would presumably know the proper approach to take regarding the prohibition of eating from the Tree. He, however, assumes that G-d’s approach with Adam was wrong, because he disobeyed, and therefore G-d needs to rectify the mistake when the next potential sin could come by offering a concrete psychological choice.
3. The message is quite interesting. The first born is not automatically removed from the seen in favor of the younger child. Rather, the first born often fails to reach the expectations placed on him/her by the parents.