Adam vs Kayin: Blame

Rabbi Reuven Mann

Rabbi Israel Chait once pointed out that while Adam and Kayin, when accused by Hashem, failed at first to be forthcoming, the character of their reactions was different. There is a Midrash about a conversation that took place between Adam and Kayin. Say the Rabbis, 

“Adam encountered Kayin and said to him, ‘How did you fare in your judgement? He answered, ‘I did Teshuva and was acquitted.’ Adam then painfully hit his face and said, ‘Such is the power of Teshuva? In didn’t know that.’”

Kayin’s original response to Hashem’s question about the whereabouts of Hevel was, “I don’t know. Am I my brother's Shomer (guardian)?” In contradistinction, Adam did not deny that he had eaten the forbidden fruit but rather said, “The woman that you placed here with me, she gave me of the fruit and I did eat” (Bereishit 3:12).

Rabbi Chait characterized the response of Kayin as denial, whereas Adam admitted the sin but rationalized and refused to take blame for it. Rabbi Chait concluded that one who rationalizes is further distanced from truth than one who engages in wholesale denial. For when the latter is no longer able to maintain the lie he has no choice but to acknowledge reality, so there is hope for him. But one who is adept at manipulating the truth with all kinds of distortions is very unlikely to ever recognize his flaws.