In school students receive As, Bs, Cs, Ds and Fs. Students, however, often comment that they at least deserve an E for effort. This comment reflects an important life lesson that is taught in the very first chapters of the Torah in the story of Cain and Abel.

“And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering to the Lord. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the Lord had respect for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had not respect. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell….(Genesis 3:3-5).

Taking a closer look at the introduction to this tale of sibling rivalry, one can almost understand why Cain was angry. In fact, it was Cain’s idea to bring an offering in the first place. But whereas Cain brought some of his vegetables (he was a farmer), Abel, a shepherd, brought the firstlings of his flock – those being of the finest quality.

Noticing Cain’s negative reaction, God immediately advised him what he could do:

“Why are you angry, and why is your countenance fallen? If you do well, shall it not be lifted up? But, if you do not do well, sin couches at the door; and unto you is its desire, but you may rule over it” (Genesis 3:6-7).

In other words, Cain had the ability to improve, all he needed was to put forth the effort of choosing the finest produce for an offering. Alas, Cain took the low road. He called his brother to a private conversation and then murdered him. He could not take personal responsibility for his own shortcomings.

Each of us, in every generation, however, is meant to keenly absorb the lesson that God was trying to teach Cain. We must each take responsibility for our own actions and always strive to do our best.