Posts Tagged 'Recovery'

Redeeming Idle Hands: Luthiery and Tuval-Cain

After the pomp and circumstance of the creation story and Adam and Eve’s exile from Eden we have the devastating story of fratricide. After this the Torah records the generations to follow. This record seems like little more than a pause before the generation of Noah. One could only imagine the shame carried by the decedents of Cain. There we read:

Lamech took to himself two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other was Zillah. Adah bore Yaval; he was the ancestor of those who dwell in tents and amidst herds. And the name of his brother was Yuval; he was the ancestor of all who play the lyre and the pipe. As for Zillah, she bore Tuval-cain, who forged all implements of copper and iron. And the sister of Tuval-cain was Naamah. (Genesis 4:19-22)

One could only imagine the burden of knowing that Cain your ancestor did. But for Tuval-cain, how might it impact you to have his name as part of your own? And what is the connection between his name and his profession?

There is an interesting midrash that deals with these questions. We learn:

“Tuval-Cain”: R. Yehoshua of Sakhnin said in the name of R. Levi, “This one sweetened (literally, tuval means spiced) Cain’s sin – Cain would kill, but he did not have with what to kill; but this one ‘forged every cutting instrument of copper and iron.'” (Bereishit Rabbah 23:3)

This midrash assumes that the instruments in question are the tools of war. Is it not also possible that these instruments are related to his half brother Yuval’s “lyre and the pipe”?

I was thinking about this recently when watching this puff piece on CNN. In the story Luthiery, the art of creating stringed instruments, is changing lives in Hindman, Kentucky. It started with a master luthier and a man set on overcoming addictions. It is worth it to watch this segment.

Appalachian School of Luthiery

This is the story shows how creating instruments helped save someone’s life from addiction and depression. It was not hard imaging how craftmanship might have similarly saved Tuval-cain. As the expression goes, “Idle hands do the work of the devil.” It follows that using your hands constructively can be redemptive.


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