Rabbi Daniel Yolkut of Cong. Poale Zedeck in Pittsburgh, PA, related a very interesting insight during his Shabbat morning derasha this past week.
Cain’s descendant, Lemech, had three sons — Yaval, Yuval and Tuval Cain — who together appear to have developed the building blocks of civilization. Yaval was the first to systematically domesticate animals. Yuval was the first to create musical instruments. Tuval Cain was the first to create tools from metals. It was thus Cain’s descendants who first discovered the skills necessary for people to join together into permanent societies with tools, culture and a steady supply of food.
It is interesting to note that many of the names of Cain’s descendants were either identical or similar to the names of Shet’s descendants. Each line had men named Hanoch and Lemech. Cain’s line had Metushael while Shet’s had Metushelah. However, Shet’s line had no one with names similar to Yaval, Yuval and Tuval Cain. While Shet had several righteous descendants, the Torah does not relate that any one among Shet’s descendants had the impact on the formation of civilization like Yaval, Yuval and Tuval Cain.
Rabbi Yolkut suggested that perhaps the drive to advance culture and civilization was a result of Cain’s murder of Hevel. In an attempt to either address or move beyond the guilt, Cain’s descendants turned to the development of culture. Put in these terms, the earliest examples of art and culture were produced by the burdens of guilt and anxiety, and the need to address the darker side of human actions and motivations. Indeed, while the names Yaval, Yuval and Tuval have no equivalent among Shet’s descendents, they are all similar to Hevel’s name.