“He who kills, kills his brother.” — Elie Wiesel
“Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.” Cain was able to silence his brother’s voice but not his blood, and to this day his blood cries out through generations of violence and war.
What can we do about this?
There are many gaps in the narrative of the Cain and Abel story in the book of Genesis. We wonder why God preferred one gift over another, we wonder what Cain said to Abel out in the field. We wonder if Abel said anything back. Centuries of midrash (Jewish commentary) and Christian interpretation and commentary have provided lots of food for thought and contemplation.
For all the questions we may fairly ask, sometimes the bare, face value of the story as it is points us to the critical issues that must not get lost in our questions about the text.
- Cain is accountable for the death of Abel. Could any words or lack of words, could any conflict be worth this bloodshed?
- Cain and all his descendants are his brother’s keeper. That’s you and me and all of humankind.
But how? How on earth can I be my brother and sister’s keeper? No one is being asked to sign up for superstardom here. But the voice of God in this tragic tale gives an important and accessible answer — when God saw that Cain was angry, he asked “why are you angry? If you do well, won’t you be accepted?”
Elie Wiesel, famous Holocaust survivor and prolific author wrote: “God is saying, ‘do your best.'”
Do your best — maybe move away from the question we have about the mystery of the text and the implication that something was wrong with Cain’s fruit that he brought as an offering. Instead put “do your best” into the whole drama of the narrative.
Do your best.
Do your best by your fellow human. If he is hungry, feed him, if she is grieving, be there. If your brother or sister is in need, support the causes that attend to that. If there is injustice, speak out.
Do all the good you can in all the ways you can. Do not be daunted by the task. Just do your best to do your part.