Yoni Mozeson
Yoni Mozeson

Cain’s audacious accusations against God

In Cain’s famous assertion “Am I my brother’s keeper?” he was, according to Midrash Tanchuma, really saying:

“You, God, are supposed to be the one who safeguards all creations. Why are you asking me (about Hevel’s whereabouts)?” You should not have let this happen.

What was God’s reply to this contemptuous charge? 

“Your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground.” (Bereishis 4:10) 

Meaning, you’re not the only one asking that question. The blood of your deceased brother, Hevel, is wondering why I stood by and allowed an innocent man to be murdered. To drive the point home, the Midrash offers the following analogy:

“Three friends went into a field. There was a fight. One killed the other.  When the 2 returned everyone asked the third man ‘why didn’t you break up the fight, why didn’t you save your friend?”’

God was the onlooker who did not get involved. The Midrash is implying that God is admitting that He could have stopped the murder but chose not to.

Couldn’t Chava have leveled the same accusation?

One may wonder, didn’t Chava have an even better argument than Cain? God put this nasty creature in this otherwise pristine garden. The snake  talked her into doing something unthinkable. Violating the only precept that she and Adam were asked to keep. In fact, Chava tried to argue “it’s the snake’s fault that I ate from the tree of knowledge.” But no one gave any credence to her contention?

Perhaps the answer lies in two further arguments that Cain made as recorded in Midrash Tanchuma:

“You created the evil inclination within me…. and, after all, it was because God rejected my sacrifice that I got into a jealous rage in the first place”

Adam and Chava were pure souls with no inclination to do anything wrong. While it’s true that Chava confronted evil in the form of the snake, perhaps it was easier for her because she had no inner drive to follow the snake’s advice. Cain, on the other hand, is arguing for all of us. In the post Eden, new world order, God designed us to be born with a huge imperfection – a built in inclination to do the wrong thing. So it should come as no surprise that we slip up. Furthermore, Cain is directly implicating God for causing his jealous rage when Cain’s sacrifice was rejected. Especially when it was Cain who initiated the whole idea of bringing a sacrifice and Hevel merely copied him. 

Of course, Cain had more divine therapeutic intervention than perhaps any human in the history of the world. God tried to talk him out of it and warned him of the dark consequences. All to no avail. Cain’s pain of rejection (of his sacrifice) and his greed to own the world won out over God’s impromptu counseling session. 

The terrible price of Free will

Parshat Bereishis provides the moral building blocks of the world. Just like the blood of Hevel is screaming this question from the earth, it continues to scream today. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why did God allow the holocaust? The answer of course, is that this is surely the world that Mankind would prefer. Where we have free will. The alternative is a robotic world where we have no moral choices. No tests, No growth. God is admitting in Midrash Tanchuma that God indeed designed the world in a  way that seems terribly unjust.

About the Author
After college and Semicha at Yeshiva University my first pulpit was Ogilvy where I wrote TV commercials for brands like American Express, Huggies and Duracell. My passion is Midrash Tanchuma. I am an Architect of Elegant Marketing Solutions at www.mindprintmarketing.com. We are living in (where else) the Nachlaot neighborhood of Jerusalem.
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