My Torah Portion is B’reishit, the first parshah of the Torah. B’reishit is all about the Creation of the World. The creation of humans, animals, nature, planets and even crocodiles. It has some of the most famous stories in the Torah like Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and them getting kicked out of the Garden of Eden.
But it is the story that comes next, of their children Cain and Abel that I want to focus on. In case you weren’t able to translate the Hebrew as we read it, let me summarise it - they both make an offering, but G-d accepts Abel’s and not Cain’s. Cain gets angry and he kills his brother and then is cursed by G-d to be a rootless wanderer of the earth.
Why does the Torah tell this story? What is it trying to teach? At the time that Cain killed his brother, Abel was the only other brother he had. They were the first sons born from Eve into the world and just one generation after Adam and Eve, Cain has brought murder into the world. In fact, the Talmud teaches us that: “Anyone who destroys the life of one person, it’s as if they have destroyed the whole world.” Cain didn’t just kill his brother, he destroyed a whole universe.
When G-d confronts Cain after the murder, G-d says, D’mei achicha tzo-akim - “the bloods of your brother cry out”. The Mishnah teaches that the reason that the word for Abel’s blood is in the plural - not dam but D’mei achicha tzo-akim - the bloods of your brother cry out - indicates that Cain murdered more than just Abel. He also murdered all the unborn future generations that would have come from Abel.
The most famous line of all is Cain’s response, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” As everyone here knows, I have a brother [wave at Mani]. Am I his keeper? Well, the Hebrew word for keeper is “shomer” - a guardian - like the shomrim who stand in front of the school or the shul to stand guard. If Mani was ever in trouble I would go and help him. Or Yasi for that matter. But when it says my brother, it doesn’t just mean my biological brother. He or she is my friend, the person who washes your car, the teacher at school. It’s about all people in the world. We must all care for each other. If we don’t, we create a world ready for murder.
And the responsibility is beyond not killing. It’s not causing harm in any way.
Before my bar mitzvah, all my sins went to my parents’ account - shame, poor you. [look at parents] That’s a lot to take. But now that I’m bar mitzvah, I have to take full responsibility for what I do - because I will bear the consequences. Being an adult means you have to think of other people as much as you think of yourself. And that’s even if it comes at a cost to yourself.
Am I my brother’s keeper? - yes! Cain didn’t understand the question - we must!