Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Cain and Abel: A Lesson for Our Time

            They were two brothers: one was a shepherd, the other a farmer. They didn’t get along; theirs was an ancient argument, but the argument was so long ago, no one could remember exactly what and why it had begun; it had grown rotten and hard between them, like a rock or a dried-up callus, which never heals; it just grows harder and uglier.
            Abel was a shepherd; he had many flocks, and they spread throughout his land, a pleasure for the eye and the belly. Cain was a farmer; he lived by the sea. And the Lord had favored Abel: he had goats, and lambs, and cattle, and sheep. And Cain was jealous. And Abel feared that Cain would steal his sheep, or hurt his family, out of jealousy, so he built a High Wall, to separate himself from his brother. And the Wall stood, and the brothers lived apart. The bitterness grew, and the hatred.
            And Cain grew angrier with his brother, whom he did not really know; he only knew that Abel had many flocks, and was richer than he. And his bitterness grew, until it spread and infected the very soil upon which he lived. It spread into the ground, like a poison, like an acid, making cracks and crevices and tunnels beneath the soil, far, far beneath the richness of Abel’s flocks.
            And Cain’s hatred grew; it was not assuaged; and Cain thought in his heart:
“There will come a Holy Day, and I will rise up, and attack and utterly destroy Abel, my brother; and I will take his flocks, which ought to be mine, by right. I will pour out the bitterness of my heart upon his family, and his land, and he will fear me, as he should.”
            But Abel grew suspicious, and built the Wall higher between them.
            And Cain’s bitterness grew more, and turned into rockets of death, which fired up into the sky, hoping to shower down in drops of destruction onto the land of his now-estranged-brother Abel, to destroy that which Abel owned and loved and cherished.
But Abel was able to shelter from the destruction, and hold back the rockets.
            And Abel fought back with more powerful weapons, and laid waste to the meager land on which Cain lived. And there was devastation in the Land of Cain, and Fear and Wailing in the Land of Abel, and the World looked on, and wondered.
            And people prayed. But God was silent.
            And now, the brothers stare at one another, sweating like beasts in a field, panting and straining at the bit, circling and staring at one another, waiting to deal the next blow.
            The babies cry; the old people and women and young children huddle like forest animals in their shelters.
The piles of bleeding corpses mount, and still the brothers are not satisfied.
            It is a hard thing to be Brothers, and to hate one another.
            It is a hard thing to live and endure and to hate a Brother who lives over a Wall.
Can even the Lord God change Hatred to Loving?
            Or will Our God go on being silent?
            What Answer, O Reader, have you?