The Torah tells us that Adam and Eve have two sons, Cain and Abel. Abel is a shepherd, while Cain is a farmer. each brings an offering to God from the fruits of his labors, but while Abel’s first of his flock is accepted by God, Cain’s offering is rejected. Cain becomes incensed, and God tries to calm him. When they are alone in the field, however, Cain rises up and beats his brother to death.
God gently confronts Cain, asking him where his brother is. Cain famously responds, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” to which God says He already knows the answer: “Thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me from the ground.” God curses Cain to wander the Earth, compounding the punishment his father already earned in the Garden of Eden. When Cain appeals to God that the burden is too great for him to bear, God assures him that in his wanderings, He will protect Cain from others.
The Israel Bible elaborates on the nature of Cain’s punishment, in line with the commentary of Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch. According to the German rabbi, the two Hebrew terms, na (fugitive) and nad (wanderer), connote two different types of disconnection: someone who is na can find no physical resting place on Earth, while someone who is nad is cut off from mankind. For Cain to have neither homeland nor society was no small matter. Likewise, the return of sovereign Jewish society to its Biblical homeland of Israel is a significant sign of God’s hand in the world.
Virtual Classroom Discussion
Why do you think Cain does not earn the death penalty, later identified as the Biblical punishment for murder, for killing his brother?