"Cain and Abel: The first two brothers of the first family in history. The only brothers in the world. The saddest, the most tragic. Why do they hold such an important place in our collective memory, which the Bible represents for so many of us? Mean, ugly, immoral, oppressive—their story disturbs and frightens. It haunted mankind then and still does, working its way into our nightmares.
At first we become attached to Cain. He shares with his younger brother, Abel, the generous idea of offering gifts to the Lord. But for this, Abel might never have felt the need to do the same. For reasons the text does not bother to explain, however, God accepts the gift from Abel after refusing the gift from Cain.
An unjust Creator of the World? Already? How can we understand this favoritism? What did Abel do so great, beautiful or praiseworthy as to merit the divine sympathy denied to his brother? Cain, innocent victim of unprecedented heavenly discrimination—how can we not wonder about his fate?"
Read the rest of Elie Wiesel's important essay at this link.
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And here is a personal postscript:
I am convinced that the story of Cain and Abel has important lessons for all of us, and Elie Wiesel's brilliant exegesis gives us much to ponder. However, I would add one more important point. Notice that God's punishment of Cain did not include a death penalty. If the first, most unforgiveable murder did not merit capital punishment, why should human beings now support or impose the death penalty on anyone? Yes, I think that is an important lesson in the story of Cain and Abel.
Well, now, what do you think?