Its' a strange thing that G"d says to Cain. First, G"d asks Cain where his brother Abel is. And Cain responds "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?"
And then G"d says this strange thing. G"d says: What have you done? The voice of the bloods of your brother cries out to Me from the earth."
Nope, it's not a typo. Despite what most translations say, the accurate translation of "d'mei akhikha" is "bloods of your brother," or "your brother's bloods." "D'mei" is a plural construct form of "dam," blood.
Now the rabbis, of course, have a handy explanation for this. Their consensus opinion is that in killing Abel, Cain has also killed all of Abel's potential descendants. It is not just Abel's blood, but the blood of all those who will now no longer be, that cry out so that G"d hears them. It's a nice little explanation, and it feels right. And who am I to argue with the sages?
But since when have I been afraid to argue with the sages and rabbis? I think there' are other possible understandings.
First of all, if we accept the rabbis' explanation, we have a few small problems, not the least of which is that it is from Noach and his sons that we all descend. Would not the omniscient G"d already know this? Noach is, after all, a descendant of Seth. (I've previously written about what I think is the most courageous act of Adam and Chava in having yet another child after what happened between Cain and Abel.) If Abel had lived, Seth might never have been born, let alone conceived, and there would have been no Noach. The butterfly effect works both ways in this universe of G"d's creation.
So perhaps another explanation will come in handy. I have several to offer.
The "bloods" of Abel might refer to the simple genetic fact that Abel was conceived by Adam and Chava, and the reference might be to their "bloods" now genetically co-mingled in their children. That being the case, not only are the "bloods" of Abel crying out, but Cain's own bloods would be crying out as well. It reminds us that we each carry a little bit of both our parent's bloods (for they too carry "bloods" from their parents, and so on.)
Another possibility is that "bloods" is a reminder to all of us that we all share the same life-giving force that is so important to G"d that we are restricted from consuming it and enjoined not to spill it meaninglessly. Abel's bloods are all of our bloods. In some ways similar to the idea of referring to Abel's potential descendants, but in this case broadened to include all humanity. When we spill the blood of another, it is as if we are spilling the blood of everyone who was, is, and will be.
Taking it a step further, perhaps "bloods" refers to Abel's blood and G"d's blood. G"d has put this life-giving blood within us, so we each, in effect, have some of G"d's blood inside mixed with our own.
Ultimately, I do think that all these explanations, the rabbis' included, take us to essentially the same place-that the spilling of the blood of one human being by extension affects all others. To stick with just the rabbis' basic explanation is a little bit dangerously too "pro-life fundamentalist" for me. It's not just about Abel's potential descendants-it's about all of us, all humankind. we're all part of a chain-whether you see that chain is DNA, Torah, carbon, or whatever.
These days, when we hear "Bloods" I suspect some of us then think "Crips." Which leads us to a bit of a quandary. For who would be Abel's sworn blood brothers, out for justice and revenge? Is the use of "bloods" a subtle hint at the propensity that mankind would develop for revenging deaths of family members, so much so that ultimately G"d had to instruct us to build cities of refuge? That is, after all, what Cain's descendant Lamech claims.
I also find it interesting that here we find a G"d who insists that Cain will bear the humiliation of what he has done all the days of his life. G"d marks Cain so that no one shall kill him, and he will suffer all his life for his crime, his sin.
And this is the same G"d who later instructs "eye for eye, tooth for tooth, life for life..." ?
It's all so confusing. But then again. what do you expect from a book that purports to be from the hands of the One G"d in which we are told that the "b'nei ha-Elohim" - the "sons of The gods" came down and cohabited with mortal women and brought forth heroes of renown?
It's enough to make you want to keep re-reading it over and over to try and make some sense of it. Hmmm. That sounds like a plan....
©2005 by Adrian A. Durlester
Some other musings on this parasha:
Bereshit 5765 (5760)-Failing to Understand-A Learning
Bereshit 5764-Gd's Regrets
Bereshit 5762--The Essential Ingredient
Bereshit 5763--Striving to be Human
Bereshit 5761--Chava's Faith
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