Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “Where are you,–where are you in the world?”

At the beginning of the book of Genesis, which is “the book of the generations of Man” (Genesis 5: I) not only historically, but also in the sense of man’s essence, there are two questions, both asked by G-d.

The first is directed to Adam: “Where are you?” (Genesis 2:9)

This is a basic, universal question that pertains to all human beings at all times:

“Where are you,” where are you in the world?

This is a very personal question that every person hears at one point or another, either overtly or secretly, like someone knocking at his heart’s door.

And one is constrained to reply, “I heard your voice in the garden and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself’ (ibid., 3:10).

Later in the Book of Genesis, however, there is a second question: “Where is … your brother?” (ibid., 4:9) – where is he?

Indeed, it is a part of the universal shame when one answers: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (ibid.).

So “the Master of the house presses,” and He asks:

“Where is your brother?” Where is he? What is he doing? What have you done with him?

And I must be responsible; I can never evade the issue by asking, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz