Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “Two questions, both asked by God”

At the beginning of the Book of Genesis—which is “the book of the generations of Man” (Genesis 5:1) and of the essence of man—there are two questions, both asked by God.

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

This is a basic, universal question, which pertains to all human beings at all times: “Where are you,” where are you in the world?

Not once, man is constrained to reply—”I heard your voice in the garden and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself” (Genesis 5:10).

This is a very personal question, which every man hears at one point or another, either overtly or secretly, someone knocking at his heart’s doors.

But later on, there is a second question in the Book of Genesis: “Where is . . . your brother?” (Genesis 4:9)—where is he?

Indeed, it is a part of the world’s shame when one answers: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9).

So “the Master of the House urges,” 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 and respond, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz