Bereishit – Out in the fields

Cain said to his brother Abel…and when they were in the field, Cain set upon his brother Abel and killed him. (Bereishit 4:8).

Out in the fields
Out in the fields
two brothers alone:
no appeasement,
no reminder
of the inseparable ties
that bind.

Abel panics and runs,
agile and sure-footed
as the goats he herds.
Cain, propelled by fury,
chasing over clods, kicking
freshly ploughed earth.

Finally they strive,
locked in fierce struggle,
face to face
breathing hard,
looking as into a mirror,
seeing the other reflected there.

The contest is already decided.
But suddenly through the haze
Abel prevails.
“Wait!” cries Cain,
“How will you go home now?

The image of their parents
broken, in mourning,
floats before Abel’s eyes.
He loosens his hold.
In a flash
Cain flings him down.

How will he go home now?

In the Torah, open fields imply a deserted place far from other people – in this case far from the parents of Cain and Abel (cf Devarim 22:25).
The Torah itself gives no clue as to the source of the rivalry between the brothers so Chazal propose several theories: which half of the world each brother will inherit; who will marry Eve when Adam dies or who will marry Abel’s twin sister; and in whose territory the future Temple will be built. The Etz Hayim commentary of the JPS notes that economic conflict, sexual rivalry and religious conflict have been the source of violence between human beings ever since.
In his book, Messengers of God – Biblical Portraits and Legends, Elie Wiesel graphically describes the fight which flares up between the brothers and ends with the murder of Abel.


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