With an open mind

Sermons, essays, articles, arguments and thought pieces from a Liberal Jewish perspective.


Sermons and Thoughts

Where is your brother?

14 October 2023
Student Rabbi Andrea Kulikovsky

You can watch a recording of this sermon on our YouTube channel.

We begin again. The world was created: nature, creatures, and human beings. And as soon as humans were created, they began to behave badly. Aieka? Where are you? God knows that something really bad happened. Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree, and their eyes were opened to another dimension of life.

One week ago, we woke up to terrible news. While preparing to be happy at our synagogues, we heard the unbelievable description of the invasion of South Israel by terrorists from Gaza. From that moment on, we were forced to see, listen, and feel the higher level of cruelty once again. As Jews, we feel the pain of our brothers and sisters in Israel. In this small world in which we live today, we have friends and family living or spending time in Israel, therefore the pain has name, the stories are close, fear has a face. We are no longer safe in the land of Israel!

Aieka? We have been asking everywhere. Where are you – our children, our friends, our families? Are you alive, are you safe?

What drives one person to commit the atrocities that happened in Israel is beyond any kind of explanation, it is impossible to understand. The passage that we have just read is a very difficult text about how Cain, full of rage or envy about his brother, just kills him at the fields. What really drives Cain to kill his brother is a mystery in the text. So much that even the ancient sages were puzzled. God asks: Ei Hevel achicha? Where is your brother Abel?

Where is your brother? One week has passed, pictures fill our social media accounts. Where are our brothers, sisters, where are our children? The pain keeps increasing, and in anger and pain, puzzled by all the things that are being uncovered in Israel, we keep sharing information.

In the past we were told that the world didn’t know. Now the world has to know! And in fact, differently than during the Shoah, today the world knows what happened in Israel. Today everybody saw at least one horrifying capture of an atrocity committed against children, youngsters or elderly, women, and men. And we keep asking: Where are you? Where is your brother?

When questioned by God, Cain asks in reply: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” “Hashomer achi anochi?

Promptly the Israelis raised up in response. After less than two days of horror, and with the war still going on, we began to witness the strength of the Israeli people. Multitudes gathered in squares, streets, synagogues and began cooking food; donating blood, food and clothing; organising boxes of donations for soldiers; housing for displaced people; caring for the needy. While in Israel, miluim (army reservists) were called to defend their country (our country), around the world special prayers, webinars, fundraisings were organised to give support to those in need of caring, food and information. Kol Israel arevim ze ba ze, we take care of one another, we are guardians of our brothers and sisters.

During this past week, Israelis turned on all the lights of their houses and played in high volume the national tune, Hatikva – The Hope, with their windows opened. The strong Israeli population was saying: Gam ze iaavor, this too shall pass.

Last week, we read about the death of Moses, one of the most poetic passages of our Torah. After his death, the people mourned for 30 days, and Joshua ben Nun assumes his position, and the people march. There never was and there never will be another prophet like Moses, but life goes on. Chazak, chazak veNitchazek: each one of us is strong, and we fortify one another.

In our parashah, life also goes on, and not only Cain has children and grandchildren, but Adam and Eve have another son, Seth, who was father of Enosh. Enosh1 walked with God, and after him that the people began to invoke Adonai2. A special relationship was re- established between humankind and its Creator.

We must cry. We are entitled to be angry. But we must carry on, live our lives, count our blessings, hug our children, strengthen our Jewish lives and identities, be together as one holy community that hears the questions: “Where are you? Where is your brother?” to what we promptly answer: I am the guardian of my brothers and sisters, and we will be fine.

Shabbat Shalom

1 Bereshit 5:22
2 Bereshit 4:26