Helping Our Brothers and Sisters in Need
Yael Eckstein | October 15, 2020
Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” — Genesis 4:9
Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy, and this week we begin again with the Torah portion B’reisheet, which means “in the beginning,” from Genesis 1:1—6:8.
When I was growing up, I knew very little about what my father, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, was building at The Fellowship. When I moved to Israel, shortly after I got married, my father brought me to see some of The Fellowship’s charity projects. It was then that I began to understand the magnitude of my father’s work — and also, why he had dedicated his life to it.
Until that time, I did not understand the extent of the poverty in Israel. As I became more involved in The Fellowship, I learned more about the dire needs of Jews, including elderly Holocaust survivors, around the world. Once my eyes were opened to the difficult reality of my brothers and sisters in need, I knew that like my father, I would dedicate my life to doing all I could to help them.
In this week’s Torah reading, we learn about the tragic encounter between Cain and his brother Abel. After Cain slew Abel, God confronted him and asked, “Where is your brother Abel?” Cain infamously replied, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
The Jewish sages explained that, of course, God knew where Abel was. God was really asking, “What have you done to your brother?” God was giving Abel a chance to take responsibility for his actions. However, Cain did the exact opposite. His reply meant, “I am not responsible for my brother.”
Every year, when we read this story in the weekly Torah portion, I feel as though God is addressing each of us and asking, “Where is your brother? Where is your sister?” Are you aware of their suffering? Do you care?
In response, we can insist that the poor and needy are not our responsibility. Like Cain, we can say, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Or, we can affirm our commitment to helping our brothers and sisters in need.
Now is the time to declare, “I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sisters keeper.” We need to open our eyes to the suffering of others and extend a helping hand. We are part of one family — God’s family — and we bring great joy to our Father in heaven when we care for His children.
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