Our Parsha tells the story of Cain and Abel, the two sons of Adam and Eve, who recognized the plentiful bounty that HaShem had given them, and who were the first to decide to make offerings of thanks.  HaShem accepts Abel’s offering and rejects Cain’s.  In a moment of anger Cain murders his brother Abel.  HaShem descends from heaven, and asks Cain:

Ay Hevel Achicha (Where is Abel, your brother?)

Cain answered:

Lo Yadati, HaShomer Achi Anochi (I don’t know, am I my brother’s keeper)?

Bereishit 4:9

Why does HaShem ask this question?  Doesn’t HaShem know that Cain killed Abel? And doesn’t Cain know that all is revealed to the Creator of heaven and earth? The Chassidic Master, Reb Simcha Bunim of Pryschah teaches us that the purpose of the dialogue was to establish responsibility.  When HaShem asked Cain: Where is Abel, your brother?  He was actually saying: You are responsible for him.  It was within your power to choose between right and wrong; hence, you are to blame for his death and are therefore, deserving of punishment.

Cain on the other hand, was under the impression that since he had succeeded in killing Abel, his death must have been decreed from heaven above.  Cain was just doing “G-d’s will,”  he was just the instrument of HaShem’s  Divine Plan.  Therefore, he replied;HaShomer Achi Anochi – am I my brother’s keeper? Cain believed that nothing happens in this world without G-d’s involvement, for He alone, is the “KEEPER” of the world.  Cain thought that an action couldn’t happen unless HaShem willed it.  HaShem was Abel’s keeper, it was therefore, G-d’s responsibility.

The entire question of good and evil is contained in these few words. Cain’s rationalization was erroneous.  Whether man does good or evil is a matter of free choice, something which is not affected by Divine decree.  G-d never forces the hand of man, and therefore, mankind is accountable for all its actions.

A number of years ago, I attended a meeting of the Windsor. Ontario, Holocaust Committee. We had a very distinguished and delightful guest, Mrs. Rosa Schreiber of G’munden, Austria – who received “the Righteous Gentile Award” from the Holocaust Museum in West Bloomfield, Michigan.

During the War against the Jews, Mrs. Schreiber was relocated to Noyhouse, Austria, where she opened a small grocery shop.  A simple woman, Rosa was distressed by the manner in which the slave labor Jews were being persecuted by the Nazis.  A kind and gentle woman by nature, Rosa had already developed an acute awareness of human suffering, and could not stand by, and watch what was happening, to her fellow human beings.  She acted upon her feelings and saved many Jews from cruelty and starvation.

Yes, the Nazi authorities, tried to stop her.  I don’t know how she survived, without being executed herself.  The authorities even closed her shop, for only a two week period.  But, they couldn’t manage to control Rosa Schreiber, and because of her gallant efforts, many Jews and

Yugoslavian partisans were saved.

During our meeting with Rosa, I began to think, what if others would have behaved as Rosa did?  You see, up until that point, I was always aware of the fear, normal citizens had, of helping a Jew during those terrible years.  But what if, by overcoming one’s fear, maybe one Jew or ten Jews might have been saved?

Multiply that, by a hand full of people, in all the places where the local citizens, had contact with

Jews, and hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Jews, could have been saved.  Why didn’t more people, especially those living in Noyhouse, Austria, who saw that Rosa was not being punished, why didn’t they show some of Rosa’s spirit?

G-d’s plan was an excuse that others used, not to get involved.  Most people thought, that it was too frightening, to challenge the inevitable forces at play, during those awful years.  What would happen to me, or my family, if I got caught?  It’s not my responsibility to change the world, to correct evil, or even to help a Jew.

Dr. Allen Brown, a retired professor of Economics, at the University of Windsor, was then a boy of just seventeen years.  He attempted to obtain some medication for his ailing father, and his path crossed Rosa’s.  His life and those of other’s were saved, because Rosa knew what Cain did not.

Whether man does good or evil, is a matter of free choice, which is not affected by Divine decree.  G-d never forces the hand of man, and therefore, mankind is accountable for their actions.

After our meeting, I took Rosa’s hand and told her that according to our Jewish tradition, one who saves a single life, is as if, he saved and entire universe.  Dr. Brown’s life was saved, and he has three wonderful children, three wonderful universes that are accredited to her alone.  I thanked her for her compassion, and we shared a few tears together.  Rosa Schreiber is truly, one of the Chassidei U’mot HaOlam – (Righteous Gentiles of the world).  And I am proud, to have made her acquaintance.

As a postscript, later that year I learned that Rosa Schreiber passed away.  I know that she is occupying a special place in Olam HaBah (the world to come), for the truly Righteous.

Shabbat Shalom,

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Rabbi Yosil Rosenzweig
Bereishit 1:1 – 6:8
Haftorah – Isaiah 42:5 – 43:10
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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