In the beginning, the very beginning, when the world was only a few days old, Cain the farmer rose up against his brother Abel the shepherd and killed him. All the angels, still pretty new to their jobs and not yet versed in the corporate protocol for these situations, could not stop talking about it.
Word had it that jealousy was the motive.
Something about a rejected sacrifice.
A sibling rivalry between the first siblings.
The angels were shocked. Horrified. How could Cain display such audacity? As far as the angels knew, the rules were clear: Only G-d could recall a soul. Sure, there would be times when He’d send the brooding angel, the one who never socialized with the rest of them, to take care of it. There would be exceptions, too. Biblical justice and all that. Otherwise, life-taking was to be G-d’s doing alone.
Behold! The angels continued their prattling.
“I mean, eating the apple from the Tree of Knowledge was one thing,” pondered the angel who gave everyone the benefit of the doubt. “But murder? This takes transgression to a whole other level.”
“The sins of the father and the mother,” snickered the angel who questioned the humanity project from the outset, hinting that G-d should’ve tinkered more with the archetype before releasing it. “Shameful,” he added, shaking his head, “even after the parents learned about good and evil on their way out of Eden.”
Meanwhile, the very literal angel pointed out that Cain should’ve known better because the rules of conduct were stipulated in the manual. Section 2, Line Item 6, though he couldn’t remember the page number. But the wisest angel among them was quick to correct him. “They’re just trainees,” he said, brushing the lint off one of his wings. “G-d hasn’t shown them the manual yet. That comes later. We’re only in Episode One.”
“Shhhh…” whispered a chorus of angels. “Listen!”
When the chatter died down, they heard the Creator’s voice descend from Heaven. “Where’s your brother?”
A startled Cain looked around. “Wha-wha-what?”
G-d poked him in the shoulder with His finger to make sure he was paying attention. Cain, with a big dose of chutzpah, stared back at G-d and denied the whole thing.
“I have no idea what You’re talking about. Do I look like my brother’s keeper?”
Foolish Cain! G-d knew everything and saw everything and heard everything. He wasn’t buying that charade.
“The game’s up, Cain. Abel’s blood cries out to me from the earth!”
And so it came to pass that before you could say the Book of Genesis, Cain had become a wanderer, exiled with a mark on his head.
At the next staff meeting, one of the angels decided to challenge G-d. He’d kept quiet when the murder investigation was underway, letting his peers blame human frailty for Cain’s violence, a technical glitch they hoped would be fixed before the release of a later model. But the angel had gotten the notion in his mind that G-d owned this one. If He created Man, then He was responsible for his moral turpitude.
“With all due respect, You’re omniscient and omnipotent,” he said. “How could you let Cain kill his brother?”
“Let? Let?” G-d shouted back at him. “I didn’t let him do anything. From the moment they arrived, Man and Woman forgot who put them here in the first place. Now it’s their offspring running around like a bunch of independent contractors. Civilization is young. It’s only going to get worse.”
G-d sighed a quick celestial sigh before continuing.
“It’s true. I’m the One in charge, the One who makes it all happen. I keep the water in the streams and the sun in the sky. I let your wings flutter and open all those mortal eyes every morning. On the other hand, I breathed the spirit of free will into Man and Woman. They’ve got options. They can make their way in the world with Me, or they can head in a different direction altogether. Just you wait. They’ll do beautiful things with the gifts I’ve bequeathed to them. They’ll give Me such nachas. But neither you nor I will be able to see through our tears when they raise bloody hell, when the tools they craft for themselves prove their tragic undoing.”
All of the angels trembled, silenced by fear. You could have heard a feather drop on a cloud.
“I’ll have grief from this lot I’ve created,” G-d thought.
And so it came to pass that G-d wrote down what had taken place with Cain, including the details of their talk and the blood-stained tale of the first brothers to walk His earth. He ended the saga with a flourish and turned the page, heartbroken, for He knew the pain of the human story had only just begun.