CAIN, ABEL, AND THE PROZAC NATION
A retelling of how the famous Biblical story of sibling rivalry might have turned out.
Rabbi David Zauderer
In the beginning ... in the days before Ritalyn, political correctness, and sexual harrassment, there lived two brothers named Cain and Abel -- the original "Adamís Family."
In the beginning ... in the days before Ritalyn, political correctness, and sexual harrassment, there lived two brothers named Cain and Abel ó the original "Adamís Family."
Cain took a position in the field ó he was a farmer ó and his brother, who was more "able," went into the lucrative business of sheep management.
While Abel applied himself diligently to his career, ever climbing upwards on the corporate ladder, Cain was taking it easy on the farm, just waiting for the last straw to be piled up, so that he could "bale" out of work and head over to Club Paradise for a couple of cold ones.
One time, around the holidays, in order to butter up his C.E.O. (G-d, the Chief Exalted One), Cain brought Him a little gift, some surplus goods from the warehouse that he couldnít do much with anyway. Abel, who was rich from all the "shears" that he sold, got his Boss the best animal that money could buy.
Well, as you can imagine, the Boss went for Abelís gift big time, and gave him a key to the corporate restroom. But Cain was dissed by the Chief because you just knew that he could care less about his job and it showed.
Naturally, Cain got angry ó real angry ó at anybody and everybody, and especially at his snotty, three-car-garage, house in the Hamptons, corporate hot-shot brother Abel.
And when he would get up in the morning and realize that he no longer had a job, he took it out on those closest to him ó the wife and kids. He started doing drugs, serious narcotics, because he also fell into a deep depression.
It came to a point that his wife could take it no longer. She told him, "You must stop taking all that Coke, Cain!" Well, as one could expect, Cain ignored her. And he told himself that one day he would take sweet revenge and he would have his revenge on Abel.
That day came sooner than later. The two brothers went out for some Espresso and got into a big fight. Cain took his brother out to the back alley and did him in. The police found Abel dead, and immediately arrested Cain and charged him with mutiny against his brother.
When the story of the "Cain Mutiny" got out, the whole world was talking about it. The case went to trial, after many months of negotiations and haggling among the two brothersí lawyers. (Some things never change.)
Cain's attorneys brought in many psychiatrists and experts in the field, who claimed that he should not be held responsible for his behavior. First, they claimed, Cain was the product of an abusive childhood. His parents set too many limits. This fruit is forbidden, that tree you have to stay away from, etc.
Additionally, Cain had no friends to play with after school was out. It was just him and Abel, period. No Play Station 2, no Scooters, no ĎNsync CDís for a diversion. And he would get recurring nightmares about that talking serpent his parents were always arguing about.
And even worse, Adam and Eve were always yelling at each other. Each night, when Adam came home for dinner and would drop his fig leaf on the couch, Eve would tell him to hang it up. (And when he lay down to sleep, she would count his ribs.)
And, the lawyers told the jury, one cannot expect Cain to be able to make proper choices and behave normally towards his brother since he had such a traumatic childhood.
After the prosecutor presented his case, the defense brought one final witness, which proved to be the clincher. He was the famous Russian psychiatrist, Dr. Fulov Baloney, and his word carried tremendous weight. He claimed, that after intensive psychoanalysis, he was certain that Cain had a condition which would make it impossible for him to be held liable for killing his brother at the coffeehouse. Dr. Baloney testified that Cain had W.W.J.D. ó Wanton and Wild Jealousy Disorder ó and that without taking certain drugs, would not be able to function properly when faced with a situation of sibling rivalry and jealousy.
To make a long story short, Cain was found not guilty of all charges and was let free. After the trial was over, with Cain stillout of a job, his doctors prescribed a large dose of the well-known antidepressant Prozac. However, this did not help Cain fully. For he later developed Attention Deficit Disorder, and could never stay in one place for too long.
NOW HEREíS WHAT REALLY HAPPENED
The Torah in Genesis 4:2-7 relates: Abel became a shepherd, and Cain became a tiller of the ground. After a period of time, Cain brought an offering to G-d of the fruit of the ground; And as for Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and from their choicest. G-d turned to Abel and to his offering, but to Cain and to his offering He did not turn. Cain became very furious and depressed.
G-d said to Cain, "Why are you so furious? Why are you so depressed? If you do good, you can rise above. And if you do not do good, sin is crouching at the door. It lusts after you, but you can dominate it."
Thatís it. The whole nine yards. After Cain messes up and things donít go exactly the way he wants them to and he gets angry and depressed ó what kind of therapy does G-d give him? None of that jazz about being "behaviorally challenged"; no Ritalyn and no abusive childhood. Just plain and simple.
"If you do good, if you decide to make the right choices, you can rise above any of the challenges that youíve been faced with. If you donít make the right choice ... well, then you are going to find opportunities to sin and royally mess up everywhere you turn. It will follow you wherever you go, as long as you keep on making excuses for yourself.
As the famous (but nonkosher) Porky Pig used to say, "That's all, folks!" This one line in the Torah which G-d tells Cain as he lies on the couch in therapy, speaks volumes in terms of our ability to cope with the challenges and inevitable problems that we tend to hide behind in order to avoid responsibility for our bad choices.
1-800-D-R-T-O-R-A-H: THE ONLY THERAPIST WITH ABSOLUTE VALUES
The Torah truly is a book of therapy which deals with every aspect of the human condition, and dictates the proper approach to rise above whatever comes our way. It has to be, because it is the wisdom of the same G-d who created all those human conditions and prescribed all the lessons therein as a sort of spiritual medicine. "Dr. Torah" is wiser than Pfizer; a bigger Pro than Prozac.
Now donít get me wrong. I am not saying that there is no condition or behavior problem which canít be solved merely by looking into the Torah. Of course, psychotherapy and/or prescription drugs are warranted for many different types of mental illnesses and psychosomatic behaviors. And, yes, there are those who have been abused in ways which do make it extremely difficult to function normally in society. I am not referring to those people.
What I am referring to is the now-popular, but frankly comical, notion today that we canít hold a person responsible for his/her errant behavior because of any one of a dozen disorders or abusive relationships in early childhood, which made the person act the way they did, without their being able to make their own choice. More often than not, a person can choose to do the right thing and rise above. We have to take personal responsibility for the bad choices that we make. But today this is all considered politically incorrect.
Ask your grandparents ó years ago, when a kid acted wild during school, he was reprimanded and disciplined. Today, G-d forbid, a kid should even get looked at the wrong way by the teacher for misbehaving, and the parents start bringing out a whole host of shrinks who claim that the child has this disorder or the other one. Or they will say that the discipline from the teacher triggers negative associations and memories from the childís troubled youth, and that he should not be expelled from school. And if the kid does get expelled, bring out the lawyers and sue!
"Dr. Torah" has a system of absolute values ó values that donít change like so many fads of yesteryear. What was true way back then, when G-d told Cain to own up to the bad choice that he had made, and that it was no oneís fault but his own, and that he could rise above if he wanted to ó is still true today. The Talmud said it best: There is nothing that stands in the way of our will power.
Now do the right thing.
David Zauderer is a card-carrying member of the Atlanta Scholars Kollel.
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