Cain v. Abel A Jewish Courtroom Drama

About the Book

Enter the packed courtroom and take your seat as a juror on the Cain v. Abel trial. Soon, the prosecution and defense attorneys (angels from Jewish legend) will call Cain, Abel, Sin, Adam, Eve, and God to the witness stand to hear their private perspectives on the world’s first murder. Great Jewish commentators throughout the ages will also offer contradictory testimony on Cain’s emotional, societal, and spiritual influences. As jurors, when we mete out Cain’s punishment, must we factor in his family history, psychological makeup, and the human impulse to sin?

This presentation constitutes a highly eclectic and gripping compilation of insights by Jewish commentators on the Cain and Abel story. Courtroom scenes are juxtaposed with the author’s commentary, advancing novel insights and introspection. As each of us grapples with Cain’s actions, we confront our own darkest traits. If Cain is a stand-in for all humanity, what can we do to avoid becoming like Cain? Furthering this conversation, Rabbi Dan Ornstein includes a discussion and activity guide to promote open dialogue about human brokenness and healing, personal impulses, and societal responsibility.

What a compelling piece of legitimate courtroom theater! I know the biblical story inside out. If challenged, I could possibly recite it by heart. And yet, as I read the manuscript, it felt almost as though I hadn’t ever encountered it before—that’s how clever and interesting this way of reading the text struck me.”- Rabbi Martin S. Cohen, Shelter Rock Jewish Center, Roslyn, New York

How do you make an ancient story come to life? By making the human drama live. Bringing us the testimony and perspective of every participant, Rabbi Dan Ornstein offers us a riveting read, and a chance to expand our own humanity at the same time.”- Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, Dean, Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, American Jewish University

“Cain v. Abel masterfully leads us to contemplate the essential question by which we live, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’”Rabbi Burton L. Visotzky, Appleman Professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies, Jewish Theological Seminary

“An engaging, provocative study of the first murder in the Torah, Cain v. Abel will have readers, like its characters, debating the human condition and how to assess human agency and responsibility.”- Marilyn Francus, professor of English at West Virginia University

Dan Ornstein

Rabbi Dan Ornstein is rabbi of Congregation Ohav Shalom in Albany, New York. He also blogs at the Times of Israel, contributes essays at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, and wrote for the Mesorah Matrix book series on Judaism.

Book Reviews


Eden's Travelers, an essay

I, Cain, The Times of Israel

The Torah of Springsteen, The Times of Israel

Fraternity and Fratricide, The Times of Israel

The Holy Killing Field, The Times of Israel


The Gifts of Hevel and Kayin, Dvar Torah of the Slonimer Rebbe

Sin at the Door

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