After killing Abel God asked Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He answered, “I know not, am I my brother’s keeper?”
God responded: “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries to Me from the ground….”
The first question God posed Cain after his sin was “where…?” – the same question He posed Adam after his sin. The second question He posed was “what…?”
To know what you have done is a consequence, a derivative, of knowing where you and your brother are.
The truth is that each of us is intended to be our brother’s keeper. We are responsible for one another, for we are part of one another – our souls are connected. Just like one must ask himself the question “Where am I?” so must he ask the question “Where is my brother?”
To sin is to displace reality, to displace souls. And so, after man sins God asks him “where?” The sages say, “Who is wise? He who recognizes his place.” The wise man recognizes his place and stays in his proper place, the place that God intended for him in creation.
The Ba’al Shem Tov did not like to move things for no good reason. The sages say, “There is no thing that has no place.” Everything, not just everyone, in creation has its proper place.
To stay in your place is not to be static. Just the opposite: only when you recognize and stay in your place can you become dynamic, always on the move. First you have to be grounded, you have to identify your base, remain rooted in your place, and then no matter how high you ascend you remain connected to your place.
This appears to be a paradox. To understand it let’s return to Genesis. In the beginning (of time, the very first creation) God created two places, a higher, spiritual place and a lower, physical place – heavens and earth. Man’s soul is from heaven and his body is from earth. His soul descends from on high to enter his earthly body. But his soul’s root remains above and remains connected to the soul in the body.
To know our place in creation (to be wise) is to know that we are in two places simultaneously. Although our bodies are below, our souls are from heaven and that’s where all souls unite. To know this is to know that (here, on earth) I am my brother’s keeper. To assume responsibility for my brother, in his place below (“Where is Abel your brother?”), gives me the power to move freely in all directions, up (to heaven) and down (to earth) and to all four earthly directions.