2015-01-01 – In some species, it’s quite normal for one sibling to kill and even eat another sibling. Sometimes the parent even helps. For the most part, humans don’t consume their siblings—or even kill them wastefully (violating the hunting ethic of eating what you kill). But just in case, I’m asking everyone who reads today’s post to make this one of their New Year’s resolution: not to kill and eat their brothers. Sisters too.
How’s that for a New Year’s resolution that you should be able to keep?
I first became aware of sibling hate when I was a child. No, it wasn’t my own siblings. That was instinctive and unconscious. It was my uncle Avram. Avram didn’t speak to my father from the time he was a teenager until he died—maybe sixty years later. I never met my uncle Avram, so I don’t know the exact timing of things. The break occurred before I was born and I only learned of his death years after it happened.
It wasn’t that Avram was in some other city. Avram lived in my grandparents’ house just outside of Dayton, Ohio, where I grew up. We had to be careful not to visit my grandparents when Avram would be around. Fortunately, we mostly saw our grandparents at my Aunt Mary’s house, where they spent every Sabbath. Mary’s house was close to the synagogue and closer to where we lived.
You’d think that a sixty-year hate would emerge from some sort of serious dispute between Avram and my father (Norman, or Nachum in Yiddish). Avram was the oldest in a family of four. Then came Mary. My father was the youngest. Between him and Mary was my Uncle Charlie. As near as I can tell, the main beef was between Avram and Charlie (Tsemach). But if you talked to Charlie, Avram wouldn’t talk to you.
Now, when I say the main beef was between Avram and Charlie, I still don’t know what it was. My guess is that it was entirely trivial—to an outsider. My dad said that things began to go bad after Avram was diagnosed with what they then called juvenile-onset diabetes (now called Type I). My dad said that his parents began to treat Avram as a damaged flower and that conflict with Charlie and the rest flowed from that. In some way. No one ever said.
At some point, Avram did relent a bit and began to talk to Mary and her family, but never with the rest of us. A couple of times, we arrived at Mary’s house when he was there and my dad would keep us outside until Avram had a chance to escape. Avram never married, never had a family of his own. He just lived a quiet and solitary life. He had a long career at the nearby air force base, where I had a number of summer jobs. People at the base who knew him and liked him would ask me about him. Of course, I had nothing to say.
Weird, if you ask me. But pretty common, I guess. I know lots of folks who have no contact with siblings whatsoever.
At least no murder was involved. They say that human flesh tastes like pork. My birth-family wouldn’t have known. They never ate pork. Pork is not kosher.
(And no, they never ate human meat either. It isn’t kosher either.)