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Questioning The Questions From The Other Side Of The Bench

By David J. Seidemann, Esq.

By the time this article goes to print, the season may be over for the Yankees. As a non–Yankees fan, I couldn’t care less, but do feel bad for all my friends whose lives revolve around “the most storied franchise” in sports history, as the Yankees are often referred to. Now, I don’t want to spend a second column on the presidential debates, but one observation from Baseball Land is fitting.

Kudos to Joe Girardi, the manager of the Yankees who, despite the flashy smiles of Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher, understood that it’s performance that counts and not lofty rhetoric. He benched them both, replaced them, and brought in someone new to get the job done, because the bottom line is production. I can only hope that the American electorate takes a lesson from Girardi. Anyone know if Obama can play third?

The candidates and baseball managers and players are not the only ones being asked questions these days. I ask questions whenever I am in court or when I am deposing a witness or an opposing party. I ask my own clients the toughest of questions to make sure they can withstand rigorous cross-examination. Often, though the merits of my client’s case might be strong, if I can’t get the client to relate well to a jury or the judge, the strategy must be altered.

So I take a particular interest in questions in general, mostly to ascertain if they are the types of question that seeks pure information or if they are questions that suggest an agenda.

I therefore was keenly interested in some questioning that took place close to 6,000 years ago in the Garden of Eden. Jim Lehrer or Candy Crowley were not there to moderate. There were only the candidates themselves—G‑d, Adam, Eve, and then later Cain.

The first humans eat from a forbidden tree, they hide (whatever that means), and G‑d asks, “Where are you?” Cain kills his brother Abel, he does not hide, and G‑d asks, “Where is your brother?” Only after the questioning does Cain engage in “Who, me?”

Surely G‑d knew where Adam and Eve were “hiding” and where Abel’s body was. Rashi explains that G‑d’s questions were aimed at beginning a dialogue with the accused. If He had begun with a straight indictment, fear would have overtaken Adam and Eve. A meaningful dialogue on the sin and punishment could not have taken place. Furthermore, by asking Cain the question “Where is your brother?” G‑d was affording Cain the opportunity to “fess up.”

But it didn’t seem to work. Adam, Eve, and Cain did not accept responsibility or take the opportunity to come clean. Adam and Eve blamed others, and Cain issued a blanket denial to his involvement in the murder of his brother.

The all-knowing G‑d surely knew that his subjects would react as they each did. Accordingly, would it not have been more appropriate to confront them directly?

I toyed with the possibility that nevertheless G‑d’s questions were appropriately phrased. After all, Adam and Eve hid. Therefore, “Where are you?” is fitting. Similarly, with Abel’s body missing, “Where is your brother?” could also be viewed in context as a fitting question.

The problem with that hypothesis is that in both instances G‑d tells the sinners what they are guilty of before they even dodged the question! “Where are you? You ate from the tree.” “Where is your brother? His blood is crying out to me from the ground.”

So my question about the questions remains, at least in my mind. Why ask a question if (a) you already know the answer, (b) if your ulterior motive to force the respondent to come clean on his or her own won’t be realized, and (c) if before you permit the respondent to reply, you let them know that you already know the truth?

“Where are you?” posed to Adam and Eve and “Where is your brother?” posed to Cain were not questions that sought a location as an answer. I don’t believe they were questions at all. They were statements. “I know what you ate,” says G‑d, “and now that you have veered, you will always wonder exactly where you stand. You are no longer at the ‘place’ where I originally placed you. In light of your detour, you will always be faced with the insecurity of not knowing if you are in a ‘good place.’” In light of what they did, “Where are you?” says G‑d.

When one’s veering is not confined to oneself, one is responsible for his brother as well. Though Cain asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” maybe after G‑d said, “Your brother’s bloods are calling out from the ground,” perhaps Cain was indeed stating, not asking, “Hashomer achi anochi?” with the definitive Hebrew letter hei: “I see now that I am my brother’s keeper.”—My actions have long lasting global connotations.

Every decision a president makes in Washington affects the world. On a smaller scale, every decision a manager makes in April can affect a World Series in October.

The juxtaposition of Adam and Eve’s encounter with sin and Cain’s murder of Abel suggests to me that in finding one’s personal place, a good place to start is with the acknowledgment that we are our brother’s keepers, and that finding oneself cannot lead to one standing alone in his or her private garden.

David Seidemann is a partner with the law firm of Seidemann and Mermelstein and serves as a professor of business law at Touro College. He can be reached at 718-692-1013 or ds@lawofficesm.com.

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Posted by on October 18, 2012. Filed under In This Week's Edition. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.