AYEKA? Where are you?
It was the first question asked by God to a human being.
At least, that’s what the Torah says.
It was asked of the man in the Garden of Eden, commonly called ADAM, a word that could refer to all humankind. The word ADAM could include the man’s companion, the female CHAVAH, which means “one who lives” or, perhaps, “the one who is life.”
So why did God ask the question?
Because the man was hiding – along with the woman.
Wait a minute - it’s possible to hide from God?
We hear a lot in the Psalms about God hiding the divine face from us, but can we really hide from God?
And why was the man hiding along with the woman?
This is a story that many parents who have raised children through their younger years could tell – the sound of the authoritarian figure in the form of a parent walking towards children concealing themselves because they know they have done something wrong.
And…the parent knows that the children have done something wrong.
Why hide in such a situation?
Usually, hiding happens because of shame, remorse, and anticipation of the anger that will be thrust forth once the hiding is over.
Those just might be good reasons to hide if you are the child.
Imagine a parent seeking his or her children at such a moment in order to find out what had happened – or maybe knowing what happened.
What would he or she say?
The words would be “Adam - Eve - Where are you.”
The phrase could be inflected in several ways…
(Singsongy) Adam? Eve? Where are you?
Or ADAM!!! EVE!!! WHERE ARE YOU???!!!???
So what was the tone of God’s question to Adam and Eve?
Was it a light-hearted “ayeka???” or an insistent “AYEKA?”
Or let’s give God another parental dimension – a contemplative –
ADAM? CHAVAH? AYEKA?
In this passage, moral issues were given a physical dimension, first in the form of a sly animal.
The snake in the garden was described as ARUM (same letters as the word AYROM – naked) – the most cunning of all of the animals. This is the creature that approached Eve to stump her on a question about the Tree of knowledge of Good and Evil in the midst of the garden. “Die? You will not die!” he told Eve after she spoke of the dire warning against eating from the tree. The snake was correct in that the man and woman would not die instantly. An honest snake would have said, “Die? You will not die now, but you will eventually.” In this tale, human knowledge of good and evil carried with it mortality and a sense of needing at least a layer protection from the often cold and harsh world. The Garden of Eden was a place of innocence as long as you were an eternal being – it was warm. There were no decisions to make. There was no fear. There was no bodily shame. There was security. There was no vulnerability, thanks to God.
Once Adam and Eve ate of the fruit, which, by the way, is not called an apple anywhere in the text, they realized that they were physically exposed. They immediately wanted to cover themselves. God’s security shield of innocence was gone. And, for the first time, their opened eyes and minds recognized not only their lack of clothing but also the sudden responsibility to deal with the consequences of their actions. And the flood of moral knowledge that hit them in an instant made them realize that they were already guilty of disobedience. So they did the first thing that came to mind so as not to have to deal with their misstep. They hid.
So what would have been the right answer to God’s question?
Was God asking Adam and Eve about their physical location? Probably not. Even in this passage in which God had legs and took a stroll in the garden, God was still likely omniscient. All God wanted was for the newly morally infused human beings to fess up – to admit what they had done. So, “Where are You” can mean, “Are you in a place where you can calmly and honestly tell me what you have done and take responsibility for it?” Had Adam and Eve done that, the punishments to come may have been different. At that moment, the “Where” of Adam and Eve was a place of shame, shock, fear, and the trepidation that death would come immediately for what they had done. They were morally denuded by their act. They were totally vulnerable, even though God was still present with them. And in that situation, the Torah imagines the first human beings doing what many people in the generations of humanity have attempted with the great skill in their verbal response to an accusation of an obvious misdeed. As it says in the text: “God said: ‘Who told you that you are nude? From the tree about which I command you not to eat, have you eaten?’ The human said: ‘The woman whom you gave to be beside me, she gave me from the tree, so I ate.’ The Eternal, God, said to the woman: ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The snake enticed me, and so I ate.’”
“He made me do it!” and “She made me do it” are phrases that still comes out of the mouths of human beings today in too many situations. It is no more effective of an explanation now than it was in the Garden of Eden. And the punishment that followed was much more serious than “Adam, Eve, it’s five days of school dentention” or “100 days of community service for you!”
Adam and Eve moved from an idyllic existence to a place – to a life – that would expose them and all humanity, as the Torah tells us, to our fears, to our vulnerabilities. We become less vulnerable when we make our moral decisions wisely. We have no fear when we recognize that there are many sources of guidance that can lead us through life’s harshness and challenges.
AYEKA – Where are you? is about how we take a stand in order to do something right and how we assume responsibility and make amends when we have done something wrong. Rather than hiding, we can come out into the open with the confidence that the net result of what we do will reflect goodness, righteousness and love and that our actions will ultimately lead to peace. Following those godly paths bring us back to God, even if not to the garden itself.
Even so, I found these lyrics running through my head this morning in relation to this story from the Torah:
“We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”
Perhaps all it would take to get back somewhere close to the garden is for humanity to stop fanning the flames of fear and hatred, for people to recognize the value of helping others rather than amassing power and only caring for themselves, foreswearing violence as a replacement for verbal expression, for nations to search extensively for areas of agreement rather than causes for conflict, and for everyone to see the face and spark of God in one another, so that one person would never hurt another. At that point, there would be no reason to hide.
AYEKA? Where are you?Just outside the garden, God, trying to do enough good that maybe, one day, we will make our own garden right next to yours