Yesterday, I was at Occupy L.A., asking people what that they were doing there, why’d they come – and I got the predictable responses: corporate greed, the income gap between the rich and the poor, rising unemployment, the endless, fruitless bickering between the right and left.
Late in the day, I met Jeff, a former New Yorker in his fifties with a penchant for quoting Talmud. What’s this all about? Why are people here?
Do you know the story of Aw-dawm and Ḥawwāh, he said, referring to Adam and Eve of the Book of Genesis.
Of course. Who doesn’t?
Okay, he said. If you know the story of Adam and Eve, what happened after they ate the apple?
They lose their innocence. I felt good about this response. If only my father, who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a Jewish education for me, could hear me.
Wrong, Jeff said.
Yes, wrong. That’s an analysis. But that’s not what happened. What happened afterwards?
They were suddenly aware of their nakedness.
I thought of ‘Dude, Where’s My Car,’ the scene when Ashton Kutcher and Stiffler are trying to order food in the drive-thru.. And then? And then? And then?
Refocusing my attention on Jeff, What did they do after they became aware of their nakedness? They covered up with clothes, I said.
Clothes? Jeff said. What clothes? They didn’t have clothes then.
Leaves. They covered up with leaves.
Okay, this was becoming annoying. I thought hard, tapped into the inner depths, trying to remember. Remember, remember, remember.
Oh, I know, I exclaimed. After Adam and Eve ate the apple from the Tree of Knowledge, God told Adam that he would now have to work for a living, and He told Eve that she would have to feel pain when she conceived.
You said you went to Jewish school? Jeff said.
I was about to punch him.
They hide, Jeff said. After they eat the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve hide. They hide from God.
That’s right. I’d completely forgotten.
And God says, ‘Ey-foh.’
A few people had walked over to us and were listening, including a skinny anarchist-looking guy with a mohawk and torn skinny jeans. I’d seen him earlier lightly playing drums with brush-sticks next to a group of about twenty people, a committee of indigenous rights, convening next to a large fountain in the center of Occupy L.A., where dozens and dozens of shanty camp tents had been set up.
The anarchist guy was holding a tape recorder, toward Jeff’s mouth, recording what Jeff was saying.
God says, ‘Ey-foh,’ which is Hebrew for ‘where.’ He says to Adam and Eve, ‘where are you?’
Why would God say ‘where are you?’ God knows everything, Jeff said. God sees everything. God has a GPS system for the entire universe. God knew where Adam and Eve were hiding, so why would he say ‘ey-foh.’
I was stumped.
God says ‘ey-foh’ because he wants to know where Adam and Eve think they are. He isn’t asking where they are physically. He wants Adam and Eve to reflect on where they are in relationship to the world that is changed forever, now that they have this knowledge, now that they have this consciousness of all things. He’s asking where do they think they are and how do they expect to return to paradise.
Everybody here at Occupy L.A. is aware of the good and evil in the world, Jeff said. They’ve eaten the fruit, and they’re here trying to figure out their place in the world. Trying to return to paradise.
Deep stuff, the anarchist said. I agreed. It was the best answer I’d gotten all day.
Watch my interview with Jeff below.