The Lilith story originates from the Alphabet of Ben Sira (between 700 and 1000 CE). Ben Sira was an allegorist and medieval Jewish scribe from the golden city of Jerusalem/Yerushalayim.
Lilith was not created from a part of Adam’s body or his person. Nor was she an afterthought. She was her own person, created on Rosh Hashanah, from earth and spirit, the same as Adam, at the exact same time as Adam.
From the moment they both appear as corporeal beings, Adam, in a show of dominance, promptly expects her to lie beneath him, missionary style. Lilith bristles, reminds him that she is his equal and asserts agency over her body by refusing to assume the bottom position. Likewise, Adam refuses to lie beneath her, telling her she is only fit to lie beneath him. They argue back and forth about it, until Lilith gets fed up, utters the most sacred name of GD, and literally flies out of Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden).
GD sent a few angels after her, but despite their efforts, she refuses to return. She wanted no part of Adam (who she considered to be a colossal jackass) and his notion of marital bliss. Eden wasn’t big enough for her and Adam. As a result of her ‘attitude’ (agency), the ancient rabbis (otherwise known as the patriarchy) made her out to be a demonic, succubus type creature, once she booked it out of the Garden for good. What do you do with a woman that insists upon equality, autonomy and bodily agency? You demonize her of course! GD forbid, women should get the idea that was okay!
Adam was all verklempt (distressed) after his encounter with Lilith, who went toe to toe with him, then flew away, refusing to return as his woman and his wife. He whines pretty pathetically to GD about it, then promptly puts in an order for a new wife. This time he requests a “helpmate,” just to clarify he does not want another woman with any high falutin notions about equality. When I saw The Stepford Wives (the original), it reminded me of the Adam, Lilith and Eve story. Adam wanted a Stepford Wife — subservient, docile and agreeable to doing everything his way.
Thus Eve/Chava was created, fashioned from the “side” (tzelah) of Adam as an afterthought and replacement for the rebellious and free-thinking Lil. Adam got his wish, although we all know the old adage, “be careful what you wish for…you just might get it.” Ultimately, they end up making bad choices together and he gets permanently booted out of Paradise along with Chava/Eve. All because he didn’t want Lilith to be on top. That dude had serious issues. Oy. Thanks a lot Adam and Eve!! 😝
A demonic Lilith, described as a succubus type creature, is found in the Zohar, the preeminent book of Kabbalah. She is the mother of demons and the consort of the archangel Samael, also known in the Torah as HaSatan (The Adversary). It seems she finds her b’shert in the adversarial archangel, for she herself is adversarial in her view of Adam and advanced notions of gender equality.
In Jewish mysticism, Lilith is viewed rather phallically as the nachash (snake), who seduced Eve/Chava in Gan Eden. In the TaNaKh (Isaiah 34) she makes an appearance as Lilit, the night creature or screech owl. Lilith Magazine and Lilith Fair were both named after Lilith, in honor of her reputation as “the first feminist.” Stay tuned for the Lilith reincarnation story, where she was reunited with Adam! Lilith: The Woman, The Myth, The Legend continues!
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