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Jewish Myths on the Creation of Woman

Source: Robert Graves and Raphael Patai, HEBREW MYTHS. The Book of Genesis,
Cassell, London 1965, pp. 65-69.

"Some say that God created man and woman in His own image on the Sixth Day, giving them charge over the world, but that Eve did not yet exist. Now, God had set Adam to name every beast, bird other living thing . When they passed before him in pairs, male and female, Adam -being already like a twenty-year-old man -- felt jealous of their loves, and though he tried coupling with each female in turn, he found no satisfaction in the act. He therefore cried: 'Every creature but I has a proper mate! ', and prayed God would remedy the injustice. "
Genesis Rabba 17.4 (5th cent.); B. Yebamot 63a (500 AD).

L I L I T H

 
  "God then formed Lilith, the first woman, just as He had formed Adam, except that He used filth and sediment instead of dust. From Adam's union with this demoness, and with another like her named Naamah, Tubal Cain's sister, sprang Asmodeus and innumerable demons that still plague mankind . . .
 

Adam and Lilith never found peace together; for when he wished to lie with her, she took offence at the recumbent posture he demanded.
'
Why must I lie beneath you?' she asked. 'I also was made from dust, and am therefore your equal.'
Because Adam tried
to compel her obedience by force, Lilith, in a rage, uttered the magic name of God, rose into the air and left him .

. .

 

Adam complained to God: 'I have been deserted by my helpmeet.'
God a
t once sent the angels Senoy, Sansenoy and Semangelof to fetch Lilith back. They found her beside the Red Sea, a region abounding lascivious demons, to whom she bore lilim at the rate of more than one hundred a day.

'Return to Adam without delay,' the angels said, 'or we will drown you!'

Lilith asked: 'How can I return to Adam and live like an honest housewife, after my stay beside the Red Sea?'

'It will be death to refuse!' they answered.

'How can I die,' Lilith asked again, 'when God has ordered me to take charge of all newborn children: boys up to the eighth day of life, that of circumcision; girls up to the twentieth day. None the less, if ever I see your three names or likenesses displayed in an amulet above a newborn child, I promise to spare it.'
To t
his they agreed; but God punished Lilith by making one hundred of her demon children perish daily. And if she could not destroy a human infant, because of the angelic amulet, she would spitefully turn against her own.

 

Some say that Lilith ruled as queen in Zmargad, and again in Sheba: and was the demoness who destroyed Job's sons. Yet she escaped the curse of death which overtook Adam, since they had parted long before the Fall. Lilith and Naamah not only strangle infants but also seduce dreaming men, anyone of whom, sleeping alone, may become their victim."

 

Sources: Alpha Beta di Ben Sira 47; Numeri Rabba 16.25; Targum ad Job 1.15; B. Shabbat 151b.

'Lilith' is usually derived from the Babylonian-Assyrian word lilitu, 'a female demon, or wind-spirit'-one of a triad mentioned in Babylonian spells. But she appears earlier as 'Lillake' on a 2000 B.C. Sumerian tablet from Ur containing the tale of Gilgamesh and the Willow Tree. There she is a demoness dwelling in the trunk of a willow-tree tended by the Goddess Inanna (Anath) on the banks of the Euphrates. Popular Hebrew etymology seems to have derived 'Lilith' from layil, 'night'; and she therefore often appears as a hairy night-monster, as she also does in Arabian folklore. According to Isaiah 34/4-15, Lilith dwells among the desolate ruins in the Edomite Desert where satyrs (se'ir), reems, pelicans, owls, jackals, ostriches, arrow-snakes and kites keep her company.

Lilith's children are called lilim. In the Targum Yerushalmi, the priestly blessing of Numbers 6/26 becomes: 'The Lord bless thee in all thy doings, and preserve thee from the Lilim!'

Lilith's bargain with the angels has its ritual counterpart in an apotropaic rite once performed in many Jewish communities. To protect the newborn child against Lilith -- and especially a male, until he could be permanently safeguarded by circumcision -- a ring was drawn with natron, or charcoal, on the wall of the birthroom, and inside it were written the words: 'Adam and Eve. Out, Lilithl' Also the names Senoy, Sansenoy and Semangelof (meanings uncertain) were inscribed on the door. If Lilith nevertheless succeeded in approaching the child and fondling him, he would laugh in his sleep. To avert danger, it was held wise to strike the sleeping child's lips with one finger-whereupon Lilith would vanish.

"Undismayed by His failure to give Adam a suitable helpmeet, God tried again, and let him watch while he built up a woman's anatomy: using bones, tissues, muscles, blood and glandular secretions, then covering the whole with skin and adding tufts of hair in places. The sight caused Adam such disgust that even when this woman, the First Eve, stood there in her full beauty, he felt an invincible repugnance. God knew that He had failed once more, and took the First Eve away. Where she went, nobody knows for certain."

God tried a third time, and acted more circumspectly. Having taken a rib from Adam's side in his sleep, He formed it into a woman; then plaited her hair and adorned her, like a bride, with twenty-four pieces of jewellery, before waking him. Adam was entranced."

 
See the following video clip which explains beliefs regarding Lilith from a Jewish perspective. Since Lilith was thought to be the 'first Eve', those beliefs helped to create the image of Eve/woman as seducer and destroyer.


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Natural Law and Conscience Synod on the Family 2015
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