Kabbala: Lilith's Origins

Note that the following passages are either informed by or related to the traditions of Lilith as Adam's first wife, referred to in the Alphabet of Ben Sira. Scholem concluded that references to Lilith in the Zohar were based on the Alphabet. [AH]

Yalqut Reubeni, B'reshit 34b

In the beginning the Holy One, blessed be He, created Eve, and she was not flesh but the scum of the earth and its impure sediments, and she was a harmful spirit [i.e., Lilith]. And the Holy One, blessed be He, took her away from Adam and gave him another in her stead. (Patai81:453)

Zohar 1:34b

When the letters of the name of Adam, descended below, together in their completeness, the male and the female were found together, and the female was attached to his side, until God cast a deep slumber upon him and he fell asleep. And he lay in the place of the Temple below. And the Holy One, blessed be He, sawed her off him, and adorned her as they adorn a bride, and brought her to him.... In an ancient book I found that this [refers to] the primeval Lilith who was with him and conceived from him, but was not a helpmeet for him.... (Patai81:454)

Zohar 3:19

Come and see: There is a female, a spirit of all spirits, and her name is Lilith, and she was at first with Adam. And in the hour when Adam was created and his body became completed, a thousand spirits from the left [evil] side clung to that body until the Holy One, blessed be He, shouted at them and drove them away. And Adam was lying, a body without a spirit, and his appearance was green, and all those spirits surrounded him.    In that hour a cloud descended an pushed away all those spirits.    And when Adam stood up, his female was attached to his side. And that holy spirit which was in him spread out to this side and that side, and grew here and there, and thus became complete. Thereafter the Holy One, blessed be He, sawed Adam into two, and made the female. And He brought her to Adam in her perfection like a bride to the canopy.    When Lilith saw this, she fled. And she is in the cities of the sea, and she is still trying to harm the sons of the world. (Patai81:455)

Moses b. Solomon of Burgos

In contrast to the above, the following passages appear to be unaware of any tradition of Lilith as Adam's first wife. Rather, she is mated to Samael (King of the demons, something like Satan) from the beginning

Lilith is called the Northerner, because Out of the north the evil breaks forth (Jer. 1:14). Both Samael, king of the demons, and Lilith were born in a spiritual birth androgynously. The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is an epithet for both Samael and Grandmother Lilith (e.g. the Northerner). As a result of Adam's sin, both of them came and confused the whole world, both the Upper one and the Nether one. (based on the ed. of G. Scholem, quoted in Patai81:453)

R. Ya'aqov and R. Yitzhaq

Samael resembles the form of Adam, and Lilith the form of Eve. Both were born in an androgynous form, corresponding to the form of Adam and Eve: below and above, two twin forms. And Samael and Grandmother Eve [i.e., Lilith], who is the Northerner, are emanations from beneath the Throne of Glory. And the sin [of Adam] caused this evil. (Patai81:453)

Zohar 1:19b

After the primeval light was hidden, a husk was created for the brain, and that husk spread out and brought forth another husk which was Lilith. And when she emerged, she went up and went down towards the little faces, and wanted to attach herself to them and be shaped after them, and did not want to depart from them. But the Holy One, blessed be He, removed her from there and placed her down below.    When He created Adam, in order to perfect this world, as soon as Lilith saw Eve affixed to the side of Adam, and saw in them the beauty of the Above, and saw their perfect image, she flew off from there and wanted, as before to attach herself to the little faces. But the guardians of the gates of Above did not Let her. The Holy One, blessed be He, rebuked her, and cast her into the depths of the sea, and she remained dwelling there until Adam and his wife sinned. Then the Holy One, blessed be He, brought her up from the depths of the sea and gave her power over all those children, the little faces of the sons of man, who are liable to punishment because of the sins of their fathers. And she went and roamed the world.    She approached the gates of Paradise on earth, and saw the Cherubim guarding the gates of Paradise, and sat down facing the Flaming Sword, for she originated from that flame. When that flame revolved, she fled. And she roams in the world, and finds children liable to punishment, and caresses them, and kills them. And all this is because of the diminishing of the moon which reduced its light....    When Cain was born, she could not attach herself to him. But later she approached him and bore spirits and winged demons. For 130 years Adam had intercourse with female spirits, until Naamah came. Because of her beauty the sons of God went astray after her, 'Ussa and 'Azael, and she bore from them, and from her spread evil. spirits and demons in the world.... (Patai81:454f)    And she goes and roams the world at night, and makes sport with men and causes them to emit seed. And wherever men are found sleeping alone in a house, they [these spirits] descend upon them and get hold of them and adhere to them and take desire from them and bear from them. And they also afflict them with disease, and the men do not know it. And all this is because of the diminishing of the moon. (Patai81:461)
On this last paragraph, see the Seductress passages

Bacharach, 'Emeq haMelekh 23c-d

This passage is interesting because it is one of the few places where we get a textual connection (however problematic) between Lilith and the Serpent of the Garden of Eden [see also Zohar, Sitre Tora, 1:148a-b]. This connection is perhaps strengthened by Christian iconography (see the pictures collection), but can hardly be regarded as conclusive. While contacts between Jewish and Christian mystical and alchemical speculation did exist, the pervasiveness of the iconographic symbol is such that we would have to posit a much more widely circulated Christian version of the story that we would obtain from elite mystical cross-talk.    The other problem with this story is the gender confusion. At first we assume that the Lilith-Serpent's 'seduction' of Eve is intellectual. Then we find out that not only did the Serpent have sexual intercourse with Eve, but that Eve was a virgin at the time and it is that union, specifically the Serpent's semen, that is the etiology of menstruation! Finally, Adam has sexual contact with his wife, but it is while she is still polluted by her menstruation/adultery. That impure act generates magical power for Lilith who is now able to have sexual dominion over Adam as well, bearing demon children from him. There is however one problem. If Lilith is female (she is!) and Lilith is the Serpent, as we are told in this passage ('Woman of Harlotry = Lilith), how can she have intercourse with Eve. This is not simply lesbian sex, in the strictest sense, because she injects semen into Eve.    There is at least one parallel passage in which the serpent is identified with Samael and Cain is the result of the union. In this case, Samael being male, the gender problem does not arise. It may be possible to solve the problem in the following text (and coincidentally harmonize it with the Samael version) by reference to the tradition, mentioned above, that Lilith and Samael were at one time, like Adam and Eve, an androgynous pair. This may well be reading more into the text than we should, however, at least from the standpoint of scholarship (homilists may do what they please). It is never-the-less clear from the following that Adam and Eve are not viewed as joined in that fashion at the time the events are transpiring.

And the Serpent, the Woman of Harlotry, incited and seduced Eve through the husks of Light which in itself is holiness. And the Serpent seduced Holy Eve, and enough said for him who understands. An all this ruination came about because Adam the first man coupled with Eve while she was in her menstrual impurity -- this is the filth and the impure seed of the Serpent who mounted Eve before Adam mounted her. Behold, here it is before you: because of the sins of Adam the first man all the things mentioned came into being. For Evil Lilith, when she saw the greatness of his corruption, became strong in her husks, and came to Adam against his will, and became hot from him and bore him many demons and spirits and Lilin. (Patai81:455f)


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