Who is Lilith, Anyway?

I have heard for years about the Lilith Fair, and when I asked who Lilith was, I always heard, “Adam’s first wife,” and that was puzzling to me because I couldn’t find any reference to her in the bible. Turns out she’s not in the bible, but she’s mentioned in what is called rabbinical literature — commentary on the bible by learned rabbis, sometimes known as the Midrash.

I never quite understood this until I came upon a book called ‘Lilith’s Cave: Jewish Tales of the Supernatural” selected and retold by Howard Schwartz. Schwartz explains that Lilith is an inference or a deduction.

“Among the legends with biblical origins and rabbinic and folk elaborations, none had a greater influence than that of Lilith. IIt is not an exaggeration to say that much the demonic realm in Jewish folklore grew out of this multifacted legend, which came into being as a commentary on one passage of the bible: ‘Male and female, he created them'(Gen. 1:27)

‘This passage was interpreted by the rabbis to mean that the creation of man and woman was simultaneous, whereas the later accounts of the creations if Adam and Eve appear to be sequential [when God made Eve out of Adam’s rib].”

“Working on the assumption that every word of the bible was literally true, the rabbis interpreted this contradiction to mean that the first passage referred to the creation of Adam’s first wife, whom they named Lilith, and the other referred to the creation of Eve.”

Adam and Lilith “bickered endlessly over matters large and small” and eventually Lilith “pronounced the ineffable name of god” and flew out of the Garden of Eden and lived in a cave by the Red Sea and copulated with demons.

Isn’t that pretty much what happens to women who consider themselves equal to men?

So did the rabbis conjure the name of Lilith out of thin air? No. Lilith was a Babylonian night demon. They cribbed the name, as they did all the creation stories, from Babylonian mythology.