If the first human(s) are created “male and female” in Genesis/Breishit 1:27, who is created from the adam’s rib (or side) in 2:18-25?
One old answer (found in Genesis Rabbah) is that the two creation stories refer to different women, with God creating a second wife for Adam after the first relationship failed, for unspecified reasons. Later tales link this unnamed wife with the demon Lilith, a traditional character who appears to pre-date the bible.
The 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia entry on “Lilith,” concludes: “Lilith is a clear instance of the persistence of popular superstitious beliefs.”
More recently, however, Jill Hammer writes: “Lilith has become such a popular figure that whole enterprises (like the women’s music concert Lilith Fair and the Jewish feminist journal Lilith Magazine) are named after her. Once a source of fear, Lilith has been transformed into an icon of freedom….”
These on-line articles provide a starting point for exploring the first woman. For more sources — including materials for youth — visit the Jewish Women’s Archives.
Lilith in Literature
For more on Lilith in contemporary literature, check out Which Lilith: Feminist Writers Re-create the World’s First woman, edited by Enid Dame, Lilly Rivln and Henny Wenkart. Jason Aronson, 1998.
“kicked myself out of paradise….
I work in New Jersey
take art lessons
live with a cab driver….
sometimes I cry in the bathroom
and the man and the god
I couldn’t live with” — from “Lilith” by Enid Dame
More Judaic Sources
For more on the first biblical humans, here are two references replete with quotes and notes from other sources, traditional and contemporary, to launch further study:
Eternally Eve: Images of Eve in the Hebrew Bible, Midrash and Modern Jewish Poetry. Anne Lapidus Lerner. Brandeis University Press, 2007.
Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism. Howard Schwartz. Oxford Univ. Press, 2004.
For additional citations, please see Source Materials.
Click on the “WeeklyTorah” tag for more resources on the weekly portion throughout the year, or on a portion name for parashah-specific notes. (The series began with Numbers; posts for Genesis, Exodus and Leviticus are being drafted, week-by-week.) You can also zero-in on particular types of “Opening the Book” posts by clicking Language and Translation, Something to Notice, a Path to Follow, or Great Source in the tag cloud.
The “Opening the Book” series is presented in cooperation with the independent, cross-community Jewish Study Center and with Kol Isha, an open group pursuing spirituality from a woman’s perspective at Temple Micah (Reform). “A Song Every Day” is an independent blog, however, and all views, mistakes, etc. are the author’s.