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Home » Forum » General Discussions » Lilith: the first Feminist
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Name: JMD  •  Title: Lilith: the first Feminist  •  Date posted: 05/08/07 6:10
Q: Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, "ReVisions: Seeing Torah Through A Feminist Lens":

"I never learnt that first creation story in Sunday school. I do not ever recall it being explained, interpreted or discussed from the pulpit. I do remember it being taken for granted that the tale of Adam and Eve and the rib was 'the' creation story... (The Hebrew word translated as rib, 'tzela', can also mean side.) We act as if the rib story is the Torah's only way - and thus the only correct way - of looking at woman as spiritual being, created from and part of man."

"The critical message of the first chapter of the first book of the Torah is not the rib. It is just the opposite. Both woman and man are born as equals from a genderless but fertile God. Imagine if I had learnt this version of creation as a young girl in Sunday school!

Since Judaism was so important to my family, and since we were grounded in our ethics being Jewish ethics, this would have been my earliest lesson in the morality of equality. I would have seen my own equality with little boys as Divinely ordained and Jewishly correct. That would have been a powerful lesson."

"Since Genesis 1 states clearly that the human being is in God's image and the human being is male and female, it follows that God's image - and God - must be both male and female. The Hebrew term 'Elohim' used in Genesis 1 is a plural form, although traditionally considered grammatically to be singular, like the English word 'group.'

"..classical Jewish commentators were puzzled and disturbed by the plural form of God's utterance 'let US make humanity in OUR image.' ....They suggested that the plural here was 'the royal we,' or God speaking with the angels. I suggest we hear God's internal dialogue, the female and male aspects of Divinity in conversation with each other, checking to be sure both sides are represented in the creation of humanity."

"[the midrash of Lilith] Inventing her from the Hebrew word for night, 'laila', the rabbis wrote about Lilith as the original female creation. The rabbis already knew the word Lilith from the one place it appears in the Hebrew Bible, Isaiah 34:14, where she is at rest with satyrs and hyenas in the wilderness.."

"Knowing the first woman was made at the same time as the first man, and of the same substance, the rabbis assume she would insist on equality. The midrash does not mince words: she demands a chance to have sex with her on top!"

"Adam refuses... Lilith is banished from the garden....

Appearing in later rabbinic literature as the feared independent woman who hates men, despises and destroys male babies and brings disaster to marriages.."

"She [Eve] is named for her relationship to man - 'for from man was she taken.' Taken from man, she is named by man. Naming symbolized control. As Adam achieves dominion over the animals he has named, so too he asserts it over the woman."

"The lesson of the first story of original equality is now obscured. The being gives 'his' woman - for in this context she is no longer just 'the' woman - a proper name.."

"Gender is a social construct created by the separation between men and women. It does not exist in the first reading of Genesis, where the dual gender of being does not define, restrict or enlarge; there are no rights, responsibilities or roles associated with the being's male or femaleness."

"The first narrative of inherent equality in the Divine image should be the focus of a feminist rereading of those days in Eden. It should be taught and preached as the 'real' creation story. Imagine the difference it would make to girls and women hearing that they are not secondary in God's plan. Imagine the enoblement of women as they learn from earliest childhood that the original plan of God's universe is the ultimate equality of men and women. Men would have to rethink what has been assumed to be God's order. Those of us who live and work in the religious realm should begin a program for change that would include God's very first wish, that man and woman, of the same substance, finally be at one, as it was 'In the Beginning.' "


From "Lilith to Lilith Fair", 1998:

"This book is dedicated to Lilith, the spirit of change, my mother Lillian and all mothers who tell their daughters that anything is possible."
-Buffy Childerhose

From Intro, by Sarah McLachlan: "Like any myth or religion, we take those parts that can guide us in our lives and discard those elements that displease us. The story of Lilith is no different. While she goes on to be vilified and called a demon, I choose to ignore this part of the story as it is surely only the rantings of terrified men who were trying to keep other women from getting any silly ideas. What is important is that Lilith made a difficult and courageous decision and, in doing so, fell out of favour with the men in her life. So it can be said that Lilith was perhaps the world's first feminist!"


A Voice from the 1970s - from the essay:
"The Coming of Lilith: Toward a Feminist Theology"
by Judith Plaskow

"We took Lilith for our heroine, and yet, most important, not Lilith alone. We try to express through our myth the process of our coming to do theology together. Lilith by herself is in exile and can do nothing. The real heroine of our story is sisterhood, and sisterhood is powerful:

In the beginning, the Lord God formed Adam and Lilith from the dust of the ground and breathed into their nostrils the breath of life. Created from the same source, both having been formed from the ground, they were equal in all ways. Adam, being a man, didn't like this situation, and he looked for ways to change it.

He said, 'I'll have my figs now, Lilith,' ordering her to wait on him, and he tried to leave to her the daily tasks of life in the garden. But Lilith wasn't one to take any nonsense; she picked herself up, uttered God's holy name, and flew away. 'Well now, Lord,' complained Adam, 'that uppity woman you sent me has gone and deserted me.' The Lord, inclined to be sympathetic, sent his messengers after Lilith, telling her to shape up and return to Adam or face dire punishment. She, however, preferring anything to living with Adam, decided to stay where she was. And so God, after more consideration this time, caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam and out of one of his ribs created for him a second companion, Eve.

For a time, Eve and Adam had a good thing going. Adam was happy now, and Eve, though she occasionally sensed capacities within herself that remained undeveloped, was basically satisfied with the role of Adam's wife and helper. The only thing that really disturbed her was the excluding closeness of the relationship between Adam and God. Adam and God just seemed to have more in common, both being men, and Adam came to identify with God more and more. After a while, that made God a bit uncomfortable too, and he started going over in his mind whether he may not have made a mistake letting Adam talk him into banishing Lilith and creating Eve, seeing the power that gave Adam.

Meanwhile Lilith, all alone, attempted from time to time to rejoin the human community in the garden. After her first fruitless attempt to breach its walls, Adam worked hard to build them stronger, even getting Eve to help him. He told her fearsome stories of the demon Lilith who threatens women in childbirth and steals children from their cradles in the middle of the night. The second time Lilith came, she stormed the garden's main gate, and a great battle ensued between her and Adam in which she was finally defeated. This time, however, before Lilith got away, Eve got a glimpse of her and saw she was a woman like herself.

After this encounter, seeds of curiosity and doubt began to grow in Eve's mind. Was Lilith indeed just another woman? Adam had said she was a demon. Another woman! The very idea attracted Eve. She had never seen another creature like herself before. And how beautiful and strong Lilith looked! How bravely she had fought! Slowly, slowly, Eve began to think about the limits of her own life within the garden.

One day, after many months of strange and disturbing thoughts, Eve, wandering around the edge of the garden, noticed a young apple tree she and Adam had planted, and saw that one of its branches stretched over the garden wall. Spontaneously, she tried to climb it, and struggling to the top, swung herself over the wall.

She did not wander long on the other side before she met the one she had come to find, for Lilith was waiting. At first sight of her, Eve remembered the tales of Adam and was frightened, but Lilith understood and greeted her kindly. 'Who are you?' they asked each other, 'What is your story?' And they sat and spoke together, of the past and then of the future. They talked for many hours, not once, but many times. They taught each other many things, and told each other stories, and laughed together, and cried, over and over, till the bond of sisterhood grew between them.

Meanwhile, back in the garden, Adam was puzzled by Eve's comings and goings, and disturbed by what he sensed to be her new attitude toward him. He talked to God about it, and God, having his own problems with Adam and a somewhat broader perspective, was able to help out a little - but he was confused, too. Something had failed to go according to plan. As in the days of Abraham, he needed counsel from his children. 'I am who I am,' thought God, 'but I must become who I will become.'

And God and Adam were expectant and afraid the day Eve and Lilith returned to the garden, bursting with possibilities, ready to rebuild it together." 
Your Answer:
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Name: Panluna  •  Date: 05/08/07 10:34
A: There are several different accounts about who Lilith really was.One story has it that she was the consort of Lucifer and another story tells the tale that she was the mother of Adam and Eve.Also she could have been a Nephilim or the first Goddess known to humans.She was independent enough to defy the Almighty and she joined the fallen ones. 
Name: Panluna  •  Date: 05/08/07 10:40
A: If you want to read a different angle about the creation story etc. I recommend The Devil's Apochrypha by John A.De Vito.It's really mind blowing!!!! 
Name: Shlomo  •  Date: 05/09/07 0:07
A: The Bereshit 1 and 2 stories are actually separate and distinct. A closer analysis will bring forth the distinction between the two. This has nothing to do with the inequality of women as professed by R. Goldstein. This is what occurs when a surface or "peshat" meaning is obtained instead of continuing to the "remez, drash and sod" understandings of Torah. 
Name: JMD  •  Date: 05/09/07 10:40
A: Panluna "I recommend The Devil's Apochrypha by John A.De Vito.It's really mind blowing!!!!

Thanks -and since you recommend it, well, I'll have to check it out as I'm not familiar with it.

I think those who believe in equality, will look more towards the 1st Genesis creation myth of man and woman together, and those who don't, who believe men rule, women drool, will latch on to the 2nd creation myth (for it's only myth after all, not to be taken literally, least not by me)

Isn't it strange though that they like to say woman comes from man, but it's the opposite - for women give birth not men as we all know, so we all come from women. And, you can get 'man' out of 'wo-man' but you can't get 'woman' out of 'man'! :S-he, He-r same thing. Instead of the term "Mankind" we should use "WoMankind" as it includes both !

Name: Shlomo  •  Date: 05/09/07 15:19

I understand your logic perfectly of "you can get 'man' out of 'wo-man,' but you can't get 'wo-man out of 'man!" If both creation and evolution are myths, then where did we start? Look closer at what you said before about man and woman as "one," think deeper, it reveals a mystical event. 
Name: JMD  •  Date: 05/10/07 1:28
A: Yeah, right, as though I'm a stranger to "mystical events and "deep thinking", and meditating, intense moments of gnosis/insight/intuiton, going within to the kingdom, seeking balance and wholeness in various ways....

I wonder why, then, in the past, when I used to dare visit and post on political message boards, that sometimes people would just assume I was a man?! What, a woman can't be aggressive? Doesn't know politics? *laughs at the memories* Gee, guess I'm doing quite all right with that fussion thang, of masculine and feminine within me, and without, until it disappears and you are neither male nor female, you just are.... I'm all for balance - which one can't achieve if they worship an all male God.

Creation stories, be they from Genesis or even older myths, which Geneis borrowed from, are just that - myths. Not to be taken 'literally'. Myth with meaning, yes. It's about archetypes, metaphors, symbolism - language of the soul. But there's many of them out there, from all over the world, and just remember in the oldest creation myths recorded, there is a Creatrix not a Creator. Eve has many Goddess traits by the way.

But there are 'facts' to back up evolution, evidence, and evolution is about science - why do you compare evolution to myth? Evolution is a theory that continues to evolve [pun intended] butt I wouldn't call it myth.

Those who are into that 'creation science' stuff, well, that has nothing to do with science -'that' has to do with myth.

From the Gospel of Thomas:
"Jesus said to them, When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below, and when you make the male and the female one and the same, so that the male not be male nor the female female; and when you fashion eyes in place of an eye, and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, and a likeness in place of a likeness; then will you enter [the kingdom." 
Name: JohnD  •  Date: 05/10/07 10:35
A: Its all very intresting. Hopefully one day we will know the "true"nature of god. I like the site www.earlychristianwritings.com. The questions we have today are the exact same questions they had in the 1st century. Who is God and what is his nature? The Father, the Holy Spirit and the Son. Are they one substance,one in purpose or separate beings. Some have argued the Holy Spirit is the feminine part of God. Its obvious there were many early thoughts on the matter of God. There are many "sayings of Jesus" from gnostic writings to the Esseans gospel of peace to the present excepted gospels of the Holy Bible. Maybey Jesus said them all or someone is making them up-who Knows. If you start stripping away from the bible as truth where do you stop? Ultimately I have come to believe that you must have faith that the divine message of God has come through in the Bible. Love God the heavenly father,believe in Jesus Christ as savior and love each other. It is very easy to get lost in the words searching for truth and not see it right in front of us. Love. 
Name: Panluna  •  Date: 05/10/07 10:37
A: Our immortal souls are equal. 
Name: Shlomo  •  Date: 05/11/07 0:28
A: Who said G_d was male / female? G_d has no gender nor body, nor any description we can ascribe to. Archytypes, metaphors, symbolisms, were written so that it was on the level of human understanding, if written in another way, we would not understand anything, whether it be gnostic, myth or otherwise.

Whether one believes Chavah was a goddess and there was a creatrix / creator is indicative of supplanting into the mythological. The idea of creation being a myth is based on insufficient knowledge of creation itself. Evolution is a theory composed of "what we would like creation to be, to supplant what we do not understand." Basically if you believe all things were created from flesh, then obviously there is going to be genetic similarities with other creations, that is common sense, no need for an evolutionary "rocket scientist" to tell us what we already know.

Think of it this way, even if everything is a myth, what were the forces behind the forces etc. that created the all? There has to be a force of infinity. Nature does not have the force to create, only to maintain what has already been created. All forces were already present and continue to be present until the time the ultimate and infinite force ceases the contributing forces that were set in motion. The infinite force has no creator or creatrix.

And myths are written by the hands of male and female authors of books of alleged wisdom of knowledge. This type of knowledge is on the level of human intelligence. 
Name: Ladyhawk  •  Date: 05/11/07 14:03
A: Shlomo: Excellently put. Why is it, do you suppose, that people cannot see, or refuse to see, this higher, transcendent truth? Obviously, holy writers have tried to explain it in metaphors that humans would understand, but I wish they had SAID they were metaphors, because far too many people, even now, think of God in contexts that have not existed in the world for at least a thousand years.

I was unchurched for the first ten years of my life; but I think I always had a sense of Other. I think having this before I encountered dogmatic religion made a big difference in my ability to conceive of a "being" that was not confined by gender, socio-political context, or the parameters of human understanding. I lack patience with people who cannot and will not think beyond doctrine. I thank you for your quiet patience here.

May I ask: I notice you always type "G_d." Is this a matter of observance? I hope those of us who type the whole name are not offending you by slinging the name about as if we owned it. 
Name: Shlomo  •  Date: 05/12/07 0:54
A: Ladyhawk,

The reason is the big word "EGO" or as some refer to a "self-serving agenda" which is acutally a normal human response. The "ego" or "id" must be brought down or decreased to a measure that allows a person to respond and understand in a logical and reasonable manner, which is not an easy task to do. The "EGO creates a veil over understanding at times and results in limiting our understanding.

The reason G_d is spelled in this manner is that even though it is a generic word, it is still referring to the infinite, but with the exception that the paper it is written on can be destroyed without a violation of the law. If the actual name is written it is not permissible to simply destroy, there is a method or procedure in place to keep from violating the law. 
Name: JMD  •  Date: 05/12/07 1:37
A: Elaine H. Pagels (from an essay she wrote in 1976):
“What Became of God the Mother? Conflicting Images of God in Early Christianity”

“The absence of feminine symbolism of God marks Judaism, Christianity and Islam in striking contrast to the world’s other religious traditions.. Jewish, Christian, and Islamic theologians, however, are quick to point out that God is not to be considered in sexual terms at all. Yet the actual language they use daily in worship and prayer conveys a different message and gives the distinct impression that God is thought of in exclusively masculine terms.”

“What distinguishes these ‘hererodox’ texts from those that are called ‘orthodox’ is at least partially clear: they abound in feminine symbolism that is applied, in particular, to God.”

“Although one might expect, then, that they would recall the archaic pagan traditions of the Mother Goddess, their language is to the contrary specifically Christian, unmistakably related to a Jewish heritage.”

“Instead of a monistic and masculine God, certain of these texts describe God as a dyadic being, who consists of both masculine and feminine elements.”

“One such group of texts claims to have received a
SECRET TRADITION from JESUS through JAMES, and significantly, through MARY MAGDALENE.”


“Members of this [Jesus-James-Mariamne] group offer prayer to both the divine Father and Mother: ‘From Thee, Father, and through Thee, Mother, the two immortal names, Parents of the divine being…”

“Followers of Valentinus invoke this feminine power, whom they also call ‘Grace’ (in Greek, the feminine term charis) in their own private celebration of the Christian eucharist: they call her ‘divine, eternal Grace, She who is before all things.’

“Marcus, a disciple of Valentinus, contends that ‘when Moses began his account of creation, he mentioned the Mother of all things at the very beginning, when he said, In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, for the word ‘beginning’ (in Greek, the feminine arche) refers to the divine Mother, the source of the cosmic elements. When they describe God in this way, different gnostic writers have different interpretations. Some maintain that the divine is to be considered masculo-feminine – the ‘great male-female power.’ Others insist that the terms are meant only as metaphors – for in reality, the divine is neither masculine nor feminine. A third group suggests that one can describe the Source of all things in either masculine or feminine terms, depending on which aspect one intends to stress. Proponents of these diverse views agree, however, that the divine is to be understood as consisting of a harmonious, dynamic relationship of opposites – a concept that may be akin to the eastern view of yin and yang but remains antithetical to orthodox Judaism and Christianity.”

[The Gospel of Philip] “..concerning the doctrine that later developed as the virgin birth." :D

"Here again the Spirit is praised as both Mother and Virgin, the counterpart – and consort – of the Heavenly Father: “If I may utter a mystery, the Father of the all united with the Virgin who came down” – that is, with the Holy Spirit. Yet because this process is to be understood symbolically, and not literally, the Spirit remains a virgin – that is, of the spirit, his divine Mother. But the author ridicules those ‘literal-minded’ Christians who mistakenly refer the virgin birth to Mary, Jesus’ earthly mother, as if she conceived apart from Joseph” [or maybe Pantera..could be, could be. :b] “ ‘Such persons do not know what they are saying; for when did a female ever impregnate a female?’ Instead, he argues, virgin birth refers to the mysterious union of the two divine powers, the Father of the All with the Holy Spirit.”

“As writings were sorted and judged by various Christian communities every one of these texts which Gnostic groups revered and shared was rejected from the canonical collection as ‘heterodox’ by those who called themselves ‘orthodox’ Christians. By the time this process was concluded, probably as late as the year A.D. 200, virtually all the feminine imagery for God (along with any suggestion of an androgynous human creation) had disappeared from ‘orthodox’ Christian tradition.“

"What is the reason for this wholesale rejection? The gnostics themselves asked this question of their ‘orthodox’ attackers and pondered it among themselves… ‘They say that the creator believed that he created everything by himself, but that, in reality, he had made them because his Mother, Wisdom, infused him with energy, and had given him her ideas. But he was unaware that the ideas he used came from her: he was even ignorant of his own Mother….’ "

“..Irenaeus, an orthodox bishop, notes with dismay that women in particular are attracted to heretical groups – especially to Marcus’s circle, in which prayers are offered to the Mother in her aspects of Silence, Grace, and Wisdom; women priests serve the eucharist together with men; and women also speak as prophets, uttering to the whole community what ‘the Spirit’ reveals to them.”

“Marcion had scandalized his ‘orthodox’ contemporaries by appointing women on an equal basis with men as priests and bishops among his congregations. The teacher Marcillina also traveled to Rome to represent the Carpocratian group, an esoteric circle that claimed to have received secret teachings from Mary, Salome and Martha. And among the Montanists, a radical prophetic circle, the prophet Philumene was reputed to have hired a male secretary to transcribe her inspired oracles.” :D

[Pagels mentions various secret texts and then goes on to note]:
“As these texts suggest, then, women were considered equal to men, they were revered as prophets, and they acted as teachers, traveling evangelists, healers, priests, and even bishops. In some of these groups, they played leading roles and were excluded from them in the orthodox church..."

ah yes, pushed women out of the orthomacho church due to that old virus that's still with us unfortunately -the big yet weak male ego. 
Name: Shlomo  •  Date: 05/12/07 14:53
A: Elaine Pagels disregards the respect that women are given in Hebraic beliefs and considers it the same in all beliefs. Women are held in the highest esteem In the Hebraic beliefs, the women are regarded as "women of the nation, champions of the laws, more noble than men in fortitude and stronger than heroes in endurance." The system of matriarchal are prevalent in the Hebraic beliefs, but Elaine Pagels elects to ignore this fact because it simply does not serve her purpose or agenda.

Even if one considers the incident in the garden as a myth, the message is still the same. The first feminist action was taken. Chavah's actions of I can be the judge since I have been created in G_D's image and thus I am on a equal par with G_d [ a goddess ]. I can eat from any of the fruit trees, no G_d or Adam can tell me what to do and I do not need to repent for my actions. So even if its a myth or a falsehood, it still can retain an element of truth. It is a matter of looking at it in its proper perspective and context without a predisposed bias or agenda. 
Name: Not Dattaswami  •  Date: 05/29/07 20:31
A: .. 
Name: JMD  •  Date: 05/30/07 4:55
A: I see shlomo has his own 'agenda' though he won't admit it. much of the OT is mostly prose anyway, in my belief. But take it as fact if you want - it's your truth, but it isn't mine.

Come to me from Crete
To this, your sacred temple
Here, to this gracious glade of apples
And altars thick with incense
Here, cool water bubbles up
Through broken apple-boughs
In a clearing shaded all with roses
And quivering leaves drip enchantment
Here, meadow grass that feeds strong horses
Concedes to a riot of spring flowers
And soft honeyed breezes blow

Jesus of Nazareth Mary Magdalene: Mariamne Early Christianity
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