According to the ancient creation story of the Bible, you will recall that Adam was lonely in the Garden of Eden when G.d created him. So He fashioned Eve from Adam’s rib while Adam was sleeping, so that he would not be alone and would have a mate to enjoy His creation and hence Eve came into being.
What many of us do not know, is that according to the *Midrash*, there was a woman before Eve whose name was ‘Lilith‘. Who was this mostly unknown woman and what relevance does she have for us today? At a later stage I will look at the repression of Lilith and the projection of ‘guilt’ put onto Eve and what relevance this has in today’s world and more besides.
According to the Midrash, Lilith was born at the same time as Adam, from the same clay and dust as Adam, both in the image of G.d. They were equal in every way.
But, as in contemporary relationships, difficulties in communication arose at times. There came a time when Adam disputed Lilith’s equality with him. Adam wanted Lilith to be subservient to him.
This infuriated Lilith. She was very angry indeed. She begged G.d to help her make Adam see reason but G.d also did not hear her plea. So hurt and angry was Lilith at this further rejection that she blasphemed against G.d and, because of Lilith’s blasphemy, G.d banished to her to the depths of the Red Sea to never be seen or heard of again.
We all know only too well that when something very upsetting happens in relationships, we hope that by not paying any attention to the distressing incident that it will just go away. But it is never like that in real life – anything that is dismissed, rejected, exiled or swept under the carpet in the hopes that it will never arise again, always does arise again, in different shape or form.
Lilith spent a very long time in the depths of the Red Sea biding her time for her return. She chose her moment to return when Eve was languishing under the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Lilith appeared to Eve in disguise as the serpent, and offered Eve the apple, which Eve accepted, bit into, chewed and swallowed.
We know that G.d found them hiding and banished them both from the Garden. And we know that Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent. We know too that women have forever more been blamed for their fall from Paradise.
Another way of looking at this psychologically, is to acknowledge that Adam and Eve HAD to leave the Garden and make their way in the real world, albeit one of duality. From pleasure to pain; from life to death; from divinity to mortality; from G.d’s grace to alienation, perhaps at some later stage to return to the One-ness of Paradise.
Many scholars see the necessity of Adam and Eve leaving Paradise and this is not viewed as a ‘Fall’ from Paradise. It is rather seen as a way forward to consciousness.
Sometimes injunctions (many time patriarchal injunctions) have to be disobeyed for psychological well-being or consciousness. G.d I think, was not enraged at Adam and Eve for disobeying his command not to eat the forbidden fruit. Rather, He was appalled that each blamed the other and did not own up to their ‘misdeed’. Each blamed the other – something that continues to reverberate in today’s world. I think this is why He banished them from The Garden of Eden: to learn what ‘the knowledge of good and evil’ really means. And that the choices that they made henceforth in a new uncharted world, would have consequences. He knew He had to let His children go at some stage as we all know as parents that our children must leave hearth and home, hopefully with sound values instilled in them.
Adam and Eve had to learn the distinction between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ in the new world they were now thrust into. Hopefully they would make wise choices when called upon to do so, foreseeing consequences and unintended consequences. Psychological consciousness is required for this. Being true to ourselves is the first step.
* Midrash*: Exposition of the Bible…mostly dating from the early Middle Ages, and they are a valuable source for the religious ideas of the Jews of the time. The Talmuds also contain a great deal of Midrash.