By: Amit Kumar Bhowmik
Mumbai: The Abrahamic religions i.e., Judaism, Christianity and Islam all discard Darwin’s theory of evolution. They believe that the Universe, as well as the first humans on Earth were created by God. For them, and as well as for those of us who have ‘studied’ in Convent schools (English Medium!), we are all descendants from Adam and Eve, who God had created. From Judaism, branched Christianity and Islam.
But an entire chapter appears to have been deliberately or otherwise, omitted from the pages of these scriptures. Prior to crafting Eve, according to Jewish legends, God had formed Adam and Lilith from the same dust and had set them in the Garden of Eden aka Paradise. They were both about forty years old. Adam, however, imagined himself to be superior to Lilith, which she resented.
She lashed out that since they were both created from the same dust, they were equals. She firmly asserted herself and even insisted of the woman on top position during sexual congress. Adam fought back, often physically, since he was stronger than her. This bickering continued until, finally, in disgust Lilith left Eden, without informing God, who was very annoyed with her.
God sent three of his Angels, Senoi, Sansenoi, and Sammangelof, to cajole Lilith to return to Eden. But she was determined not to come back unless Adam accepted her as his equal in every way. God was now very angry. He cursed Lilith that every day she would give birth to a hundred children who would all die in the same night.
Adam was now alone and despondent. So, God decided to give him another companion. But this time he would not commit the error as he had with Lilith; making her from the same dust as Adam. While Adam slept, God silently plucked a rib from him and from it created Eve. She was thirty-five when she was paced in Paradise. All went well, until Eve was induced by a talking snake into taking a bite from an apple which grew on the Tree of Knowledge, which God had categorically forbidden them to pluck and eat.
Furious at this disobedience, God expelled Adam and Eve from Paradise. He also, as a parting shot, cursed them that Adam would have to toil hard for their livelihood and Eve would suffer great agony during child-birth.
Although the figure of Lilith is commonly found in Jewish folklore, the origin of Lilith is as a Sumerian succubus. The first Jewish story of Lilith was told in the Alphabet of ben sirah. Before the introduction of the Alphabet of ben sirah, Lilith was mostly seen as a demoness instead of the “first Eve”. Due to the ambiguity of Lilith, she has been represented in multiple forms in both literature and art.
The open-ended nature of the Lilith symbol has allowed different groups to use her as a destructive female symbol or a symbol of female power. Many feminists see Lilith as not only the first woman but the first independent woman created. Although Lilith is controversial some feminists have used her as a symbol of empowerment. For example, one Jewish feminist magazine is called Lilith labels itself as an “Independent Jewish Woman’s Magazine.”
The publishers use Lilith as a title because they believe she is a symbol of independence. However, those who still think of her as a demoness could turn it around and label feminists as male- bashers or men-haters. They see Lilith as wicked and vengeful towards men and children. Whether or not the story of Lilith is accurate is not the main issue.
The “first Eve” version of the story gives Lilith a role that many women can identify with. She is an independent woman who challenges the oppressive system in which she is placed. Despite Lilith’s downfalls, she still remains a symbol of power simply by her survival and mysteriousness. She is open for interpretation and, therefore, allows women to reinterpret her symbolism and power within the tradition.
Unfortunately, despite women many times shattering the glass barrier in nearly all fields, including in the Armed Forces, the discrimination still remains, although we try and wish it away with lame excuses. Personally, I believe that women are by far superior to men. They are adept at multitasking at every level.
I say, more power to women… and to Lilith, who gave up Paradise so that she could be free!
Amit Kumar Bhowmik is a Pune-based lawyer. He can be contacted on Email: firstname.lastname@example.org