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I have heard of that the idea that Adam had a wife before Eve comes from Jewish tradition, and also about the idea that this wife was Lilith. From what I can tell the story of Lilith and the story of Adams first wife had possibly been around for a long time before being more popularly believed as the same person. But my questing is how widespread is either belief and to what extent is it believed. In other words are any of these ideas (A. Adam had any first wife at all, B. That wife was named Lilith or C. was the demoness Lilith.) common among the modern Jewish population? and if any of these are common to what extent are they believed? Believed strongly, just an interesting possibility, or even denounced completely as false.

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  • "I have heard of that the idea that Adam had a wife before Eve comes from Jewish tradition, and also about the idea that this wife was Lilith." You mean that that was her name? Or do you mean "...and also about the idea that this wife was the Lilith we know from elsewhere."? If the latter, then could you explicate in your question what you're obliquely referring to, please?
    – msh210
    Jan 14, 2013 at 20:03
  • @msh210 is this clearer, please suggest other wording if not. I'm trying to be as clear as possible. I want the title of my question answered, weather or not it's a widespread belief that Adam had any first wife, weather it was Lilith or some other individual. as I understand they may likely be separate, or not, I don't know .
    – UserZer0
    Jan 14, 2013 at 21:43
  • I simply didn't (and still don't) knnow what you mean by "the idea that this wife was Lilith". If you mean "the idea that her name was Lilith", then that (latter) would be the usual way of wording it. If you mean "the idea that this wife was the Lilith of Story X from Source B", then you should say so, specifying what X and B are.
    – msh210
    Jan 15, 2013 at 1:02
  • Tishbi on Lilith: hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=37938&pgnum=62
    – Menachem
    Apr 14, 2013 at 3:09

5 Answers 5

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A weird idea, based on a weird and not-very-authoritative midrash. To the best of my knowledge it's not in any mainstream source (Talmud, or even something like a Midrash Rabbah or even a Yalkut Shimoni). It first appears in some latter-day "collection of midrashim."

The word "Lilith" appears in Isaiah (34:14) and Rashi there simply translates: "a female demon." That's about all it meant a thousand years ago.

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  • Ok as per msh210, my question may have been previouly worded in a confusing maner. Are you saying weird idea to the whole idea that Adam had any first wife, or specifically the weird Idea was that Lilith the demon was this wife? Thank you for your input!
    – UserZer0
    Jan 15, 2013 at 1:25
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The idea that he had a first wife is mentioned in the Bereishis Rabba three times. 17:7, 18:4, and 22:7. It is also mentioned in the Rokeach on the Torah 1:27. In the footnotes there Reb Chaim Kanievsky says this idea is also mentioned in the Alef Beis of Ben Sira, but doesn't give any details.

The name Lilith was not mentioned.

I don't think the idea of the first Eve is widely known at all in modern Jewish society. There are exceptions of course. For instance the aforementioned Rabbi Kanievsky.

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If you search the Zohar, Zohar chadash, and Tikunee Zohar for the word לילית, you will get 25 hits. If you search for the word לילי"ת, you will get 23 hits.

She is mentioned in Bavli Eruvin (100b) with the spelling כלילית, and when spelled לילית, she appears in Shabbos 151b, Bava Basra 73a, Nidda 24b. Arizal mentions her 114 times, and Gra in his Peirush on Tikunee Zohar 15 times. She was either created on day 2, day 4, or together with Adam -(acc. to sefer Ben sira, also brought by Zohar. Zohar disagrees with Ben sira

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See Arizal Below, that Lilis was Adams first wife שער הפסוקים - פרשת ויצא והיו לאדם שתי נשים, חוה א', שהיה לילית, וחוה ב', שעליה אמר זאת הפעם עצם מעצמי וגו'.

In Medrash Rabbah (Beraishis 22:7) Adam's first wife is called Chava Rishona)

מדרש רבה בראשית פרשה כב פסקה ז (בראשית ד) ויקם קין אל הבל אחיו וגו' יהודה בר אמי אמר על חוה הראשונה היו מדיי

Also She is mentioned in Ibn Ezra- אבן עזרא על בראשית פרק ב פסוק כג ויאמר - אז אמר. זאת הפעם - מצאתי עזר כנגדי כמוני כי ממני היה. ודבר לילית דרש:

See Malbim here who says that Chava Rishona was created from the earth, as opposed Chava Shneeya was created from Adams side

Bnai Yissaschar - Brings additional sources for Lilis being First mate of Adam ספר אגרא דכלה - דף נ/ב (כג) ויאמר האדם זא"ת הפעם עצם וכו' (בראשית ב כג), יש לפרש זא"ת למעט חוה הראשונה לילית, שהיתה רוצה להזדווג לאדם כנודע מרז"ל (ב"ר פכ"ב ז', זוהר ח"ג י"ט ע"ב), וזהו (כוונת) האדם זא"ת הפעל, ר"ל כעת אפעול בזיווגי דוגמא לאורות עליונים להשפיע למלכות שמים הנקראת זא"ת, כענין בזאת יבוא אהרן אל הקודש (ויקרא טז ג), וזהו בס"ת האד"ם זא"ת הפע"ם, ס"ת בגימטריא ת"פ, למעט הקליפה חוה ראשונה. וזהו גם כן נרמז בכאן ס"ת הפע"ם עצ"ם מעצמ"י ובש"ר, ס"ת מרי"ם כנודע בצאתה ממצרים ותקח מרים הנביאה אחות אהרן (שמות טו כ), [דייקא אחות אהרן שנאמר בו בזא"ת יבא אהרן], את הת"ף [לבטל הקליפה היא מנין ת"ף] בידה:

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The Otzar Meforshim brings down a passage from the Aleph Beis of Ben Sira here

It says that when Hashem states that it is not good for man to be alone, he created Lilis. However, almost immediately they began to quarrel over who would be the dominant figure in the act of intimacy (i.e. who would be the one to lie on top). When Lilis saw that she was not going to win, she uttered the name of Hashem and flew off into the air.

Having left Adam she 'teamed up' with Samael to wreak spiritual devastation.

The Shelah HaKodosh in Torah Shebichsav, Ki Seitzei writes expressly:

The reason the categories of Mamzer, the Moabite, and Ammonite may not intermarry with Jewish girls is that inasmuch as their place in the scheme of things prior to their becoming converted was in an unholy domain, they are considered to remain under the influence of the forces governing that domain. It is they who symbolize the unholy union between Samael and Lilith. They produce children who do not grow up to embrace G–d's teachings...

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  • As far as I am aware, the Alpha Beta d'Ben Sira is the first source for the idea that Adam's first wife was Lilith and that Adam's first wife was rejected for being insufficiently submissive. Note that the Alpha Beta d'Ben Sira is not a true midrash (and is totally distinct from Sefer ben Sirach). According to many scholars it is satirical or humorous. Several sections are scatalogical and/or bawdy.
    – Avraham
    Mar 28, 2023 at 20:39
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    See sources that bring this opinion of Ben Siraהרבה אחרונים הביאו דבריו, ומהם החיד"א בנחל קדומים (אות יז), שבלי הלקט (ח"ב ס' עג), הרב אליעזר מנחם פואה בהקמתו לספרו מדרש בחידוש, ובעולת יצחק (סימן מח). אולם בזהר הק' (ויקרא יט.) חולק עליו ע"ש.
    – user31723
    Mar 29, 2023 at 10:35
  • Thank you for the information @user31723. I'm trying to understand the sources you listed. When you write "הרבה אחרונים הביאו דבריו" are you quoting something or are these your own sources? Are you saying these sources quote Alpha Beta d'ben Sira in general or the passage about Lilit? I am having a hard time finding these sources. The Nachal Kedumim of the Chidah I have is grouped by pasuk and doesn't have "letters." I'm also not familiar with "Chelek Beit" of the Shibolei HaLeket, but siman 73, which is in the second section, is about tasting the wine at kiddush.
    – Avraham
    Mar 30, 2023 at 17:53
  • I wrote that many acharonim bring him. I am specifically referring that they bring the sefer Ben sira regarding Lilis. feel free to see my email info on my updated profile, where I can send a word document with more sources
    – user31723
    Apr 2, 2023 at 21:09

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