Although it is not a well-known aspect of Judaism, demons abound in Jewish lore. Mentioned throughout the Talmud and Midrash, they are forces that work against humankind except when they are “enslaved” to perform specific tasks (a feat accomplished by the like of King Solomon).
Most of the demons mentioned in Jewish lore have a definitively masculine persona. And then there is Lilith, a demoness who has come to be referred to as Queen of the Demons by those who have become fascinated by her. (It should be noted that there are other female demons, but none as famous as Lilith.)
“Rabbi Hanina said: One may not sleep in a house alone, and whoever sleeps in a house alone is seized by Lilith” (Talmud Shabbat 151b). This Talmudic reference is the source from which it is understood that Lilith is the night demon who torments men in erotic visions.
Kabbalistic sources present Lilith as the first mate created for Adam. When Eve was created, Adam said: “This one is bone of my bones and flesh of my fresh…” (Genesis 2:23), implying that there had been a previous creation that was not an appropriate mate for him. During her brief union with Adam, Lilith bore children who became the demons of the world.
Lilith is a fascinating yet controversial figure. Some see her as a projection of misogyny, others as the symbol of feminine power. Some of the legends of Lilith are based in Jewish scholarship while others are the fantastic work of one of humankind’s greatest gifts, the human imagination.
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