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Eve

Lilith Evolved: Writing Midrash

In this Go and Learn, guide, we explore the notion of midrash and highlight "The Coming of Lilith" by theologian Judith Plaskow as an example of how contemporary Jewish feminists have created their own midrashim—retellings of biblical stories—in order to incorporate women's viewpoints into the traditional texts of Judaism. In writing their own versions of these texts, Plaskow and her peers have made Judaism more inclusive of the voices and perspectives of all people who engage in its teachings.

As Old as Lilith and Eve: “The Mediator between the Head and Hands is the Heart!”

Last Sunday, after a totaled car and a summarily canceled day-trip to Ipswich, MA, my friend and I decided to make the best of things and not let a little thing like a car accident ruin our day. What better activity than seeing a German Expressionist film about robots, class struggle, and compassion? Alas, while there are many great things one can say about the film, I was angered by the predictably dualistic depiction of women, a theme as old as Lilith and Eve.

Eve: Midrash and Aggadah

The Rabbis view Eve, the first woman, as embodying the qualities of all women, and of femininity in general. As God’s handiwork, she is portrayed as the most beautiful woman who ever lived, and there was no fairer creature but her husband Adam. The midrashim about her exude an air of primacy: the first mating between Adam and Eve is described as a magnificent wedding, and their first intercourse aroused the serpent’s jealousy. The primal sin is generally symbolic of man’s sins, and through it the Rabbis seek to clarify why men trespass. The depiction of the woman’s creation leads the Rabbis to inquire into gender differences and the nature of the female sex, all through the eyes of the male Rabbis. They discuss woman’s different temperament, her mental maturity, her habits, the physical shape of her body, her behavior, and other aspects of female existence. The Rabbis attempt to provide an explanation for gender differences by means of a portrayal of woman’s different creation, and also as being a result of the sin of the Garden of Eden. Eve’s punishment is examined at length in the dicta of the Rabbis, who exhibit a certain degree of empathy in their ability to describe women’s suffering during the first three months of pregnancy, during birth, in instances of miscarriage, the pain of raising children, that of menstrual periods and other afflictions.

Eve: Bible

The first woman, according to the biblical creation story in Genesis 2–3, Eve is perhaps the best-known female figure in the Hebrew Bible. Her prominence comes not only from her role in the Garden of Eden story itself, but also from her frequent appearance in Western art, theology, and literature. Indeed, the image of Eve, who never appears in the Hebrew Bible after the opening chapters of Genesis, may be more strongly colored by postbiblical culture than by the biblical narrative itself. For many, Eve represents sin, seduction and the secondary nature of woman. Because such aspects of her character are not actually part of the Hebrew narrative of Genesis, but have become associated with her through Jewish and Christian interpretive traditions, a discussion of Eve means first pointing out some of those views that are not intrinsic to the ancient Hebrew tale.

Eve: Apocrypha

Eve, the first woman according to the Eden story (Genesis 2–3), is mentioned very rarely in the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books. One text mentions her by name (Tob 8:6), and four others allude to her (Sir 25:24; 40:1; 42:13; 4 Macc 18:7). Only Sirach (also known as Ecclesiasticus or Ben Sira) presents the negative theological judgment that women are the source of sin.

Art: Representation of Biblical Women

In narratives or abridged cycles more or less faithful to the biblical text, art has portrayed biblical women as role models and reference, occasionally adding exegetical elements both Christian and Jewish. Although the text of the Bible became fixed at different dates and in various versions, these images are not fixed, but reflect the ebb and flow in society’s attitudes towards women and their role.

Creation According to Eve: Beyond Genesis 3

No feminist critic of the Bible has neglected to discuss the story or stories of the creation of woman; and yet, despite significant differences in theoretical approach and focus, their readings generally have been confined to Genesis 1–3. One may well ask why, since the matter of creation and femininity is also addressed beyond Genesis 3. Genesis 1–3 may in fact be construed as part of a larger unit of primeval history which ends only at Genesis 11, where the history of the patriarchs and matriarchs commences. This textual unit consists of a series of narratives and genealogies dealing with creation and crime and punishment—or both.

Biblical Women in World and Hebrew Literature

This article focuses on the fate of biblical women in post-biblical times.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Eve." (Viewed on October 1, 2014) <http://jwa.org/taxonomy/term/12240>.

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