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What is Original in our Book on Lilith?

On the Authorship of the Book Lilith

The first part of this post addresses the content and ideas in the Lilith book.
The second part of this post addresses the apology letter by Ohad in a public posting on this website, regarding the authorship of the book Lilith.

English Overview of the Intention and Original Contribution of Gafni and Ezrahi in their work on Lilith.

Part One:

Written by Marc Gafni {Reviewed by Ohad}, 2003

This brief overview is intended to explain to the reader the underlying intent of this presentation. The motivation for its writing, however, is not merely academic, it is driven by existential, spiritual, and sociological agendas. It is important that the reader be made aware of them at the outset.

Until modernity, the status of women in Jewish life has been virtually unique. In marked contrast to the host cultures where the Jews found themselves, in ancient, medieval, and renaissance societies, the status, dignity, and rights of women have always been upheld.

In modernity, however, a new voice, emerging from the nineteenth century women’s suffrage movement, has made itself heard.

Feminism may well have excesses in its more radical forms, with which this author would take exception. Particularly those forms which blur the distinction between equality and identify and argue for an existential androgyny, or those forms which undermine the core valuation of the family unit, or even those rooted in overt hostility to the male world, would all fall under the aforementioned exception. Having said that, the core spiritual intuitions of feminism are held by this author to be sound.

Specifically, the notion that the female voice is sorely missing in all spheres of life and that it is a voice long repressed by society, and of course the radical equality of men and women are all propositions which this author holds to be sound and a part of the ongoing revelation of the spirit which R. Kuk viewed as such an essential category of revelation.

Any person who holds similar views to the author, and I believe that covers a not insignificant portion of the community, is immediately placed in a near impossible intellectual/spiritual quandary.

On the one hand there is the spiritual voice of feminism. On the other there are the liturgical expressions, like the blessing thanking God for not having been created a woman, along with not a few Rabbinic statements which view woman in a less than positive light, the seeming passivity of women in the halachic marriage ceremony, and of course a host of inequalities in all spheres of Jewish life ranging from the ritual and communal to the judicial and the economic.

The attempt to ameliorate the dissonance engendered leads one of three directions.

The first is to dismiss feminism.

The second is to dismiss Judaism.

The third is to engage in some form of apologetics which explains why the sources and feminism are indeed saying the same thing.

The purpose of this study is to suggest a fourth approach- namely that there is a genre of source namely Lurianic and post Lurianic sources which suggest categories that allow us to interpret our reality authentically without resorting to apologetics.

This tradition- rooted partially in Luria’s understanding of Lilith and his remarkable identification of Lilith with the biblical matriarch Leah, forms the matrix of our study.

Luria understands Lilith – the demonic feminine – to be a function of man’s inability to fully receive her. This inability, according to Luria, resulted in her demonization. The unfolding process of spiritual growth, which according to Luria is the purpose of history, demands the reintegration of Lilith into the realm of the holy. This is a radically original Lurianic interpretation, although, as we have tried to show, hints of it are already present in earlier sources.


What is interesting in our presentation is not the history of sources about Lilith. These have been collected by others both within scholarship and without. It is not our noticing of Luria’s re-integration of the femininie which was pointed out to us by Yitzchak Ginzberg in oral and written teachings as well as by others. Nor is our reading of the Talmudic passage on Cheruta, which while expanded by us, was already noticed by earlier scholars of Aggadah.

It is furthermore not our noticing of the identification of Luria and Lilith and Leah by Isaac Luria which was already noticed and commented upon by Tishbi as the “wonderful metamorphis of Lillity to Leah” in Luria’s teaching.

What is original and exciting in this teaching is our intrepetation of this Lurianic reading of Leah and Lilith in light of our close reading of both Leah, Rachel, Jacob, Israel, and other key biblical figures and archetypes in the book of Genesis. By bringing together the Lurianic material and the biblical material with a feminist sensibility we believe we have made a significant hermenutic contribution both to feminism, biblical studies and kabbalistic studies.

This paper is a part of a larger work which develops these themes in full.

We will deal in three separate chapters with the following:

– the development of the Lilith story in the primary sources

– a literary analysis of the Genesis story which serves to unpack the Lurianic reading of Leah which allowed her identification with Lilith and thus ipso facto created the mechanism for her redemption by Luria. This involves a close pivotal re-reading of the Jacob, Rachel, Leah dynamic in the book of Genesis

* and we will examine the Partzuf of Leah in some of its Lurianic expressions
* a close reading of the Jacob Israel story in a way that explains the Lurianic reading of these texts and Luria’s deployment of Jacob and Israel in his kabbalah
* a close reading of biblical texts as they unpack the unique literary genre of transmigration -Giglgul, within Luria

The core move that Luria makes is to suggest that not only is Leah Lilith, but also that Jacob is an expression of Adam. Jacob’s fear of Leah is thus held to be similar to Adam’s inability to accept Lilith. According to Luria, however, this inability to integrate Lilith is based not on any essential flaw in Lilith but on a lack of spiritual maturity on the Part of Jacob. Indeed only after Jacob undergoes his transformation to Israel is he able to relate to Lilith in a spiritually appropriate manner.

Lilith for Luria represents those parts of the feminine — i.e. intellectual prowess, sexual forwardness and a desire for autonomous control of their own destinies – that the male finds essentially threatening. What Luria suggests is that the ability of Jacob to embrace his Israel side is an expression of Jacob attaining spiritual maturity which in turn enables him to allow Lilith full expression.

One of the major foci of the work will be to show that Luria’s move, although at first blush rooted only in the unique mythology of Lurianic Kabbalah, is in fact based on a close and penetrating analysis of the biblical narrative of Jacob, Israel, Leah and Rachel.

Finally, it is important to note that Luria’s ability to rehabilitate Lilith is based on a broader reading of his writings, particularly what he refers to as Sod Hanesira. Basing himself on an existential reading of the famous Talmudic passage and Zoharic passages on the Lessening of the Moon, Luria suggests that the diminishment of woman symbolized by the moon is a function of exile, particularly the exile of the Shechinah.

The redemption of the shechina from her exile is an acknowledged goal of all mystical thought —Luria’s unique contribution is in the identification of Shechina with the concrete status of woman in history. This position is explicated in great detail in Luria’s ‘Shaar Miut HaYareach’.

To get a sense of the full import of Luria’s move and how it allows for non apologetic treatment of contemporary reality I will now briefly cite two examples of such treatment which are not cited in the body of this paper.

The first is by Reb Schneur Zalman of Liadi pp. 138,9.1 It concerns the role of woman in the wedding ceremony as a reflection of the place of woman in society in general. He suggests that the silence of woman in the ceremony is an expression of the exile of the Shechinah and that redemption needs to allow is to hear, “The voice of the Chatan AND the voice of the Kallah.” In this vein he explains the future tense of the last blessing – in the future, we will hear the voice of the Bride, for now her voice has been silenced.” He explicitly alludes to Luria’s treatment of the lessening of the moon as his theological matrix.

Clearly such a non-apologetic treatment is a far cry from explanations which seek to spiritually justify the silence of the bride under the canopy and her apparent passivity during the ceremony3.

The second example is from Israel of Koshnitz, a contemporary of Shneur Zalman’s in the third generation of the Hassidic movement. In his glosses on TB Ketubot he suggests a radically novel understanding for why a virgin should be married on Wednesday, the fourth day of the week. The first Mishnah in Ketubot explains the preference of the fourth day in terms of the court sitting on Thursday, thus allowing the husband to immediately level a claim against his wife if he suspects her virginity after the marriage night.

As we demonstrate in this work this strange and apparently humiliating process is clearly related to the male relationship to the Archetype of Lilith. Israel of Koshnitz, on the other hand, fully turns the source on its head in claiming that marriage on the fourth day is because this is the day in which the moon was diminished. In effect we are saying to the moon — we recognize the tragedy of your diminishment — redemption is at hand – the status of woman will be ameliorated.

Again the radically non-apologetic nature which underlies his re-reading of the Mishnah is abundantly clear.

Finally, and perhaps most critically, the image of Lilith herself. Her redeemed and non demonic essence suggests a role model of holy eros, intellectual competence and audacity – which is surely vital for contemporary women – fully within the parameters of the tradition.




Victim consciousness is so alluring. It’s incredibly human to find ourselves sliding into it despite our honest desires to function on more aware levels of consciousness. We all have fallen many times to play on the Drama Triangle, and at this stage of human evolution, we are all likely to still find ourselves allured into it unconsciously, even if only in subtle ways. I wish to share a painful incident from my past, where I too had functioned this way. Recognizing it is helping me develop more compassion towards people who point fingers at me since I know that I have done it too and we are all so perfectly human…

This is how I fell into the drama triangle, identified myself as a victim, and marked my dear brother as a perpetrator just because I couldn’t stand in my own power. Here is how I, too, gave my power away because it was easier to be a victim than to admit that I had crossed my own boundaries. I made those mistakes, and I am here now, years after, to apologize and make a Tikun, as we call it in Kabbalah.

From 1997 to 1999 Marc Gafni and I collaborated on a book that would be published in 2005 in Israel under the name “Who’s afraid of Lilith?”

When we made the initial agreement of collaboration, I did not express my truth. I kept some reservations in my belly and did not stand for myself and my authentic boundaries. My truth at that time was that we should not be considered co-authors of that book. I wanted to be the author and have Gafni as a contributor. But I did not speak openly about my feelings and concerns. To be honest, I wanted the benefits that could come with Gafni’s name on the book, so I gave my power away and did not speak. Resentment grew in me until years later, when a campaign was launched against him, and I added my story to the other victims. I claimed that he actually stole my ideas and manipulated me to have his name on my book.

Today I am so sorry for doing so.

Today I can see that it was nothing but me not standing up for myself and blaming him for that. Had I spoken my truth, I am sure we would have found a way to respect us both in the best way possible.  But I didn’t. The victim story was too tempting. I got power and recognition by being a victim and by joining a wave of other victim stories. I didn’t even bother to check how accurate they were. By neglecting to claim my power, I created unnecessary drama and caused pain to myself and to my dear brother. So I want to publicly say here – Marc, brother, I am sorry! I love you. Please forgive me.

It is so easy to fall into victim consciousness and blame others for our own mistakes. It is deeply humbling to recognize that I did it… and that recognition helps me look with compassion and understanding toward other people who did the same to me.

So I want to make it clear. Marc Gafni did not steal anything from me, he was kind and generous to me. It was me who robbed myself of my own power by blaming him for my inability to be honest and clearly state my needs and boundaries. I am sorry for that.

In 2023, Marc and I will start to rewrite this book about Lilith, which many people are eager for. We have both grown and evolved a lot since 2005. We found peace, forgave each other for our past shortcomings, and joyfully decided to renew our collaboration.

Lilith is happy, I am sure of it.  We hope to come back soon with this Kabbalistic masterpiece enhanced with powerful upgrades.

Lilith herself needs to learn how to grow out of her victim consciousness, and it starts with us.

Ohad Pele, Dec 2022, Costa Rica.


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