Perhaps the most important discussion on Lilith’s origins in the Zohar comes in Zohar 1:19b (Beresheet: Passages 98-101). Those passages are listed below. They explain that Lilith’s body was created just like Adam’s from the dust of earth. However, her body came to host the defective animating spark of life that was Samael’s, whereas Adam’s body came to host the animating spark of Jehovah’s perfect light. The passages also link Lilith to curses and the death of children.
The passages begin by discussing how when God created lights in expanse of the heavens on creation day 4, this was an event of cursing that resulted in defective light entering creation. The Zohar explains this notion by pointing out that Genesis uses a defective spelling of me’orot, which means “lights.” A missing a letter vahv (w) in me’orot lets it to be understood as me’erat, which means “to curse.” Therefore, the created lights are thought to hold a cursing nature. The Zohar teaches that this cursing light is the defective light of Samael.
Zohar 1:19b (Beresheet: Passages 98-101)98 And Elohim said let there be me’orot (lights) in the expanse of heaven (Ge 1:14). Me’orot is spelled deficiently as me’erat (meaning to curse), thus diphtheria was created for children. After the radiance of primordial light was treasured away, a shell was created for the kernel (of light). That shell expanded, generating another shell. Emerging, she ascended and descended, arriving at the small faces. She desired to cling to them, be portrayed in them, and never depart. The bless Holy One separated her form there, bringing her down below when he created Adam, so that this would be perfected in this world.99 As soon as she saw Eve cleaving to the side of Adam, beauty above, as soon as she saw the complete image, she flew away, desiring as before to cleave to the small faces. Those guardians of the gates on high did not allow her. The blessed Holy One rebuked her and cast her to the bottom of the sea.100 She dwelled there until Adam and his wife sinned. Then the blessed Holy One plucked her form there, and she rules over all those children – small faces of humanity – who deserve to be punished for the sins of their fathers. She flies off, roaming through the world. Approaching the earthly Garden of Eden, she sees cherubs guarding the gates of the Garden, and she dwells there by that flaming sword (Ge 3:24), for she emerged from the side of that flame.
101 As the flame revolves she flees and roams the world, finding children who deserved to be punished. She toys with them and kills them. This happens in the waning of the moon, whose light diminishes; this is me’orot (lights) deficient.
After noting how Samael’s defective light entered creation on day 4, the passages go on to describe its ramification on the creation of Lilith and Adam on day 6. It notes that on day 6 God created a shell, or klipah, to house Jehovah’s primordial pure light. This shell was Adam’s body. This interpretation is sure, because Zohar 1:20a states that the klipah refers to the body and the radiant spark within refers to its spirit.
Zohar 1:20a (Beresheet: Passage 109)
In this image, the human being exists in this world with an inner part and an outer klipah, which corresponds to a spirit and a body.
After Adam’s klipah, or body, was created, passage 98 notes that Adam’s shell expanded and Lilith’s shell emerged from it. Lilith’s shell did not house God’s pure light. This is why her creation is mentioned in context of the defective light which entered creation. Zohar 1:19b (Beresheet A, verse 393) is quite clear that Lilith’s shell contained the defective light. It says, “Let there be lights (me’orot), everything derives from it. It also includes the creation of Lilit in the world.” How Lilith came to be animated with defective light is also explained in Safra Det’zniuta (Passage 38). It states that both evil and good creatures were made on creation days 5 and 6 because the defective light of Samael intermixed with the perfect light of Jehovah (“the light of one spread into the other”). Even passage 101 above establishes this link between Lilith and the defective light. It states her power to slay children increases when the moon’s light wanes and is defective.
Passage 98 above notes that when the defective light entered creation, the curse of diphtheria for children was created. This again is in reference to Lilith. The Zohar closely links diphtheria to Lilith. Zohar 2:264b states that Lilith strikes children with this disease, and Zohar 2:267b relates that Lilith and Diphtheria are two distinct but kindred spirits. The Zohar may have selected the disease of Diphtheria as emblematic of Lilith because of its unusual traits. Diphtheria is an upper respiratory illness caused by bacteria. It symptoms include a swollen throat and “bull neck”, and an adherent membrane that grows on the tonsils, pharynx, and/or nasal cavity. This membrane is a leathery, sheath-like skin. Victims die of suffocation when the leathery membrane growths closed their air passages. Diphtheria is very contagious, although in modern times it has been eradicated through widespread vaccination. In the past it was a particularly deadly disease to children, with some outbreaks killing 80% of children under the age of 10 in affected regions. The Zohar may have attributed this disease to Lilith because of its deadliness and eerie characteristics. The sight of a leathery skin growth slowly closing the air passages of its victims must have been quite horrifying. The swelling of the neck and leathery skin growth may have made it appear as a though a terrible physical transformation was overcoming the victim analogous to the horrible swelling and rotting skin of the Sotah during her trial.
Passage 98 above relates that after Lilith was created, she ascended and attempted to mate with the “small faces.” This is in apparent reference to angels, whom are likened to children in appearance (Zohar 1:228b, 3:60b, 217b). God then separated her from there when Adam’s creation was finished. However, when Lilith saw Eve attached to Adam’s side, she fled from him, attempting to have sex with the angels once more. God then dispatches her to the depths of the sea, and she dwelt there until Adam and his wife sinned. According to passage 100, when Eve sinned in turning aside from Adam, God set free the spirit of Lilith in the world to unleash her curses upon sinners. She rules over all infants who deserve to be punished because of the sins of their fathers. The passage continues that she dwells at the gates of the Garden of Eden by the flaming sword, because she originated from the side of that flame (a flame of judgment).
Passage 101 concludes that Lilith’s slaying of children occurs when the moon‘s light diminishes, and this diminishing is tied to the defective light of Lucifer that brought about Lilith’s creation in the opening passage.
More details surrounding Lilith’s origins may be surmised from Zohar 2 (Vayikra: Passages 316-317). These passages are listed below. They flatly state that Lilith was first with Adam. They also relate that when Adam was created, a thousand spirits attempted to enter his body. However, God rebuked the spirits and prevented it from happening. At that time a cloud descended and scattered the spirits, shortly thereafter Adam was animated by Jehovah’s breath. The rebuked spirits were those of Lucifer and his angels.
Zohar 2 (Vayikra : Passages 316-317)Come and see: In a hole by the great, supernal abyss, there is a certain female, a spirit above all spirits. We have explained that its name is Lilit. She was first with Adam. When Adam was created and his body perfected, a thousand spirits came on the body from the left side. This one wanted to enter it and that one wanted to enter it, but they could not. The Holy One, blessed be He, scolded them. Thus, Adam lay down spiritless, green in appearance, with all those spirits around him.
At that time, a cloud descended and pushed aside all the spirits (which surrounded Adam). …
We know from Zohar 1:19b that Lilith was animated first before Adam. From this we may conclude that although God did prevent the spirits from entering Adam’s body, he did not prevent them from entering Lilith’s. They entered her and animated her after the likeness of Lucifer. Shortly thereafter God’s cloud descended and scattered the spirits, and Adam in turn was animated by Jehovah’s spirit. Combining this with our knowledge of what the Hebrew of Ge 2 literally says, we would conclude the spirits entered Lilith via the mist which broke through from the ground. Indeed, the 17th century Kabbalist, Yalqut Reubeni, teaches in his commentary on the Zohar that Lilith was created from impure sediments (mud) and scum.
Yalqut Reubeni – Beresheet 34b
In the beginning the Holy One, blessed be He, created Eve [i.e., the 1st Eve, Lilith], and she was not flesh but the scum of the earth and its impure sediments, and she was a harmful spirit. And the Holy One, blessed be He, took her away from Adam and gave him another in her stead.