5.3) Lilith’s Role in the Bitter Water Trial According to the Zohar

The Zohar also discusses at length the fascinating role that Lilith plays in the bitter water trial of the Sotah.  As usual, the Zohar’s language is highly cryptic, but a careful reading reveals that the Zohar teaches that Lilith’s sprit is the fundamental cursing agent in the trial.  It also supports every major mystical aspect of the trial taught in the book The Bitter Waters Code (BWC). 

The relevant passages in the Zohar come in chapter 3 of Mishpatim, passages 317-323.  In that enigmatic chapter, Rabbi Yosi and Rabbi Chiya fumble with a number of difficult riddles posed to them by a mysterious old merchant. The merchant warns the rabbis that there are matters of wisdom hidden in every subject of the Torah, all of which require interpretation.  In addressing one riddle, he says that it is important to know how to be careful when attracting a soul into the body of a conceived child during intercourse.  He then begins discussing the mysteries of the bitter water trial.  His topic is apparently not entirely clear to the rabbis initially.  It does not become clear until the old man mentions the belly of the Sotah in passage 323. 

Zohar 2: (Mishpatim: Passages 317-323) – ALL CAPS IS ADDED

317 What is the sound of the woman, which the sound of the snake can join with, as do a male a female dog? HE ANSWERS: The serpent’s voice can not cling to any voice of a woman, but there are two kinds of women with whom he can unite. One is a woman who does not observe the days of her menstrual impurity and the day of cleansing, and purifies by immersion a day too early, or a woman who delays the marital visits to spite her husband, unless her husband does not mind or does not care about it.

318 With these two women, as one hastens, one also tarries with the voice of the serpent, until the voices merge. Just as she delays her marital visit to distress her husband, in postponing the performance of a precept, so the voice of the serpent advances to merge with the voice of the woman. These two women with whom the sound of the serpent is caught up are comparable to the union of the male and female dog. Uncleanliness follows uncleanliness, a species seeks out its own.

319 One may ask why it should bother us if one voice is caught up with another, or not? HE ANSWERS: Woe that the people in the world perish unknowingly. If the woman’s voice mingles and joins with the voice of the serpent, when sinful evil LILIT comes out of her lair, when she meets these two voices, the voice of the serpent and the voice of the woman, the woman LILIT is heated by them, and they by her. Thus she conceives and a spirit is formed, and they follow it until THE SPIRIT invades the intestines of that woman.

320 The sinful LILIT comes and visits the spirit, of this child that is born, which came about from this awful merger with the sound of the serpent that rattles inside her. This SPIRIT plays with the child until the evil LILIT arrives, just as a woman might visit another woman’s child and prattle with it until its mother arrives. Many times, this SPIRIT, a messenger of the evil LILIT, may kill it. The verse writes, “and on the side of their oppressors there was power” (Ecc 4:1). The explanation OF THE VERSE is not as you suggest, but ITS EXPLANATION IS the strength of that spirit. And so twice is written in the verse, “but they had no comforter”, from the wicked Lilit and from that spirit.

321 HE SAID TO HIMSELF: Old man, now you have friends, you speak like one who never saw war wagers. They are at peace with you. From now on I will not remove from me weapons of war in order to make my name remembered.

322 That sin that lies in wait, It stands by the door like a dog. When the last sound is emitted, when the woman about to give birth cries, JUST BEFORE BIRTH, he skips from the door and goes after the woman. Why? Because the Holy One, blessed be He, sends a key TO OPEN THE WOMB and when the voice flies forth, the key comes. The serpent follows the voice that is emitted and goes to the hill of the stomach. IT BITES THAT PLACE, OPENS THE WOMB, and knocks there until such time that she is cleansed from the filth of the bite of that evil serpent. The Holy One, blessed be He, brings about situations and performs fitting actions.

323 All this (fitting actions which cleanse the filth) comes because that belly was rejected. It is sure THAT THE SERPENT was shunted from that belly and has no part IN IT. ALSO, he is shunted from the belly below of other women in the world. So even though he can distress them, he has no right to dominate them. Which belly does he have authority to dominate? It is the belly of the sotah (lit. ‘a married woman suspected of adultery’) about whom it is written: “and her belly will swell” (Nu 5:27). With this belly, he acts with vengeance as this belly is his to do with what he wishes, and the Holy One, blessed be He, allowed him this in order that he not be totally shunted. My friends, listen! I have not seen you or spoken to you, “All things are full of weariness” (Kohelet 1:8); no one can speak, even Torah words are wearisome.

The old man says it is possible for the voice of the Serpent to join with the voice of the woman, and thereby conceive evil seed.  In passage 317 the rabbis ask the old man what is the sound of the woman that allows this to happen.  The old man responds that there are two types of women with whose voice the Serpent’s voice can cling.  The first is the woman who is impure at the time of intercourse because she has not cleansed herself from her menstrual impurity.  The second is the woman who has created anxiety in her husband because she has delayed in providing her marital visits to him.  These two women mirror the two types of women who undergo the bitter water trial.  The first woman, who is defiled by the blood of her impurity, mirrors the guilty Sotah, who is defiled by her adultery.  The second woman, who causes her husband anxiety, corresponds to the innocent woman of the bitter water trial.  Both have done nothing wrong, except taking actions that provoked anxiousness or jealousy in their husbands. 

According to the old man’s cryptic response, we see that both the guilty Sotah and the innocent woman of the bitter trial conceive supernatural seed due to the spirit of Lilith.  This is in keeping with the results of BWC.  The voice of Serpent also joins unto this innocent woman, because she undergoes the trial’s rigors and curses just as does the guilty woman.  Moreover, as the old man explains in passage 318, this woman is probably not entirely innocent, for she has probably done something that has provoked her husband’s jealousy. 

In passage 319 the rabbis ask the old man why it should matter if the voice of Serpent is caught up with the voice of the woman.  The old man then responds that when the voice of the Serpent mingles with the voice of the woman, then when the Evil and Sinful Lilith come out of their lair, she is heated by these voices and Lilith conceives seed.  Note that there are two spirits of Lilith mentioned here, Sinful Lilith and Evil Lilith.  This becomes clear in the subsequent passages.  In the bitter water trial, I hold these two spirits correspond to the same spirit that has an opportunity to enter the woman upon each of her two drinkings of bitter waters.  Sinful Lilith corresponds to the first drinking.  Both the innocent woman and defiled Sotah drink of her.  Evil Lilith corresponds to the second drinking.  This is the deadly Lilith, and only the defiled Sotah drinks of her.  The innocent woman’s second drinking is of cleansed waters. 

The old man continues in Passage 319.  He states that after Lilith conceives her seed, she follows its spirit into the intestines of the woman.  In passage 320 the old man states that the Sinful Lilith shows up first and plays with the spirit of the child.  However, she is not the permanent mother of the child.  Evil Lilith, when and if she arrives, is the permanent mother.  The old man says that Sinful Lilith is but a messenger of the Evil Lilith to come.  The old man’s response is based on the bitter water trial.  The old man’s Sinful Lilith is considered a temporary messenger, because her cursing is that of the first waters drank in the bitter waters trial.  This cursing is taken away from the woman of the trial when her minchah barley offering is taken to the altar.  However, if the defiled woman drinks a second time, then Evil Lilith comes in the waters, and the woman’s cursing shall not depart.  Lilith shall stay and slay the woman and her seed. 

The old man explains these mysteries to the rabbis by providing yet another riddle in passage 320.  He states that Sinful Lilith often slays the seed she follows into the intestines of the woman, but not always.  To explain this he provides a riddle using Ecclesiastes 4:1.  In it Solomon bemoans that people who were oppressed had tears, and they had no comforter.  Solomon then goes on to note the oppressors had power, but they too had no comforter. 

Ecc 4:1

So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter.

The old man then explains that the strength of the conceived spirit is the reason why Sinful Lilith sometimes slays it and sometimes not.  He notes that as in Ecclesiastes 4:1, neither Sinful Lilith (the oppressor) nor the spirit of the child (the oppressed), had a comforter.  This comforter is a protective spirit.  Thus, Sinful Lilith was vulnerable to the child’s conceived spirit, and likewise the child’s conceived spirit was vulnerable to Sinful Lilith.  When the conceived seed was of defilement (like the menstrual woman or the adulterous Sotah), then Sinful Lilith prevailed and she killed the conceived seed.  When the conceived seed was the promised seed of innocence (like the woman who distresses her husband or the innocent woman of the Sotah trail who caused her husband jealousy), then it prevails over Sinful Lilith.  She cannot slay it.  Instead, both the seed and Sinful Lilith are taken to the altar with the woman’s minchah barley offering.  There the first promised seed is accepted by Jehovah as a sacrifice.  In doing so, it crushes the head of Sinful Lilith and carries away all the sin and curses in the waters.  Afterwards, this first promised seed is miraculously revived before Jehovah.  When this innocent woman drinks a second time, there are no curses in the waters.  The seed which enters her through her drinking is her second promised seed, which is a replacement for the first.  She shall bear this seed once the trial is over as promised in Nu 5:28.  Evil Lilith does not come after this second seed.  For there are no curses in the waters, and even if she did come, she would have no power over it, just as Sinful Lilith had no power over the first.

In passage 322 the old man reveals to the two rabbis more supernatural mechanics of the trial.  He states that Sinful Lilith lies at the door like a dog, and when the woman’s voices reaches out just before she is to conceive, Sinful Lilith rushes out after that voice.  The old man explains that this is so, because just at that instant Jehovah sends a key to open the womb of the woman.  This is the key to life, and thus Sinful Lilith goes after it.  She then enters the belly of the woman and bites it, injecting the venom of her curses.  This poison shall remain until the woman is cleansed from the filth of the bite.  The old man concludes that to the glory of Jehovah, God will bring about “fitting actions” about the situation.  Namely, the defiled Sotah shall not be cleansed of the poison and shall be destroyed by the curses, whereas the innocent woman shall be cleansed and redeemed from the curses. 

In passage 323 the old man reveals more and links his riddles firmly to the mysteries of the Sotah trial.  He states the secret to the woman who survives the trial is that the serpent has been rejected from her belly.  The serpent can distress her for a while, but it is ultimately shunned from her womb.  He then reveals that the serpent can dominate the belly of the Sotah.  He quotes Nu 5:27, which states her belly shall swell.  He explains that the Serpent acts with vengeance, as this belly is his to do with what he wishes.

As we have seen in this section, the Zohar teaches a mystical role for Lilith in the bitter water trial of the Sotah that is much in line with the encoded message revealed in BWC.  She is the spirit of cursing in the trial, and the centerpiece of the trial is her epoch struggle against the woman’s seed.  If she prevails, the bitter water curses overcome the woman and her seed.  If Lilith fails, her head is crushed by the woman’s seed sacrifice, and the innocent woman bears a replacement promised seed.