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 this book.
The relevant passages in the Zohar come in chapter 3 of Mishpatim. In that chapter Rabbi Yosi and Rabbi
Chiya discuss a number of annoying riddles posed to them by an old merchant. The merchant says 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, not until the old man mentions the belly
of the sotah in passage 323.
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 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 the old man
mentions are examples of the two types of women who undergo the bitter water trial. The guilty sotah is
defiled by her adultery, just the first woman is defiled by the blood of her impurity. The innocent woman of
the trial has done nothing wrong, except her actions have caused anxiety to her husband, such that he
know doubts her innocence and takes her to the trial. So too is with the second woman the old man
mentions. She has delayed her sexual visits to her husband, causing him to doubt her commitment to him.
The voice of serpent joins unto this innocent woman, because she undergoes the trial just as does the
guilty woman. And as the old man explains in passage 318, this woman is not entirely innocent, for surely
something in her actions has brought about 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 comes out of her 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. I hold these two spirits correspond to the two drinkings
of bitter waters by the woman of the trial. Sinful Lilith corresponds to the first drinking. Evil Lilith
corresponds to the second drinking. Passage 319 concludes that after Lilith conceives her seed, they
follow its spirit into the intestines of the woman. This implies Lilith and her seed are entering the woman in
the bitter waters which she drinks.
Zohar 2: (Mishpatim: Passages 317-323)
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 filith) 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.
In passage 320 the old man states that the Sinful Lilith shows up first and plays with the spirit of the child.
But she is not the permanent mother of the child. Evil Lilith, when and if she arrives, is the permanent
mother. The old man says the Sinful Lilith is but a messenger of the Evil Lilith to come. The Sinful Lilith is
considered a temporary messenger, because her cursing of the first waters are taken away from the
woman of the trial when her minchah barley offering is taken to the alter. However, when the defiled
woman drinks a second time, the Evil Lilith comes, and her cursing shall not depart. Lilith shall stay and
slay the woman and her seed.
The old man provides another riddle to the rabbis 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 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.
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
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 conceived spirit of the child, and likewise the 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 to doubt her), 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 is her second promised seed, which is a replacement for
the first. And 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 if she did come, she would have
no power over it, just like 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 the serpent has been rejected from her belly. He
can distress her for awhile, but he is shunned from her womb. He then reveals that the serpent can
dominate the belly of the Sotah. He then 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 this book. 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.