Concepts in Judaism

Who Needs the Satan? Why Did G-d Make Him? (Part 2)

In our first installment of the answer to this difficult question we discussed the fact that the general beliefs about the Satan are naïve and childlike at best or downright pagan at worst. The Satan can only cause harm according to G-d’s bidding and doesn’t act on his own. He is an angel which means messenger in the bible. He is called Satan which in biblical terms means adversary or opposition. He brings pain and affliction to the world and to people as per G-d’s instructions.

To read the previous article click here.

Today we will discuss his job description further. The evil inclination inside of us is the Satan too! He tries to get us to stumble in sin and that’s what G-d described him to be in the story of Cain and Able: “If you improve your deeds you will be forgiven. However, if you don’t improve, sin is lying at the entrance in wait for you, it wants you but you can rule over it.” (Genesis 5, 7) These are words of wisdom for all of us.

Our sages made it clear that the Satan has many names, each one for a different job he must carry out in our world as they said: “He’s the Satan, he’s the evil inclination and he’s the angel of death.” (Bava Batra 16a)

From this we can understand that he has no given form but a description of G-d’s functions of punishing the wicked with pain that purifies with the purpose of bringing sinners back to good and cleanse their sins. You may consider the Satan similar to a surgical scalpel!
Jewish History

Our sages said: (Pesachim 50a) The next world is not like this world. In this world we make the blessing “The Good One (G-d) that does good” on good tidings and we make the blessing “the true Judge” on bad tidings. In the next world we will only bless “The Good One that does good.”

It’s important to point out that the evil inclination is a messenger to serve the goodness of G-d and to bring the world to that goodness so not every one of his jobs would be considered damaging at all even on a basic level. Our sages said: “Were it not for the evil inclination a man wouldn’t build a house, marry a woman, have children, and would do no commerce.” (Bereshit Rabbah 9, 7) The Torah doesn’t demand we abstain from this world and kill the evil inclination inside us. Rather it teaches us to serve G-d “With all your heart: with both of our inclinations the good inclination and the evil inclination.” (Berachot chapter 9, Mishna 5) This means the Satan’s job is ultimately to benefit mankind and it’s up to us to use this power for good or for bad!

Even when the Satan tries to tempt us with sin it is meant to magnify our reward in the world to come. In the Book of the Zohar (Part 2, 163a) there’s a parable about a king who wanted to test his son and hired a woman to tempt him with sin. When the son passed the test he merited great reward and honor from his father the king. In real life, the temptation in this parable is provided by the Satan, sent by G-d to test us in order to increase our reward in the next world.

The primary place of the Satan is in our hearts and we also can rule over him as the verse we saw says: “Sin is waiting at the entrance and it wants you, but you can rule over it,” (Genesis 4, 7) and our sages said: The wicked are controlled by their heart and the righteous control their heart.” (Bereshit Rabbah 34, 10)

Who Needs the Satan- Part One  or click on link


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