Concepts in Judaism

Who Needs the Satan? Why Did G-d Make Him? (Part 3)

In our previous two articles (part 1 and part 2) we discussed the roles the Satan has in doing G-d’s bidding and that each role has its own name. As the Evil Inclination, he tempts us to sin and also causes the positive building in this world. As the Angel of Death he takes people’s souls back to G-d. As the Satan he causes us to stumble or oppose us (to get us greater reward when we overcome his temptations) but he metes out punishment if we G-d forbid stumble. We will now discuss this third aspect.

The Satan isn’t just to tempt us to sin; he also punishes us when we sin. Our sages say the evil inclination comes down to cause us to sin and after someone sins, he goes up to heaven to prosecute the sinner and then if he ‘gets the green light’ on high, he punishes the sinner. “He is the Satan, he is the evil inclination and he is the ‘Angel of death’. He goes down and cases man to stray, goes up (to heaven) to anger (G-d by prosecuting the sinner), gets permission (to kill the sinner) and takes his soul.” (Bava Batra 16a) The GRA, Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna explains “At first he goes down and tempts then he goes up and complains then he accompanies the soul to purgatory and takes retribution from him.” (Aderet Eliyahu Devarim 7, 15)

In this idea lies a foundation that is important to our understanding pain and death in this world and the relationship of pain and death to the next world. Our sages say that the good and bad deeds we do come back to us as merits or punishments that a person will receive measure for measure. They said: “He who does one mitzvah acquires one advocate for himself and one who does one sin acquires one prosecutor” (Ethics of the Fathers 4, 11). The wicked are judged by their evil inclination and the righteous are judged by their good inclination, and the ‘middle ones’ by both inclinations. (Berachot 61a)

Our sages also said: “The one who comes to the evil inclination will be judged by it, if he comes to the good inclination he will be judged by it as the verse says: “He stands to the right of the destitute to redeem him from those who judge his soul” (Avot of Rabbi Natan 32, 2-3). The Book of the Zohar says: a guilty one will be judged by the evil inclination, a righteous one will be judged by the good inclination and a middle one will be judged by both.”

Try to imagine a father who teaches his son the correct way to use fire in order to cook and warm up his home. He gives his son clear instructions. Nevertheless if a son decided to plunge his hand into the fire, it will burn regardless and it will be the son’s own fault. Would he dare ask his father why he punished him by burning his hand? This is not vengeance rather it’s a law of nature that fire burns and he would be wise to listen to his father’s instructions. So too G-d created rules of reward and punishment in the world and in his Torah gives us clear instructions how to conduct ourselves in order to merit infinite reward by doing his mitzvoth and from which things (sins) to stay away from to prevent harming our souls and G-d forbid incurring pain and affliction. 

For previous articles of this series see links below:

Who Needs the Satan- Part 1 
or click on link


Who Needs the Satan- Part 2  
or click on link


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