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Sunday, 25 May 2014

Who is Satan?

Rosh Hashanah 16

The Zohar tells the story of Princess Anna who grows up in a kingdom of isolation.   An only child, her father gives her the finest education and upbringing, shielded from the corrupting influences of the outside world. 

One day, the king thinks to himself “My daughter is an incredible young lady.  She is intelligent, well-mannered and thoughtful.  But let’s be honest.  She knows no life other than the sheltered existence I have given her.  One day she will become queen of the kingdom and will have to run the country.  Does she have what it takes to face the vicissitudes and challenges of real life?”

He decides to test her.  He hires a handsome young man called Olaf to seduce her to sin. 

What’s going through Olaf’s mind as he steps into the princess’s chamber?

On the one hand, he’s been hired to do a job and must do his very best to succeed.  On the other hand, he knows that ultimately the king will be happiest if he fails at his mission due to the princess’s faithful moral compass. 

On Rosh Hashanah in the synagogue, we first sound the shofar before the musaf prayer and then again during the prayer.  The initial shofar ceremony is referred to as the tekiot meyushav – the seated blasts – since, although we all rise for the mitzvah, strictly speaking one could sit.  The second shofar ceremony is called the tekiot me’umad – the standing blasts – since the shofar is blown while we are standing for the musaf service.

Rabbi Isaac asks, ‘Why do we blow the tekiah and teruah shofar blasts while sitting and again while standing?’ 
And he answers, “In order to confuse Satan.”

Rosh Hashanah is the Day of Judgment when the Heavenly court scrutinizes our actions over the past year and determines the outcome for our year ahead. There are advocating angels that defend our record and Satan is the prosecutor that presents the case against us.  

Rashi explains that Rabbi Isaac is saying that due to the second set of shofar blasts, Satan will no longer be able to present his case for the prosecution.  When he hears how much the Jewish people love mitzvos – so much so that they’ve blown the shofar not once but twice – his words get confounded. 

Fine, I understand that the first time this happened, poor Satan got confused when the people blew the shofar an additional time.  All ready to present his case in the Heavenly court, suddenly he’s thrown a curve ball by the Jews’ commitment.  But how about the following year?  Seriously, he got confused again?  And again and again each year after that?  What is he, an idiot? 

The Zohar explains that G-d sends Satan, or Olaf, into the princess’s chamber – the lives of human beings – to test us.  Satan is not in competition with the Almighty or working against Him, G-d forbid!  He works for G-d.  His job is to seduce us to sin and then prosecute in the Heavenly court.   But ultimately, Satan knows what will make G-d happiest – if we faithfully pass the test and overcome the challenge! 

On the Day of Judgment, Satan is all ready to present his case for the prosecution when suddenly we blow the shofar not once, but twice!  At that point, he looks at G-d and shrugs his shoulders, “I tried!”

It’s not that he’s confused because he wasn’t expecting the defense’s curve ball.  Rather, he has executed his mission to the best of his ability but once again he has been bested by the people.  And at the end of the day, he is happy because the Almighty is happy.  His message is: I did my job, they beat the challenge and there’s nothing more I can say, other than ‘Good Yom Tov and Shana Tova!’

When you are faced with challenges and tests in life, always remember that even Satan wants you to win!  If you can overcome the obstacles, you will be happy, G-d will happy and even Satan will be happy!  You are the Almighty’s prince/ss!   He wants to know that you can lead His kingdom!  Stand up and show Him that you are up for the task and able to meet whatever challenges He sends your way!  

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