Do Jews believe in Satan? It's an oft asked question, especially for someone familiar with other religions. 

So, do we believe or not? Well, it depends. Do we believe that G‑d created an angel called Satan? Yes, we do. But do we believe in Satan? No. 

 

How so? 

 

To better understand the Jewish approach to Satan, and all evil and negativity in general, I'd like to preface a quote from the Talmud. This quote is by Rabbi Shimon Ben Lakish, a post Roman Era sage who lived in Iraq. 'The Satan and the Yetzer Harah (the Evil Inclination) are one and the same', said Rabbi Shimon. 

 

What did he mean? While sounding esoteric, Rabbi Shimon's message is actually quite down to earth, practical and immensely encouraging:

 

While G‑d endows every individual with the power and potential to do immeasurable good, he also places within each of us an 'evil inclination', a force and impulse which tries to push us to do what is wrong. 

 

Why does G‑d place challenge us so, knowing full well that it will only hinder us from being our best selves, and make us make fall and err? Doesn't G‑d want us to succeed? 

 

Of course he does. But without that negative impulse, all the good we'd do would be hollow. It wouldn't be sincere and it wouldn't be a true accomplishment, for that'd be all that we know how to do. 

 

By giving us the option and temptation to err and even do things that are outright wrong, the good that we do accomplish takes on a far more precious, genuine character. 

 

Our job vis a vis the evil inclination is therfore, for the most part, to try our best to ignore it. 

 

G‑d also created Satan, who is a far more serious problem. Satan is not an internal voice urging us to do the wrong things. Satan is the prosecuting angel in heaven. He points out all our sins and misdoing, the times we err and the times we fall. 

 

He is much harder to ignore than the evil inclination, for he speaks the truth. While the evil inclination can be internally brushed aside, it's quite hard to brush off an angel who is pointing out all the errors we've made - and he isn't lying about them. 

 

When we're faced with a desire to do what's wrong, we can overcome that desire and do what's right nonetheless. But when we're faced with our own reflection, with the mistakes and misdoing that we committed - when we're faced with Satan's prosecution - that can really drag us down. 

 

This is the meaning of Rabbi Shimon's above mentioned statement. He taught us that just as we are meant to ignore the Evil Inclination, so too must we ignore the Satan. 

 

Just as we shouldn't let negative impulses lead us to make the wrong decisions, neither should we allow our past mistakes to drag us down. For our value in G‑ds eyes exceeds our mistakes. We aren't G‑d's employees, we're his children. He loves each and every individual for who they are.

 

So, do we believe that Satan exists? Sure. But do we believe in him? Do we let his 'negative report cards' make us belittle ourselves, or deem ourselves unworthy of being an exemplary human being and Jew? No we don't. The Satan, the Evil Inclination and all are negative things in life were created to amplify the impact of the good we doNot to drag us down. 

 

So the next time an opportunity arises to do a Mitzvah, study some Torah, lend a helping hand or brighten up someone's day, we shouldn't write ourselves off and say 'let a real good person do that, I'm a lost cause'. No, we're not a lost cause. We never are. We're G‑d's children, individual sparks of unlimited potential, and we each have the power to brighten the world in our unique way.

 

Rabbi Avrohom