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Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

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Question 12.35:
What does Judaism believe about Satan?


Judaism does not believe in the devil, but we do believe in Satan (who more properly should be called "the Satan"). As this demonstrates, the Jewish view of Satan is very different than the Christian one. Here's a summary of the Jewish view; you can also find information at Alyza (Gretchen) Shapiro's web site at

The word satan means "challenger", "difficulty", or "distraction" (note that it is not a proper name). With the leading ha- to make haSatan, it refers to /the/ challenger. This describes Satan as the angel who is the embodiment of man's challenges. HaSatan works for G-d. His job is to make choosing good over evil enough of a challenge so that it can be a meaningful choice. In other words, haSatan is an angel whose mission it is to add difficulty, challenges, and growth experiences to life. Contrast this to Christianity, which sees Satan as God's opponent. In Jewish thought, the idea that there exists anything capable of setting itself up as God's opponent would be considered overly polytheistic—you are setting up the devil to be a god or demigod.

The notion of an angel having free will is alien to Judaism. Free will requires the tension created by being a soul dwelling in a body. People can have free will, angels can't. There is a debate over whether they lack the potential for free will, or whether they simply percieve reality to clearly to have any choices to make. But in any case, without the fence-straddling of the human condition, there is no free will. HaSatan acts as a servant of God, not as an opponent or even disobediant child. Angels cannot sin, they cannot fall.

For more on the Jewish conception of Satan, see

The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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