The Adversary Dances Among Them: He Descends and Leads Astray, Ascends and Arouses Wrath

by tillerofthesoil

And one day, the sons of God came to stand in attendance before YHWH, and the Adversary, too, came among them to stand in attendance before YHWH. And YHWH said to the Adversary, “From whence do you come?” And the Adversary answered YHWH and said, “From roaming the earth and walking about in it.” And YHWH said to the Adversary, “Have you paid heed to My servant Job, for there is none like him on earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and shuns evil and still clings to his innocence, and you incited Me against him to destroy him for nothing.” And the Adversary answered YHWH and said, “Skin for skin! A man will give all he has for his own life. Yet, reach out, pray, Your hand and strike his bone and his flesh. Will he not curse You to your face?” And YHWH said to the Adversary, “Here he is in your hands. Only preserve his life.” And the Adversary went out from before YHWH’s presence. And he struck Job with a grievous burning rash from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head (Job 2:1–7).

“Rabbi Yoḥanan said: [And you incited Me against him to destroy him for nothing (Job 2:3)]—were it not written in the verse we would not dare say it: Like a man whom others incite, and is incited [against his better judgment, cf. Deuteronomy 13:6]. A Tanna taught: [The Adversary] he descends and leads astray, ascends and arouses wrath, obtains authorization and seizes the soul. And the Adversary answered YHWH and said, “Skin for skin! A man will give all he has for his own life. Yet, reach out, pray, Your hand and strike his bone and his flesh. Will he not curse You to your face?” And YHWH said to the Adversary, “Here he is in your hands. Only preserve his life.” And the Adversary went out from before YHWH’s presence. And he struck Job (Job 2:4–7).

Rabbi Yitsḥaq said: The Adversary’s torment was worse than that of Job. A parable: Job was like a servant who is told by his master, ‘Break the cask but do not let any of the wine spill.’ Resh Laqish said: The Adversary, the evil impulse, and the Angel of Death are all one. He is called הַשָּׂטָן (ha-satan), the Adversary, as is written, And the Adversary went out from before YHWH’s presence (Job 2:7). He is called the evil impulse: [we know this because] it is written in another place, [“And YHWH saw that the evil of the human creature was great on the earth and that every scheme of his heart’s devising] was only perpetually evil. [And YHWH regretted having made the human on earth and was grieved to the heart] (Genesis 6:5), and it is written here Only against him do not reach out your hand (Job 1:12). He is also the Angel of Death, since it says, [“Here he is in your hands.] Only preserve his life” (ibid. 2:6), consequently his very existence is in his hands.

Rabbi Levi said: [In acting as adversaries] both the Adversary’s and Peninah’s intentions were for the sake of Heaven. The Adversary, when he saw the blessed Holy One inclined to [favor] Job said, ‘Perish the thought that He should forget the passion of Abraham!’ Of Peninah it is written, And her rival would torment her sorely so as to provoke her [(to prayer) because YHWH had closed her womb] (1 Samuel 1:6). When Rav Aḥa son of Ya’aqov expounded [this teaching] in Papunia, the Adversary came and kissed his feet.

With all this, Job did not offend with his lips (Job 2:10)—Rava said: With his lips he did not offend, but he did offend within his heart. What did he say? The earth is given in the wicked man’s hand, the face of its judges He veils. If not He—then who else? (ibid. 9:24). Rava said: Job sought to turn the dish [i.e., the world] upside down. Abayye said: Job was referring only to the Adversary” (BT Bava Batra 16a).

“[Bewildering and beguiling,] the Adversary dances among them” (BT Megilah 11b, cf. BT Berakhot 33a; Pesaḥim 112b).

“What is And they came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms, and they encamped there by the water (Exodus 15:27)? What is so great about seventy date palms? In one of the smallest spots there are a thousand! But they were worthy of being their example, and there they were likened to date palms, as is written, And they came to Marah and could not drink water from מָרָה (marah), Marah, for they were מָרִים (marim), bitter (ibid., 23). Teaching that a מַעֲרָבִית (ma’aravit), western, wind was preventing [them], as is written, And he cried out to YHVH, and YHVH showed him a tree, and he flung it into the water, and the water turned sweet (ibid., 25)—immediately the blessed Holy One laid His hand upon the Adversary, diminishing him a bit, as is written, There did He set him a statute and law, and there did he test Him (ibid.). Teaching that at this time, the Adversary clung to them in order to blot them out from the world, as is written, And the people murmured against Moses, saying ‘What shall we drink?’ (ibid., 24), continuing to accuse Moses until he cried out to YHVH, and YHVH showed him a tree. YHVH showed him a tree—why? To teach that the Tree of Life was around the water. The Adversary came and removed it from there in order to accuse Israel and cause them to offend their Father in Heaven. He said to them: Now you assemble in the wilderness? Yet these [bitter] waters you take up are good, for you will be content with them, but in the wilderness you will not find [enough] even to wash your hands and faces. Then, naked, you will die of hunger and thirst, entirely in want! 

They came to Moses and told him such and such, but he dismissed them. [The Adversary] saw that he was unable to overpower Israel and Moses, and so the people came to Moses and the people murmured against Moses: Here we are without water, what is there to drink in the wilderness?—the Adversary came and feigned their words to Moses in order to cause them to offend. As soon as Moses saw the Adversary, He cried out to YHVH, and YHVH showed him a tree—the very Tree of Life the Adversary had removed. And he flung it into the water, and the water turned sweet. And the blessed Holy One came to the Adversary [with] a statute and law; and there did he test Him—Israel. And the blessed Holy One warned Israel, saying: If you really heed the voice of YHVH your God (ibid., 26) and so forth.

A parable: A king had a lovely daughter and others were lusting for her. The king knew of it but could not fight with those who exposed his daughter to bad ways. He came to his house and warned her, saying, “My daughter, give no regard to the words of these enemies and they will not be able to overcome you. Do not leave the house, but do all your work at home. Do not sit idle, even for a single moment. Then they will not be able to see you and harm you. There is a certain quality in them which departs from a good way and chooses every bad way. When they see man directing himself along a good way, they hate him.” 

And what is it? The Adversary. Teaching that the blessed Holy One has a quality whose name is רָעָה (ra’ah), Evil; and it is to the north of the blessed Holy One, as is written, From the north הָרָעָה (ha-ra’ah), evil, will be let loose on all the inhabitants of the land (Jeremiah 1:14). That is to say, any evil that comes to all the inhabitants of the land (ibid.), comes from the north.

What is this ‘certain quality’? She is the shape of a hand. She has many messengers, and the name of them all is רַע רַע (ra ra), evil! evil! Some are big and some are small, but they all bring guilt upon the world since תֹּהוּ (tohu) is on the north side. Tohu—none other than Evil, מְתָהֵה (metaheh), bewildering, inhabitants of the world until they sin. Every יֵצֶר הָרָע (yetser ha-ra), evil impulse, in man is from there. And why was he given to the left? Because he has no authority, nor any place in the world, except in the north; he is not accustomed to being anywhere except the north, he does not want to be anywhere except the north. If he remained in the south until he learned from the way of the south, how could he lead astray? He would be detained those days unable to make them miss the mark (Judges 20:16). Therefore, he is forever in the north, to the left. And this is For the יֵצֶר (yetser), devisings, of the human heart are evil from youth (Genesis 8:21)—he is evil from his youth and he does not incline other than to the left, for he is already accustomed to her. Of this the blessed Holy One said to Israel: If you really heed the voice of YHVH your God, and do what is right in His eyes, and hearken to His commands (Exodus 15:26)—not to the commands of the evil impulse; And keep all His statutes (ibid.)—not the statutes of the evil impulse [all the sickness that I put upon Egypt I will not put upon you,] for I am YHVH your healer (ibid.).

Why is the evil impulse enriched? A parable: To what can the matter be compared? A king appointed officials (Esther 2:3) over his kingdom and his trade—each one had a surplus. [There was an official appointed] over the storehouses of foodstuff and goods, and one appointed over a storehouse of stones. All the world came to buy from the storehouses of goods. This one appointed over the storehouse of stones came. He saw that they were not buying from him, [and] he envied [this]. What did he do? He commanded all of his brothers to destroy the weak houses—for they were unable [to destroy] the strong ones. He said, ‘In any case, [when] you strive to destroy [one] house from among the strong ones, twenty of the weak ones will be destroyed, and they will all come and buy [stones] from me. And I will not be less than my competitor!’ Thus it is written: From the north evil will be let loose on all the inhabitants of the land (Jeremiah 1:14). It then continues, ‘For I am about to call forth all the clans of the kingdoms of the north,’ says YHWH,’ and they shall come and each set his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem [and against its walls all round and against all the towns of Judah] (ibid., 15). Evil will be a trade to her, also the evil impulse strives perpetually [cf. Genesis 6:5]. And what is the import of שָׂטָן (satan), ‘adversary’? Satan, adversary—in other words מֻטֶּה (mutteh), skewed justice (Ezekiel 9:9); that מַטֶּה (matteh), he tips, the world toward the scale of guilt. And it is written, וַיֵּט (Va-yet), And he turned aside, to her by the road, [and said, ‘Here, pray, let me come to bed with you…’](Genesis 38:16), and it is translated, וּסְטָא (u-seta), and he turned aside, to her. And it is written, שְׂטֵה (Seteh), turn away, from him and pass on (Proverbs 4:15)” (Bahir §§107–110).

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