By Ariel Scheib
Judaism does not view the word “Satan” with the same connotation as other religions. Satan in Judaism is not a physical being, ruling the underworld or hell. Rather, in the Torah, the word Satan indicates “accuser,” “hinderer,” or “tempter.” Satan is more an obstacle in one’s way, such as temptation and evil doings, keeping them from completing the responsibilities of tikkun olam (fixing the world). Satan is our evil inclination to veer off the path of righteousness and faithfulness in God.
Throughout the Torah, Satan challenges God to test the true loyalty of his followers, including Adam and Eve, as well as Abraham. However, Satan remains inferior to God and is incapable of taking action on mortals without God’s permission. In the Talmud and Midrash, Satan appears as the force in the world, responsible for all sins. Some Midrashim claim that the sounding of the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah is utilized to keep Satan away as Jews begin to atone for their sins. Even the morning after Yom Kippur, many Jews attend services to guarantee Satan does not make one last effort to instigate Jews to commit sins.
Source: Eisenberg, Ronald L. The JPS Guide to Jewish Traditions. PA: Jewish Publication Society, 2004; Wigoder, Geoffrey , Ed. The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia. NY: Facts on File, 1992; Kolatch, Alfred J. The Jewish Book of Why/The Second Jewish Book of Why. NY: Jonathan David Publishers, 1989.