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The figure of Satan (and not a שטן, which can be used as an adjective or a role) - an opposite counterpart to God, or a rebellious angel who has embraced, and epitomizes evil - is quite prominent in many currents of Christianity; but Jews are not that "big" on the notion of Satan, so to speak.

In fact, if we look at the bible, it seems that other than some uses of the word שטן in the sense of adversary-to-something/someone - Satan as such is mentioned only in the book of Zechariah, and featured prominently in the story of Job/Iyov. And that one does not attempt to explain how there's no Satan anywhere basically, but in that story he's a central character. The first episode just goes: "וַיְהִי הַיּוֹם--וַיָּבֹאוּ בְּנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים, לְהִתְיַצֵּב עַל-יְהוָה; וַיָּבוֹא גַם-הַשָּׂטָן, בְּתוֹכָם. " - a weird introduction: Yeah, Satan, sure, everybody knows about Satan, except how he's basically never been mentioned before at all.

Anyway, I know that in the Talmud and later, there is mention of Satan, and we have these MY.SX questions answers:

which mention the Satan-is-a-fallen-angel option, the Satan-is-a-metaphor-for-Yetzer-Ha'ra option, etc.; and works such as Pirkei Rabi Eliezer, Yalqut Shim'oni and other texts. Very well, but that doesn't seem very significant and central to Jewish religious thought on most matters, on how to live one's life etc. And statistically, Satan is not mentioned that often in Jewish-religious texts (correct me if I'm wrong).

My question is where things stand these days - but not in the realm of philosophizing and pilpulim on "Can Satan be said to exist"; I'm interested in terms of what religious Jewish people, particularly children, are taught. Do teachers, and parents, tell children that Satan exists, that they need to beware Satan, that they should resist challenges and temptations by Satan (and I don't mean the Yetzer Ha'ra)? Or - is it something that may be invoked in some occasional story in a mostly-allegorical way?

And the same question for Rabbinical orations in synagogues and other public events: Is the public cautioned regarding the activity of Satan? Are undesirable events, people or organizations often described as Satanic, or under the influence of Satan? Or is that considered somewhat demagogic, and a rhetorical style respectable people would refrain from?

Note: I'm asking about more mainstream/orthodox Jewish communities and traditions, not smaller minority groups, not Reform Judaism, etc. Maybe even that is too wide a question - feel free to comment about this point.

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    You quote the verse from Iyov which only mentions "THE adversary (HAsoton)" but in your summary of it you speak of "Satan" as if that is his specific name. We don't think of or teach about "satan". We speak of temptation and an evil inclination. We do mention the adversary in some children's stories and complex aggadot but, no, things aren't "satanic."
    – rosends
    Commented Jun 20, 2023 at 22:09
  • @rosends: So, that sounds like it might be fleshed out into an answer...
    – einpoklum
    Commented Jun 20, 2023 at 22:18
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    Agree with rosends. The typical sermon in the typical Orthodox synagogue might talk about "the evil inclination", but not "the Satan." (With the exception of the handful of places the Talmud uses it as such, e.g. "when we blow the Shofar extra on Rosh Hashana, that confounds the Satan and he gets too flustered to offer any more prosecution.", or if citing the Book of Job.) It is really, really not a focus of the religion (unlike some others) and no, we don't call stuff, or people, "Satanic." Come to think of it, I've never even heard it in adjective form in Hebrew.
    – Shalom
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 0:17
  • @Shalom: And are people, or rather children, taught about "Satan", or is it just not something that's mentioned in Heder/school ?
    – einpoklum
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 13:12
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    @Shalom: I see. But then, it's a personification of your individual Yetzer Ha'ra, not everybody's, and it's a part of you rather than a separate, ,foreign entity that's speaking to you. Sorry for nitpicking...
    – einpoklum
    Commented Jun 22, 2023 at 7:47

5 Answers 5

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Every contemporary Orthodox Jew, who prays each day, says the morning blessings. In the second Yehi Ratzon said just before the blessings for the Torah, every individual specifically asks G-d to save them from Satan.

Siddur Ashkenaz

Siddur Sefard

Siddur Chabad

Siddur Catalonia according to the minhag of Catalonia, Valencia and Majorca, page 5 enter image description here

This is also the nusach found in the Siddur of Rav Kook (סדור עולת ראיה) and the Siddur of the Vilna Gaon.

Although the nusach for the morning blessings in Siddur Edot HaMizrach does not follow this pattern, the same type of language in Siddur Edot HaMizrach for the weekday bedtime Kriat Shema has similar language, as well as the daily inclusion of the recitation of the 42 letter name at the conclusion of the ketoret which also emphasizes קרע שטן (tearing up the accusation of Satan) in the second line. This 42 letter name is also included in the nusach Balad of the Jews of Teiman.

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  • Can you link to a text of this Yehi Ratzon that every contemporary Orthodox Jew says daily? Is this the Yehi Ratzon you refer to sefaria.org/…
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 18:12
  • Note: the evil inclination mentioned here refers to satan, as the Gemara says
    – Shmuel
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 18:18
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    So, this is certainly a relevant data point, thank you and +1. It still somewhat ambiguous regarding whether it is the one Satan, a personal historical entity, or whomever constitutes a satan, a hateful-enemy; but - perhaps I'm just being nitpicky..
    – einpoklum
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 22:20
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    The "Siddur Edot HaMizrach for the bedtime Kriat Shema" that you link to only has the word "Satan" on weekdays. So your initial claim is false twice. תפשת מרובה לא תפשת rather you'd be better off writing precisely without any hyperbole.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 1:31
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    The Nusah Baladi presented in Siah Yerushalayim (which is generally regarded as reflective of the earliest versions of this nusah and is actively used in some Yemenite communities) does not have either of the claimed references. Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 16:25
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Isaac, the site founder, has asked me to put my personal experience answer into an answer, so I hope that's ok :)

I've read your question and many of your comments and I'll confirm that what QwertyCTRL. said in their answer is what I was taught in Yeshiva.

What they wrote there will also help you understand what the typical Satan education and cultural significance is in orthodox Jewish life. Firstly, how young children are told the explanation that this angel is in the role of 3 guises that affect us in various ways is not fixed. It depends on the school and the family. Some may have bright inquisitive children and a certain personality that will explain this when they are young, and some will never mention it.

I should note at this point that Satan is not the name of the angel, but one of the 3 roles. Therefore, pretty much the only time you'll hear people mention the Satan is in and around Rosh Hashana, where we have the famous story from the Gemara about the Satan rising to accuse us, and how the shofar will confuse him.

Otherwise, we never say the name of the angel in question, and the vast majority of the time we talk about him in any way is when we are talking about the Yeitzer Hara. This will feature a lot in education and discipline from a fairly young age, and many children will know that he is an angel. In some chassidic circles, they likely also have strong associations of the Yeitzer Hara and the animal soul.

Generally speaking, no we do not have much to do with the Satan. I've definitely heard some Rabbis who like to use reference to him in certain talks reasonably frequently, but it's not necessarily common (but the orthodox world is large, remember this is just an anecdotal answer). We are not scared of him, although we respect him and recognise we need Hashem's help battling him (there is a lot of liturgy on this, on defeating the Yeitzer Hara). We view him as part of Hashem's plan, Hashem's servant, and something that is absolutely necessary to Hashem's plan.


Additional comments since looking at OP's feedback:

  • The traditional Jewish belief system is insanely uniform, given how ancient it is. This particular subject is prevalent in the Talmud, and stems from sources at least as ancient as 2000 years, and likely stem back to Moshe as Sinai. As such, there will be very little variation, regardless of location, as almost all Jewish communities have had access to Talmud and Talmudic Rabbinates since the times the Talmud was composed, and have it venerated as the highest authority in Jewish Oral Tradition. On top of that, there has been many writings across the years by our chief sages that the Christian belief that Satan is an enemy of God, ch'v, is heretical, so there has been an internal pressure to not add any extra fabrications to the subject of Satan. This may have happened in some very far flung, disconnected communities, but they will represent the tiny tiny minority. Otherwise, what you grow up with in USA will be identical to what you grow up with in UK, Israel, Australia, Yemen, Latin America etc etc.
  • It is very important to stress that we have zero associations with Satan as an enemy of God, and in fact we put emphasis to explain that this is not the case in our education. Our aversion to anything-idolatry-sounding is huge and concrete. For this reason we refer to him as "the satan", to capture that it is a role, a job, not a demigod or independent force. It is with this in mind that we phrase anything about Satan. We would never say "we pray for protection from evil and satan", but more like "we pray for help to live righteous lives, and strength to overcome our temptations, and to not be tested, so that the satan has cannot accuse us".
  • I also can't stress enough how small a subject this is in normal conversation. Most religious Jews, in any community, will know almost nothing about this angel (or angels in general), beyond the basics we have generally outlined in the answers to this question. There may be midrashim and all sorts of esoteric references to satan, evil etc, but rarely are they of any interest to normal Jewish education. Certainly a secular person would find orthodox jews to sound a little bit superstitious and bible-bashy, but I would say in comparison to a stereotypical bible thumping Christian, we would sound very down to earth and normal in comparison, because the parts of the bible and oral tradition that we obsess over is not the midrashic passages of hell and brimstone and lords of the underworld and all that, but the fine details of the day to day laws that we practice, the festivals that are coming, some interesting logical debate in the Talmud, and theological discussions about God. If we talk about evil, we will talk about it far more philosophically, and even mystically, but definitely not with the fervour of a southern Baptist preacher, if you know what I mean. I understand I am invoking a stereotype, but that's only so I can make my point. Generally, the way we speak, and bless each other, and discuss religious themes, is very different to what the OP is bringing up in and around the comments, in a specific way.
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  • The names of Angels have several different ending letters which are associated with their variety. Satan ends with a final Nun, but the root of the name is שוט. Similarly, Azazel ends in Aleph-Lamed as does Samael. The Angel of Death (מלאך המות .מתושלח) is named Samael (as in סם מות). They are all different angelic beings and are like you say, loyal servants of the Holy one, blessed be He, the King of Kings with the possible exception of Azazel, who is said to be permanently bound and does not roam free. Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 19:18
  • @YaacovDeane great deep knowledge, how does it fit with the gemara that says they are all one? Bava batra 16a
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 9:38
  • Please provide your citation. All angels are creations. Each is differentiated by name which pertains to their specific agency. The earliest sources detailing this are places like Sefer Raziel, Sefer Noach, Sefer Chanoch, Ma’ayan HaChochmah and Goral Daniel HaNavi. There are also later sources both from Ga’onim and and Rishonim that detail all of this. If something is suggesting they are one, it may mean they work together. Not that they are one literally. Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 12:17
  • See my comment to Shmuel above. The English translation of Bava Bathra 16a is not accurate to the text of the Hebrew. The translator (according to their lack of understanding) added the words that these different angels are one. That isn’t what the actual text says or means. See the commentary Petach Einayim there which emphasizes that it is talking about the order of angels, sources & toldot, etc. Commented Jul 21, 2023 at 12:42
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    @einsupportsModeratorStrike forgot to ping you ^. Note also, we never refer to him as "satan" but "the satan". It means accuser and that's part of how we keep the context baked in to our language
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Jul 23, 2023 at 16:37
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Satan is generally not taught to young children, as it’s not so important. Usually, the older children learn about Satan during in-school educational conversation, not even part of the curriculum.

Satan is the angel whose job is to convince people to do bad, prosecute them for doing bad, and cause human death.

In the first role, the angel’s name is the “Yetzer Hara’”, the evil inclination. It has to cause people to want to do evil, so that choosing against evil is an active choice. It wants us to defeat it, since it’s a servant of G-D, but its job is its job, and it can’t go against that.
In the second role, he’s called “Satän”, the prosecutor. When performing this action, it beings up the subject of peoples’ sins to G-D, and attempts to get those people punished.
In the third role, he’s called “Mal’äkh HaMäueth”, the angel of death. When performing this role, he takes peoples souls from their bodies, and brings them to the Heavenly Court for judgement. (Babhä Baträ 16a, 8)

From the End of Days and onward, his existence will be pointless, and he will therefore no longer be made to exist.

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    You're telling me what you believe; or what is supposedly the absolute truth. I asked about what people are taught and whether "Satan" is used education and public rhetoric.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Jun 20, 2023 at 22:44
  • Jews were originally taught the original “interpretation”, from the times the prophetic books were written. Nowadays, Orthodox Jews are still taught the same exact thing, totally unchanged. Non-religious Jews constantly change their beliefs, so it’s impossible to say what every single one of them believe. Commented Jun 22, 2023 at 17:33
  • I can confirm this is also exactly what I was taught in school, and is in our ancient sources. @QwertyCTRL., would you edit in some sources? It will really improve the answer
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 14:38
  • Yeah - this sounds right, but needs sources.
    – MichoelR
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 16:39
  • @QwertyCTRL. Shmuel brought the source: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/135555/…
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Jul 20, 2023 at 18:57
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What I was taught as a child and what I teach my own children is as follows: The Satan is an angel whose job it is to tempt humans to sin and act as the "prosecutor" when we do sin. He has no independent will other than to do his job.

We understand that prayers to save us from the Satan to be similar to the prayers not to give us "tests" or bad urges (which is included in a parallel prayer to the one pictured by @Yaacov Deane). Although we know that moral tests, temptation, and prosecution are necessary, we want our triumpth over these to be relativiely easy. We do not want to face difficult temptations, difficult tests, and a difficult prosecution.

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  • So... 1. Where do you live? 2. How typical/prevalent would you say this perception is?
    – einpoklum
    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 22:15
  • @einsupportsModeratorStrike I think you would do well to research the uniformity of the Jewish community belief system. It is far more unified than you would likely suspect. The above teaching comes from Talmud, so it is almost certainly 95%+ uniform across ALL traditional Jewish communities, regardless of location.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Commented Jul 25, 2023 at 10:05
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    @einsupportsModeratorStrike I live in the greater NY area in a standard yeshivish Orthodox community. I grew up in a more "out of town" community. I think this perception is pretty typical but it is not something people talk about regularly. There are certain saying, however, that reinforce this perception. For example people will avoid negative hypotheticals so as not to give an opening to Satan to speak before G-d and ask why we don't deserve that negative thing ("al tiftach peh l'satan"). Commented Jul 25, 2023 at 23:13
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I have never witnessed adults telling children about Satan in the Jewish world like I've seen in the Christian world. Jew's are mostly convinced that humans are evil enough to cause all the bad in the world without making up an adversary for God. Some adult Jews may believe in a Satan in a very similar way to Christianity, but I've never seen them discuss it with their kids or try to convince their kids of such things. Like other answers have said, we may discuss a Satan when we get closer to our repentance holidays but other than that we don't discuss much.

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  • Can I ask where in the world you live? Also - how do we square this with @YaacovDeane 's answer? Is the morning prayer - as I would assume - interpreted figuratively or metaphorically?
    – einpoklum
    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 19:30
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    I live in the US on the west coast. The morning prayer as far as I've understood it is like "Don't let me get caught in the gaze of the Satan, the prosecuting Angel." Or in other words, it's never good to be the target of a prosecuter
    – Aaron
    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 19:36
  • If you could integrate your comment into the answer, I'll upvote it :-)
    – einpoklum
    Commented Jul 24, 2023 at 22:15

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