I heard that all of creation recognizes Hashem and is obedient to Hashem, and that humans are the only creation from Hashem that have free will.

So why is it that the snake in the garden of Eden was able to tempt Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge?

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    If he tempted under orders, how does that indicate he had free will? – rosends Mar 6 '16 at 14:20
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    @Danno His divine punishment hardly implies that he was under orders... – mevaqesh Mar 6 '16 at 14:27
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    Shalom SWT, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for the interesting question! I hope you'll look around and find other Q&A of interest and stay learning with us. – mbloch Mar 6 '16 at 14:40
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    @mevaqesh the initial presumption is that only people have free will. There is nothing in the question which supports a contrary position vis-a-vis snakes. If you think that the punishment indicates that the snake had free will, edit it into the premise. – rosends Mar 6 '16 at 15:08
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    Note that the ground was "punished" as well. Given that the snake was just an animal, the "punishment" was that Adam was punished by having nature cursed. The snake was cursed not as a punishment but as part of nature. – sabbahillel Mar 6 '16 at 20:02

According to the Zohar (Beraishis 35b), the snake in the garden was Satan (aka the Yetzer Harah) who is one of the angels. This angel's mission is to be an opposing force to humankind which gives people the ability to choose between following different paths in life. It is brought down that his name is סמא"ל which stands for סיום מסכתא אין לעשות ie is equivalent to the opposition we have in our lives to learning Torah and finding God.

In reference to your question, while angels have Independence and can "do things" on their own, they have no free will in the way that people have free will.

According to the Rambam in hilchos teshuvah, man's free will has two levels, the one relevant to this discussion is the ability to define one's self and direction in life. Angels do not have this ability because an angel and its mission are the same thing (see Bereishis Rabbah 50:2, "One angel cannot have two missions. Neither can two angels share the same mission"). This is why an angel in Hebrew is called 'malach' meaning messenger. The message is its defining characteristic, not its "self". It is a purely spiritual being tied only to its mission (see Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's translation, "Sefer Yetzirah: The Book of Creation in Theory and Practice" for a more in depth explanation of this concept).

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    An interesting answer. Thank you. It would be even better if you gave references for your assertions: (1) snake = Satan, (2) what סמא"ל stands for (3) Angels do not have free will (4) Angel and its mission are the same thing. – Avrohom Yitzchok Apr 4 '17 at 12:32
  • @AvrohomYitzchok, the name and it's meaning were given over to me by my Rebbe. Other sources for what I've given over have been added to the notes and please let me know if I can clarify anything. Kol tuv. – Jon Apr 4 '17 at 14:21
  • Thanks - well done. I've already upvoted so cannot do it again. See here. – Avrohom Yitzchok Apr 4 '17 at 14:43
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    Thanks I'm normally better about that stuff but did this answer on my phone, sorry. – Jon Apr 4 '17 at 14:57
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    The "angel=messenger" definition also applies in the Greek language. "Angelos" is simply the Greek word for messenger, and it was imported from there into modern European languages as the term for a biblical angel. – Robert Columbia Apr 5 '17 at 15:17

The snake is an allegory for the ability of the human mind to deceive itself. Adam entered a world in which he would be able to do this by 'partaking' of the Tree of Knowledge.

By doing this, Adam would now be able to construct an emotionally fulfilled world devoid of God, but which would be fuelled by its own gradual destruction.

God created this loop-hole in the human mind in order to allow free will.

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    this is obviously not going with the literal meaing of Genesis which describes a snake like being which has intelligence and is a third party with regards to Adam And Chava – sam Sep 4 '16 at 14:08
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    Source? 15 characters. – mevaqesh Mar 5 '17 at 0:38

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