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By Rabbi Yitzchak Schwartz | Series: | Level:

6. “One day the children of G-d came to stand before the Lord and the Satan came among them.”


“One day the children of G-d came to stand before the Lord and the Satan came among them.”

“The day” that the verse is referring to, according to Rashi’s commentary, was Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year. Obviously the plight of Iyov is the result of Divine judgment. The Mishna, in tractate Rosh Hashana, explains that on the first day of Rosh Hashana all the inhabitants of this planet come before the heavenly tribunal for judgment. The due-process of Divine justice follows, to a great extent, the same pattern as a modern-day court.

Judge, prosecutor, defendant and witnesses are all part of the scheme. Our sages observed that G-d structures the kingdom of heaven similar to the style of earthly kingdoms. This is, at first, a difficult concept for us to appreciate and requires some serious thought and discussion.

The human mind, no matter how great, is finite; i.e., its capacity for understanding and knowledge is limited. Hence, the concept of an infinite Being who possesses infinite wisdom and power can be confounding. In order to get a “grasp” on the Divine we require an approach that is familiar to our human experience. To this end G-d convenes His heavenly tribunal on the day known as Rosh Hashana. Certainly G-d does not require a court system in order to judge His mortal subjects. For us, however, the familiarity of a judicial proceeding can be a great benefit. The knowledge that we stand in judgment at least once a year helps us fulfill our commitment and measure up to the higher authority of G-d. It also helps us develop our own personal relationship with our Creator.

The fear of prosecution drives home an acute awareness of our responsibility and accountability. At the same time, it is comforting to know that we have a personal advocate to argue on our behalf. This gives us the strength not to fall into despair, and the courage to continue our efforts to reach even higher levels of character perfection. To stand in judgment can be a daunting experience, especially if one does not understand the course of due-process in the Divine court.

It is fundamental to Jewish thought that everything in the physical world has a spiritual counterpart, commonly referred to as angels, which are responsible for the growth and sustenance of all that exists in creation. These spiritual forces do not function independently of G-d. Rather, they are His delegates who are charged with specific missions. In this light we can understand the role of the “Satan” mentioned in verse #6. He is the prosecutor of the Divine court. Our sages describe the Satan as the force responsible for evil, death, destruction and temptation.

In addition to his role as prosecutor, the Satan is the chief instigator of crime against man and G-d. It is axiomatic that in order to fully exercise free will, equal opportunity for good and evil must exist. There can be no virtue in choosing good over evil if the latter is not, at the very least, equally accessible. The provocation of the Satan manifests itself in every moral and ethical dilemma we are faced with. Our deliberation may be an internal struggle of conscience or a battle with external social norms. The result is mental turmoil – the signature of the Satan. Temptation?…. it takes stress to forge mind and soul. The Satan’s role is not a scheme to corrupt our spirit. In fact, the Satan has a central role in the transformation of the mundane human being into a sanctified person.


On the day of judgment, Rosh Hashana, we find our friend Job in the defendant’s chair. He faces a powerful prosecutor, the Satan. Along with his task of chief prosecutor in the Divine court, the Satan is the spiritual source of all evil. What remains for us to discuss on this verse is the role of the “children of G-d”. This lesson will undoubtedly take some time to ‘digest’ so let us leave that topic for the next lesson.

Text Copyright © 1996 Rabbi Y. Schwartz and Project Genesis, Inc.

The author is the Rosh Hayeshiva (Dean) of Orchos Chaim Yeshiva in Jerusalem.