Verse 7. “And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Where have you been?’ Satan said ‘I’ve been going back and forth, and walking up and down across the earth.'”
Verse 8. “And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you seen my servant Job? Is there anyone else like him in the world [land], any simple, upright, G-d fearing man who stays away from evil?'”
Verse 9. “Then Satan answered the Lord saying, ‘Does Job fear G-d for nothing?'”
Verse 10. “Haven’t you rewarded him, his household and everyone around him? You’ve blessed everything he does, along with his growing flocks.”
Verse 11. “But if you’d even touch his possessions, he’d curse You to Your face.”
Let us examine the reasons for G-d’s enthusiastic endorsement of Iyov:
1. “He is my servant”
2. “There is no one like him in the world [land].”
The Malbim draws our attention to the significance of these points.
1. “He is my servant.” Certainly G-d was not praising Iyov for passive, mindless subservience. Clearly we are dealing with a virtue that G-d values very highly. Iyov elevated his G-d given capacity for free will to its highest degree.
Motivated by a burning love for G-d, he was able to to place the will of his Creator above any personal drives and desires. He had climbed to the zenith of altruism and spiritual perfection.
Servitude seems to be an unavoidable part of the human condition. It appears in many different forms. World history is replete with the sad stories of nations and people who were forced into surrendering their freedom to the wicked whims of tyrants and oppressors. Others were shackled by poverty or illness. Both phenomena are no strangers to the twentieth century.
Even the fortunate ones who are not oppressed and restrained by external forces are often enslaved to the demands of family, culture and society. The most joyous times in our lives, marriage and child bearing, are bundled with one form or another of servitude. These events demand from us a strong sense responsibility and intense commitment to satisfying the needs and wishes of others. We are constantly faced with choices how to exercise our free will, to subordinate ourselves to a higher ideal or subject ourselves to the demands of life and society.
2. Back to Iyov. G-d describes him as his servant. Iyov was intensely committed to the fulfillment of G-d’s will above and beyond all other considerations. Through his fervent pursuit of absolute faithfulness to his creator Iyov was able to elevate himself above all other inhabitants of this world.
Hence “Is there anyone else like him in the world [land]”. All -the others- were to various degrees people -of the land-. This means that they too are servants, but not of G-d. They are servants of the -land-, i.e. the physical. In as much as they are committed to their own material needs and desires they are vulnerable to the Satan. (See our last lesson Iyov part 6)
Iyov on the other hand is has opted to relinquish his claim to the physical in favor of a passionate commitment to G-d. Indeed there is no one like him in ‘the land’.
Maimonides has taught us in no uncertain terms that G-d is absolutely devoid of any physical characteristic or attribute. The human being on the other hand, is a combination of the physical body and the metaphysical soul (neshama). Herein lies the struggle of man in pursuit of his creator. They, man and G-d, are inherently incompatible.
In light of this we can now easily understand the origins of idolatry . The metamorphism of G-d was to a great extent response to the struggle of physical man in his efforts to communicate with a metaphysical G-d.
Iyov was able to transcend the servitude of the ‘land’. He was no longer vulnerable to the natural forces of destruction in this world. In so doing he eclipsed the darkness of the Satan.
After the incredible testimony of G-d what argument could the Satan possibly present against Iyov? Could he possibly claim that Iyov had committed any misdeed or possessed any flaw of character? Was he not entirely committed to neshama (soul) over body, to the fulfillment of G-d’s will above and beyond any selfish agendas?
The approach that the Satan takes is at once incredulous and astonishing. He maintains that Iyov is not what G-d claims him to be. The opposite is true. He is totally committed to his own selfish material needs. How can the Satan make this outlandish accusation after G-d himself testified in behalf of Iyov giving him the highest possible approbation?
We would be safe to assume that G-d’s view of the situation was more accurate than the Satan’s. If so, why was Iyov judged so severely? We have come to a crucial point in understanding this book. It is absolutely clear that the suffering meted out to Iyov cannot be explained as retribution for any wrongdoing or character flaw.
He was by G-d’s own testimony a totally righteous person who had reached the pinnacle of moral, ethical and spiritual perfection. We will discuss this further on our 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.