Confusing the Satan – What Does That Mean? by Heshie HaGibbor

Aug 29th, 2010 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays
The Talmud (Rosh Hashana 16b) says that one of the reasons we blow shofar on Rosh Hashana is “k’day l’arbeiv haSatan” – to confuse the Satan, the accuser.

What does that mean, to confuse the Satan?

Consider the following scenario:

A woman is in her house preparing dinner in the kitchen. It’s thundering and lightning outside and water is pouring down from the sky. It’s a real thunderstorm. The sound of an ambulance siren can be heard wailing in the distance and on the radio, the song, “Sugar Pie Honey Bun” is playing.

Just at that moment, a thief breaks into the house through the back door of the kitchen, runs inside, knocks her down, grabs her pocket book, and she falls to the floor and he runs out the door. As she’s falling, the glass of orange juice in her hand falls to the floor and shatters with a crash, and the juice spills onto the floor. And as she’s falling she bumps into a chair and knocks the chair over with a bang.

She’s very shaken up. She calls 911 and the police come. They make sure she’s safe, take a report from her and eventually they catch the thief and he goes to jail.

And so, we think, the story ends.

Fast forward 20 years

The woman is now happily married with a family. If someone spills some juice, she feels uneasy. If a glass falls and breaks or a chair falls over, she gets uncomfortable. Whenever it rains, her heart pounds, not consciously knowing why. If there is a thunderstorm with rain and lightning and an ambulance happens to be passing by with its siren wailing, and “Sugar Pie Honey Bun” is playing on the radio at the same time, she goes into a full blown panic attack, never knowing why.

Picture the scene:

The Akeidas Yitzchak, the Binding of Isaac. Abraham has the knife in his hand and is about to slaughter his son Isaac, and offer him up to Hashem as a sacrifice.

Anxiously waiting in the bushes is the Angel of Death, the Satan, whose job it is to take the soul of Yitzchak Avinu, the juiciest Korbon (sacrifice) of all times, and deliver it back to HaKadosh Boruch Hu, the source of all souls.

The Satan is waiting with bated breath to do his job. Suddenly, an angel of Hashem calls to Avraham from heaven and says, “Abraham, Abraham! . . . Do not stretch out your hand against the lad nor do anything to him for now I know that you are a God-fearing man, since you have not withheld your son, you only one from Me. “ (Genesis 22:11,12)

Avraham lifts up his eyes and sees – v’hinei ayil achar ne’echaz basvach b’karnov – and

behold a ram! “ayil achar” caught in the thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as an offering instead of his son. (Genesis 22:13).

The Torah could have said, v’hinei ayil ne’echaz – and a ram was caught. Why the extra word, “Achar”? What does that word tell us?

The word “Achar” meaning “other”, refers to the “Sitra Achara”, another name for the Satan.

The Ayil Achar, the other ram, was the Satan.

Suddenly, Avraham is not slaughtering his son, the Satan is now grabbed instead of Yitzchak, and he is slaughtered instead. The Satan is saying, “Whoa! Wait a minute! What’s going on here?! I’m supposed to take the soul of Yitzchak and instead I am being slaughtered. What’s happening?!”

He is totally confused because the tables are being turned on him.

The accuser is now the accused. The executioner has become the Korbon, the sacrifice.

So now, when we blow the shofar, the horn of the ram that was caught in the thicket, the Ayil Achar, the ram that was slaughtered instead of Isaac, the Sitra Achara or the Satan is brought back to that very moment to the Akeida, just like the woman is brought back by the thunder and lightning to the moment when she was attacked by the thief.

And he is totally confused. When he hears the sound of the shofar, he says “Whoa! Wait a minute! What’s going on here?! What’s happening?!”

And he is totally incapacitated and unable to accuse anybody of anything. That’s when the path of Teshuva is clear and wide open for us.

That is what it means to be “mebalbeil” the Satan – to confuse the Satan.

So during the month of Elul, and especially on Rosh Hashana, when we hear the sounds of the shofar, let us remember how confused the Satan is and make our best efforts to do complete Teshuva to HaKadosh Boruch Hu, because the way is clear.

And may we be zocheh (merit) to a year filled with unlimited sheffa (flow) from the Creator and to hear the sound of the Shofar of Moshiach (the Messiah) this year!

Shana Tova Umesukah.

Heshie Klein, MD

Copyright© 2009, Harvey (Heshie) Klein, MD

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