Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Satan: Our Martian King of Earth

The Ramban and Rabbeinu Bachye reveal to the public what the Ibn Ezra considered to be a mystical secret. They state that the goat taken to Azazel as part of the Yom Kippur service is actually a symbolic show of bribing the Satan. The Satan is the evil inclination that resides in all of us and on Yom Kippur we rise above it and act like angels. As such, Hashem prescribed an offering that, on the surface level, appears to be a pacification of the Satan. This, then, enables us to completely serve Hashem without his interference. Obviously, we are not really worshipping Satan, as that would be idolatrous, this is a commandment from Hashem and is serving Hashem, but its symbolism is something to be taken to heart.

The planets and stars are considered to be the place where the spiritual realm of heaven and the physical realm of earth meet. As such, all events determined by heaven are considered to flow down upon us through the stars and planets. The Ramban and Rabbeinu Bachye contend that Mars, מאדים, is considered to be the force of the Satan (and demons) and connotes evil, death and destruction. The desolate wilderness is considered to be under his rule and it is there that this goat is taken. All animal life is considered to be influenced by the celestial objects and goats are considered to be under the rule of Mars, as well. (see Ibn Ezra Reishis Chachma for more detail of this concept) It happens to be fascinating that the other ancient civilizations also perceived Mars as a cruel and deadly influence. Usually it has been associated with death and war. (See Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos) The Parah Adumah, red heifer, is also a display of this, says the Ramban, but that is not the discussion of this post.

Rabbeinu Bachye furthers that the numerical value of מאדים is identical to that of המלך, "the king". It is our evil physical inclinations, ruled by the Satan, that, unfortunately, seem to govern and run our lives. The Satan, therefore, appears to be the king of this world. I find it fascinating that our prayers from Rosh Hashana through Yom Kippur (the time being discussed) focus on calling Hashem "our King". We change a blessing in our Shemonah Esrei from calling Hashem a holy God to calling Him a holy King. The chazzan starts the Yom Tov prayer with the word המלך, that same word that normally equals Mars, but in this context we make clear that it is Hashem who is the real king. In another piyut we contrast the Heavenly King with the destitude king, usually considered to be man, but, perhaps, truly referring to the Satan.

It would seem that these days, at the beginning of our year, are supposed to state emphatically, that although it normally seems that the king is Mars, we are proclaiming that Hashem is truly the king!!!

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