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LEVIATHAN OR SATAN?
August 2010
Rabbi Monique Susskind Goldberg

Leviathan or Satan?

 

QUESTION

Dear Rabbi,

In the Gemara it is written that when the Mashiach comes, Hashem will slaughter the sathan. What does this sentence mean? Why Hashem does this? Is sathan doing some thing wrong?

 Respectfully

 

        Anna

 

ANSWER

 

Dear Anna,

 

Thank you for your question. I believe you made an error when you mentioned sathan. Most probably you meant Leviathan.

 

In the Bible we have two kinds of descriptions of the Leviathan.

 

In Psalm 104

God is praised for having made all things, including Leviathan;

Leviathan is not described as harmful in any way, but simply as a creature of the ocean, part of God's creation.

 

In Job 41

41:2-26, on the other hand, the Leviathan is definitely a crocodile-monster to be feared

 

In Psalm 74

God is said to "break the heads of Leviathan in pieces" before giving his flesh to the people of the wilderness;

 

 

In Genesis 1:21 we read:

And God created the great sea-monsters, and every living creature that creep, wherewith the waters swarmed, after its kind…

 

Rashi's commentary on this verse brings the midrash: "God created the great sea monsters - taninim. According to legend this refers to the Leviathan and its mate. God created a male and female Leviathan, then killed the female and salted it for the righteous, for if the Leviathans were to procreate the world could not stand before them"

 

In the Talmud: Baba Batra 74b we read the same tradition:

 

"God originally produced a male and a female leviathan, but lest in multiplying the species should destroy the world, he slew the female, reserving her flesh for the banquet that will be given to the righteous on the advent of the Messiah (B. B. 74b)". The Talmud adds that the Leviathan will be slain and its flesh served as a feast to the righteous in [the] Time to Come, and its skin used to cover the tent where the banquet will take place. The festival of Sukkot (Festival of Booths) therefore concludes with a prayer recited upon leaving the sukkah (booth): "May it be your will, Lord our God and God of our forefathers, that just as I have fulfilled and dwelt in this sukkah, so may I merit in the coming year to dwell in the sukkah of the skin of Leviathan. Next year in Jerusalem."

 

In other words, the Leviathan was part of God's creation in the beginning, a kind of sea monster whom some believe dangerous. According to the midrash God like for all creatures, created two Leviathans, one male and one female. But He realized that if they were allowed to multiply they would fill the world. God thus slaughtered the female, and according to the same midrash kept the meat for a special treat for the Tsadikim when Mashiah comes, and they will sit in a Sukkah made of its skin.

 

Rabbi Monique Susskind Goldberg

August 2010

 

FOLLOW UP

 

QUESTION

Thank you for your answer, but I mean the sentence that is in the Babylonian Talmud in Tractate Sukkah 52a, referencing G-d’s slaughtering of Satan in the future.

    Respectfully

        Anna

FURTHER ANSWER

Dear Anna,

As I understand it, in the passage you are speaking about, (Sukkah 52a), the Sages are speaking about the Evil Inclination (in every man). And how at the end of the Days, God will slay or suppress the Evil Inclination in the presence of every one. Here is the translation of the passage:

 

"R. Judah expounded: In the time to come, the Holy One, blessed be He, will bring the Evil Inclination and slay it in the presence of the righteous and the wicked. To the righteous it will have the appearance of a towering hill, and to the wicked it will have the appearance of a hair thread. Both the former and the latter will weep; the righteous will weep saying, ‘How were we able to overcome such a towering hill!’ The wicked also will weep saying, ‘How is it that we were unable to conquer this hair thread!’ And the Holy One, blessed be He, will also marvel together with them, as it is said, 'Thus says the Lord of Hosts, If it be marvelous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in those days, it shall also be marvelous in My eyes (Zechariah 8:6)' ".

 

Satan is sometimes called the Evil Inclination. Isn't it logical to say that at the End of Days, God will erase the Evil Inclination in men? As it is stated further on the Talmud page, this Evil Inclination appears in several forms and is responsible for a great deal of sorrow.

 

I hope I answered your question this time.

 

Rabbi Monique Susskind Goldberg

 

August 2010

 
 

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Jerusalem Campus: Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies:

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