Satan's Siege Plan
I came across this poem by Israeli poet Nathan Alterman (photo at left), translated from the original Hebrew, here. What do our readers think of Satan's plan, as imagined by this poet?
Then Satan said: “How will I overcome this one who is under siege?
He possesses bravery, ingenuity,weapons of war and resourcefulness.”
And he said: “I’ll not sap his strength,
Nor fill his heart with cowardice,
nor overwhelm him with discouragement
As in days gone by. I will only do this:
I will cast a shadow of dullness over his mind
until he forgets that justice is with him.”
This is what the Satan said and it was as if
the heavens trembled in fear
as they saw him rise to execute his plan.
The Christian reader should keep in mind that the Satan in Judaism is not a fallen angel who rebels and defies God. In Hebrew, the word "satan" means "accuser." The Satan in Judaism is in effect God's prosecuting attorney. He is (perhaps pardoxically to the Christian mindset) a devoted servant of God, whose purpose is to test each person, endowed as we all are with free moral choice, to see if that person will make the correct moral choice, and comply with God's will, as expressed through His ccommandments. To make the moral test meaningful, God has empowered Satan to tempt and entice human beings. In that role, the Satan resembles a heavenly FBI agent setting up a sting. When humans make the wrong choice, and sin, Satan becomes the prosecutor in the heavenly court. The best Biblical portrayal of the Satan in that role is found in the Book of Job.
Nathan Alterman (1910-1970) was an Israeli poet, journalist and translator. He was not a religious Jew, but rather a secular Zionist, who immigrated from Poland to what was then British Mandatory Palestine in 1925. An interesting question about the above poem is whether the poet's concept of Satan in the poem is closer to the Jewish conception, described above, or the Christian conception of Satan as "the Evil One?" Or is the poem consistent with both concepts?
As the readers know, this blog normally focuses not on religion or literature, but rather on politics. Compare Satan's siege plan with the quote from North Vietnamese General Giap on permanent display as "the thought of the year" in the upper left margin. I believe that the person who posted the poem as a comment at Cross-Currents, where I found it, was focusing on the long-term strategy of the Palestinians and their left-wing Jewish allies to transform Israel into a secular, multi-national state, rather than a Jewish state. Of course, should they succeed, it would only be a matter of a short time before Israel became an Arab Moslem authoritarian state. Amazingly, Alterman seems to have foreseen the process.