There was once a king who ruled over a vast kingdom. The king had a son. One day, the king began to think of the future and of the time when his son would be the next king. And the king wondered whether his son was actually suited for this position. Was he mature enough? Could he handle the responsibilities? Did he possess the necessary inner resources? The king decided to find out. He wanted to test his son to see whether he could indeed be a powerful and just ruler.
The king therefore called his son in and said to him, “As prince of the kingdom, you will now be given a great deal of authority to exercise. I am going to give you plenty of wealth and power; you will be able to do many things. As a matter of fact, you have my blessing to do almost anything you want in the kingdom. But there is one thing I want you not to do. If you will just avoid this one thing, everything else will be yours and you will have all of my blessings. The one thing I want you not to do is this: you must never engage in any kind of premarital sex. Other than this, you can have anything in my kingdom and you have the power now to do what you want.”
The son agreed; he replied, “Fine. I accept the conditions.” No sooner did he leave than the king called in the most beautiful, seductive prostitute in his entire kingdom. The king said to her, “I will give you ten million in gold if you can get my son into bed with you. Use all of your charms; do anything you wish to seduce him. If you succeed, this tremendous reward will be yours.” So off the prostitute went to find the king’s son.
The stage is set; the players were the king, his son, and the prostitute.
The question that Jewish mystics have for millennia asked is: is not the prostitute simply doing the king’s bidding. Can we say that she is evil or even bad? She is simply doing precisely what the king requested of her.
In the context of Kabbalistic concepts about evil, it is helpful to focus briefly on the intriguing topic of the devil. How does the devil fit into the metaphysical system around us and what is his function? Be aware that Judaism has historically dealt quite specifically with this subject. Indeed, the devil — Satan — is mentioned directly in the Bible. Look at the Book of Job. The devil is very much a part of classic Jewish theology.
What, then, is the Jewish devil? The Jewish conception of Satan is quite unlike its counterpart in historical Christianity. According to Judaism, Satan is a very faithful servant of God — one of His most faithful servants. Since God has created evil, the realm of evil belongs to Satan. But this realm is really a gift to man — insuring his capacity of free will — and so Satan has a very important task to perform. It is his mission to do precisely what God wants him to do, for the Kabbalah teaches that nothing is more powerful than Ain Sof (Without End, God the Immanent).
To explain more clearly Satan’s role in human life Kabbalists have long told the above story. Kabbalists compare the king to God and the son to humanity. The prostitute was not even really a prostitute but a very loyal subject of the king who agreed to play the part. She was really an extremely moral, loyal woman and this view is exactly how Kabbalists regard the devil. He is a very loyal servant of God, being sent on a mission involving humanity.
In terms of our analogy, the prostitute is certainly trying her very best to carry out the king’s request. She may be secretly hoping that the son will resist her wiles, but she will use every charm she possesses to seduce him. In the same way, the devil is seen as a very loyal servant of God who is bound by God’s word. The devil does only what God bids and is there to set the stage to allow for man’s free will. In Judaism, then, the devil is not regarded as a malevolent or evil entity challenging God’s rule. Indeed, the Talmud says quite clearly, “Do as the devil does but not as the devil says.” This is because the devil does only what God asks. Judaism has many allusions to this concept: that the devil is an entity very close to God and that the function of evil is to ensure human free will.
Kabbalists teach that our relation to evil fundamentally changed when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Until that moment evil existed but it was out side of man. With the eating of the forbidden fruit, evil actually became incorporated into the human soul or psyche. Ever since that time evil has existed within us; it has been part of our nature as earthly creatures.