We, who were brought up in Western Civilization, with modern thought, with the scientific method, are very reluctant and very uncomfortable with certain concepts. One of those concepts is that there are forces in the world that Hashem created with specific purposes. One of those forces is a malach (angel), the Soton (Satan), whose job it is to constantly bombard me, constantly challenge me, always keeping an even playing field.
The Chovos Halevavos explains page after page after page of deviousness, of trickery that the Soton will speak. But here’s the confusing part — he speaks in my brain, with my voice, and it almost sounds like me. And unless you’ll train yourself to pay careful attention to the voices in your head, you won’t even realize that there’s someone else speaking in the voice of you inside your brain.
If you’d like to see an obvious one, let’s focus on one of the most common devious tactics of the Soton. Have you ever noticed that for weeks on end there will be a voice in your head, you know, that thing, it’s not that bad. It’s not a big aveirah (sin). Come on, plenty of people do worse, come on, it’s not really bad, it’s not really forbidden. Come on, what are you so frum (religious)? Why don’t you do it, why don’t you try it? Besides, listen, you suffer, nobody takes care of you, no one care for you, you deserve it, don’t you deserve a break, don’t you deserve a little pleasure? It’s not so bad, it’s not so bad, it’s not so bad. Week after week after week, it’s such a little thing.
And then, lo and behold, you gave in. You caved, and you did that thing. Suddenly there’s a powerful voice in your head screaming out that aveirah is the biggest aveirah in the world. K’mayvi mabul (like bringing about the Great Flood), are you kidding, what a sin!
Wait, wait, wait, I don’t get it. For weeks and weeks and weeks there was a voice in my head saying it’s not a big sin, it’s not a big deal, just do it, just try it. And the minute I do it blam — it becomes huge!
The Chafetz Chaim explains that in the world there’s something called a telescope. If you hold a telescope up to the stars, it takes something that’s very, very distant and makes it appear very close, but if you turn it around, it does the exact opposite. And it can take something that’s really close and make it look very far. That’s exactly the Soton. Week after week he’ll tell you it’s not a big deal, it’s not a big deal, it doesn’t really matter. Until you do it, and then blam, he hits you over the head with this powerful mussar shmuz (rebuke) — do you know how big that aveirah is? Do you know what a lowlife you are?
Here’s the question: Why does he do it? Obviously if you feel badly about it you’re going to do teshuvah (repentance), right? Wrong. You see, what he’s going to do is make you feel like a worthless slime. You see, he doesn’t say to you that’s a sin but you’re okay, you’re a good person. He says to you in very clear, loud words you’re a worthless bum, you’re a creep, you’re a lowlife, I didn’t know that human beings could exist on such a low level; you’re an embarrassment to the human race. And when you feel like an embarrassment to the human race, guess what? You’re not going to stand up tall and do the difficult work of teshuvah. You’re going to cave, you’re going to give in, you’re going to quit. And that is one of the ultimate tricks of the Soton, to get you to be despondent, to get you to give up, to get you to feel like worthless slime.
To win this battle, you have to recognize the forces within you. You have a seichel (intellect), a brilliant neshamah (soul), you have a nefesh habahami (animal soul), the desire. And there’s another voice within you, the Soton, who speaks in your voice. He sounds like you, but believe me he’s not, and believe me he’s not helping you.