“Never Open Your Mouth to Satan”

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim

“Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish said, ‘One should never open his mouth to Satan’” (Ketubot 8b).

Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish advised against this, so we must understand the danger. More primarily, what specific act is considered “opening one’s mouth to Satan?” The example the Talmud cites is the first chapter of Isaiah where the Jews blamed themselves: 

Your land is a waste, Your cities burnt down; before your eyes, the yield of your soil is consumed by strangers—a wasteland overthrown by strangers! Fair Zion is left Like a booth in a vineyard, like a hut in a cucumber field, like a city beleaguered. Had not the Lord of Hosts left us some survivors, we should be like Sodom, another Gomorrah (Isaiah 1:7-9).

Isaiah ridiculed those Jews, using their own characterization:

Hear the word of the Lord, you chieftains of Sodom; Give ear to our God’s instruction, you folk of Gomorrah! “What need have I of all your sacrifices?” says the Lord. “I am sated with burnt offerings of rams, and suet of fatlings, and blood of bulls; and I have no delight in lambs and he-goats” (Ibid 1:10,11).

Isaiah called the Jews Sodomites just as they called themselves. The Jews “opened their mouths to Satan.” But as this is ill-advised, what harm is their in debasing oneself as a Sodomite? No powers or forces exist, as foolish people believe; calling oneself a name generates no harm.

But their is a harm: through self debasement, one views himself in a negative light and will either continue to sin through such identification, or won’t feel capable of repenting. This is why Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish advised against “opening one’s mouth to Satan,” which we define as “reinforcing negativity; reinforcing one’s instincts.” 


Meharsha comments:

This matter, even in thought, arouses God’s judgment, to the point that Satan convicts and the sinner admits to his sin that he is fit to get punished. And that is what is meant by, “We should be like Sodom, another Gomorrah.” They accepted their indictment, and through Isaiah's prophecy they were told they were fit for the punishment, as Isaiah called them “chieftains of Sodom.”

The Jews poor self-assessment as Sodomites deserved ridicule from Isaiah. Instead, they should have repented and abandoned their Sodomite role playing. But as they remained with that self-assessment as Sodomites, they strengthened their instinctual drives (referred to as “Satan convicts”). The Jews should have controlled their instinctual drives instead of identifying with them. Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish taught that “opening one's mouth to Satan” refers to reenforcing one's instncts (Satan) which is harmful and must be avoided.