ALEPH Ordination Programs Smicha Week Intensive 2015 Angels in


ALEPH Ordination Programs Smicha Week Intensive 2015 Angels in
ALEPH Ordination Programs
Smicha Week Intensive 2015
Angels in the Field: Sacred Text and Spiritual Practice
R. Shohama Harris Wiener & R. David Evan Markus
Elior, R., "Mysticism, Magic & Angelology: The Perception of
Angels in Hekhalot Literature," Jewish Stud. Q. 1 (1993), 8-9 . . . . . .
Wolpe, D., "Angels in Jewish Tradition," Big Book of Angels, 23-29 . . 6
Frankiel, T., "Angels in the Jewish Mystical Tradition," Id, 30-40 . . .
Annotated List of Tanakh References to Angels . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Yesodei HaTorah, ch. 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Markus, D., "Halachah of Learning and Teaching Mysticism" . . . . .
'Angel' and 'Amen' as Unification: Degel Machaneh Ephraim,
P. Mishpatim; Tikkunei Zohar 34b; Zohar 1:262b . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed, Book 2, ch. 6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
The Angelic Ish: Gen. 37:12-18 & Rashi; Gen. Rabbah 84:14 . . . . . . . . 40
10. Wiener, S., "Angels and Jigsaw Puzzles" (1989) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
11. Rabbinic Imagination and the Throne of Glory:
B.T. Chagigah 12b-13a, Ps. 68:1-5 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
12. Isaiah 6:1-9 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45
13. Nusach HaTefilah: Shacharit l'Chol, Yotzer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46
14. Ezekiel 1:5-28 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
15. Nusach HaTefilah: Shacharit l'Shabbat v'Yom Tov, El Adon . . . . . . . 49
16. Grow, Grow: Gen. Rabbah 10:6 & Job 38:33 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
17. McLean, D., "Devas, Fairies & Nature Spirits," BBA (excerpt) . . . . . . 51
18. Markus, D., "Kruvim in the Canon: Angelic Paradigm Shift" . . . . . . . 54
19. Archangels by Name: J.T. Rosh Hashanah 1:2, Gen. Rabbah 48:9,
Dan. 9:20-23, 10:13-21 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
20. Archangel Functions: Selected Midrashim . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72
21. Angels at the Sea: Ex. 14:19-20, Midrash Avkir Ex. 14:20 (Sefer
Ha'Aggadah 73:86); B.T. Sanhedrin 39b; Ex. Rabbah 23:7. . . . . . . . . 74
22. Liberation from Bondage: Haggadah, Ex. 12:12, Rashi Ex. 12:12,
Ramban Ex. 12:12; 2 Sam. 24:14-16; 2 Kings 1:1 & 19:31-16 . . . . . . . 76
23. Elior, R., "Mysticism, Magic & Angelology: The Perception of
Angels in Hekhalot Literature," Jewish Stud. Q. 1 (1993), 37-39 . . .
24. Wiener, S., "Guidance from Other Dimensions of the God-Field:
Ancestors, Angels and Guides,” in Milgram & Wiener (eds.),
Seeking and Soaring: Jewish Approaches to Spiritual Guidance and
Development, 2nd ed, Reclaiming Judaism Press (2014), 226-7. . . . . 82
25. Nusach HaTefilah: Excerpts from Bedtime Shema & HaMapil . . . . .
26. Angelic Opposition and Prosecution: B.T. Shabbat 119b;
Num. 22:22-33; Rashi & Ibn Ezra Num. 22:22; Kitzur Ba'al
HaTurim, Num. 22:32; Job 1:6, Rashi Job 1:6; Avot 4:11,
Bartenura Avot 4:11; Ex. 12:29, Ex. Rabbah 18:5; Gen. 3:1,
Sforno Gen. 3:1; Midrash Tanchuma Noach . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
27. Nusach HaTefilah: Ma'ariv l'Chol, Hashkiveinu . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
28. Angels of Death & Destruction: Ex. 12:12-13, 23; 2 Sam. 24:14-16;
2 Kings 19:31-16; Prov. 16:13-14; Compendium of Midrash . . . . . . .
29. Pinchas of Koretz on the Angel of Friendship . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
30. Compendium of Personal Narratives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
NB: Day 5 materials will follow shortly.
31. Kamenetz, R., The Jew in the Lotus, 65-90 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Islamic Sources on Angelology: Encyclopedia Judaica . . . . . . . . . . .
Helminski, S., "Angels in Islam," Big Book of Angels, 87-95 . . . . . . . .
Christian Someting Hebrews 9:5 (cherubim)
Elior, R., "Mysticism, Magic & Angelology: The Perception of Angels
in Hekhalot Literature," Jewish Studies Quarterly 1 (1993), pp. 8-9
Wolpe, D., "Angels in Jewish Tradition," Big Book of Angels, 23-29
Ed. – Rabbi Wolpe is a prominent and prolific writer and commentator.
He serves Temple Sinai, a large Conservative congregation in Los Angeles.
Frankiel, T., "Angels in the Jewish Mystical Tradition," BBA, 30-40
Ed. – Dr. Frankiel is a noted scholar who currently serves as President of
The Academy of Jewish Religion – California.
Annotated List of Tanakh References to Angels
Gen. 3:24
Gen. 16:7-13
Gen. 19:1
Gen. 21:17
Gen. 22:11-18
Gen. 28:12
Gen. 32:2-4
Gen. 48:14-16
Ex. 3:2
Ex. 14:19
Ex. 23:20-23
Ex. 25:18-22
Ex. 32:34
Ex. 33:2
Num. 20:16
Num. 22:22-31
Josh. 5:13-15
Judg. 2:1
Judg. 6:11-22
Judg. 13
2 Sam. 24:16-17
1 Kings 6:23-35
Is. 6:1-8
Is. 37:36
Ezek. 9:3
Ezek. 10
Hos. 12:5-6
Zech. 12:8
2 Chron. 22:7-11
Ps. 91:11-12
Job 1:6-12
Dan. 6:23
Dan. 8:15-26
Dan. 9:21-27
Dan. 10:13-21
Dan. 12:1
Kruvim guard path back to Gan Eden
Malach Adonai appears to Hagar fleeing Sarah
Lot sees two malachim
Malach Adonai appears to Hagar
Malach Adonai restrains Abraham's hand at the Akedah
Jacob dreams of ladder with malachei Elohim
Malachei Elohim meet Jacob; Jacob sends malachim
Jacob invokes haMalach HaGo'el to bless his grandchildren
Malach Adonai appears to Moses in flaming thorn bush
Malach ha'Elohim protects fleeing slaves at the Sea's edge
Malach guards and guides the people in the desert
Kruvim atop the Ark of the Covenant
Malachi leads the people after the Golden Calf
Malach precedes the people in the desert
Malach in Exodus story as told to king of Edom
Bilam's donkey and Bilam both see malach Adonai
Ish and Sar-tzva-Adonai appears to Joshua
Malach Adonai comes up from Gilgal to Bochim
Mal'ach Adonai with Gideon before the Midianites
Malach Adonai / Malach ha'Elohim predicts birth of Samson
Malach haMashchit / Malach Adonai plagues Jerusalem
Kruvim at Solomon's Temple
Seraphim in Isaiah's mystical vision
Malach Adonai smites camp of Sennacherib
God's glory rises up from a k'ruv
Kruvim and the Merkavah
Re-telling Jacob's wrestle with malach
Comparing House of David to malach Adonai
God rides on a k'ruv
God sends a divine malach as protector
B'nei haElohim and Satan
Malach shuts lion's mouth
Gavriel interprets Daniel's vision
Gavriel flies and helps Daniel understand
Michael as God's "prince"
Michael as Sar haGadol
Implied, or the subject of angelic midrash
Gen. 1:26
Gen. 3:22
Gen. 18:2
Gen. 32:22-31
Ex. 12:23
Deut. 10:17
Jer. 9:20
Ezek. 1
Prov. 16:14
God speaks about creating humanity in "our" image
God speaks about humanity becoming immortal like "us"
Three "men" visit Abraham
Jacob wrestles a "man"
Ha'mashchit (the destroyer)
God as Elohei haElohim
Mavet (death) comes in
Ezekiel's vision of the Merkavah
King's wrath is as mal'achei mavet
- 24 -
Maimonides, Mishneh Torah
Yesodei HaTorah, ch. 2
Maimonides' Mishneh Torah (Egypt 1170s), which purports to digest the entire Oral
Law, begins with a philosophical treatise on the ontological foundations of the universe. For
a self-described rationalist of Maimonides' stature, it is especially noteworthy that this early
part of Mishneh Torah focuses so intensely on angels – and then appears to back away from
the subject as a matter that should not be discussed widely.
‫ • הלכה א‬Halachah 1
‫האל הנכבד והנורא הזה מצוה לאהבו‬
‫ אלהיך‬w‫וליראה אותו שנאמר ואהבת את ה‬
/‫ אלהיך תירא‬w‫ונאמר את ה‬
It is a mitzvah to love and fear God who
is glorious and awesome, as it is said
(Deut. 6:5): "Love YHVH, your God,"
and as it is said (Deut. 6:13): "Have awe
for YHVH, your God."
‫ • הלכה ב‬Halachah 2
‫ בשעה‬- ‫והיאך היא הדרך לאהבתו ויראתו‬
‫שיתבונן האדם במעשיו וברואיו הנפלאים‬
‫הגדולים ויראה מהן חכמתו שאין לה ערך‬
‫ולא קץ מיד הוא אוהב ומשבח ומפאר‬
‫ומתאוה תאוה גדולה לידע השם הגדול כמו‬
/‫שאמר דוד צמאה נפשי לאלהים לאל חי‬
‫וכשמחשב בדברים האלו עצמן מיד הוא‬
‫נרתע לאחוריו ויפחד ויודע שהוא בריה קטנה‬
‫שפלה אפלה עומדת בדעת קלה מעוטה לפני‬
‫תמים דעות כמו שאמר דוד כי אראה שמיך‬
/‫מעשה אצבעותיך מה אנוש כי תזכרנו‬
‫ולפי הדברים האלו אני מבאר כללים גדולים‬
‫ממעשה רבון העולמים כדי שיהיו פתח‬
‫למבין לאהוב את השם כמו שאמרו חכמים‬
‫בענין אהבה שמתוך כך אתה מכיר את מי‬
/‫שאמר והיה העולם‬
What is the path of loving and having
awe of God? When one contemplates
God's wondrous and great deeds and
creations, and appreciates God's infinite
wisdom having no measure or end, one
immediately will love, praise and
glorify God, and yearn with great desire
to know the Great Name, as David said
(Ps. 42:3): "My soul thirsts for YHVH,
the living God." And when one reflects
on these very matters, one immediately
will recoil in awe and fear, knowing
oneself [comparatively] as a tiny, lowly
and dark creature, standing with flimsy
and limited knowing before [the One of]
Perfect Knowledge, as David said (Ps.
8:4-5): "When I see Your heavens, the
work of Your fingers, [I wonder] what is
humanity that You recall us?" Based on
these matters, I will explain important
matters regarding deeds of the Master
of the worlds, so that they who are wise
can open to loving God, as the sages
said of love (Sifre, P. Ekev 13): "In this
way, you will recognize the One who
spoke and the world came into being."
- 25 -
‫ • הלכה ג‬Halachah 3
‫ כל מה שברא הקב"ה בעולמו נחלק לשלשה‬All that the Holy Blessed One created in
:‫ חלקים מהן‬God's world is divided into three parts:
(a) Creations combining matter and
‫ )א( ברואים שהן מחוברים מגולם וצורה והם‬form that constantly come into existence
‫ הווים ונפסדים תמיד כמו גופות האדם‬and cease to exist, such as the bodies of
////‫ והבהמה והצמחים והמתכות‬man and beasts, plants and metals....
‫)ב( ברואים שהן מחוברים מגולם וצורה אבל‬
‫אינן משתנין מגוף לגוף ומצורה לצורה כמו‬
‫ אלא צורתן קבועה לעולם‬/‫הראשונים‬
‫בגולמם ואינן משתנין כמו אלו והם הגלגלים‬
‫והכוכבים שבהן ואין גולמם כשאר גולמים‬
////‫ולא צורתם כשאר צורות‬
(b) Creations combining matter and
form that do not change from body to
body and form to form as those in the
first category. Rather, their form is fixed
permanently in their matter, and they
do not change as the others do, such as
the spheres and the stars within them.
Their matter is unlike [earthly] matter
and their form is unlike [earthly] form.
‫)ג( ברואים צורה בלא גולם כלל והם‬
‫( המלאכים שהמלאכים אינם גוף וגויה אלא‬c) Creations having form but no matter,
/‫ צורות נפרדות זו מזו‬which are the angels, for the angels lack
bodies or corporeal being, but rather are
forms separate from each other.
‫ • הלכה ד‬Halachah 4
‫ומהו זה שהנביאים אומרים שראו המלאך‬
‫ הכל במראה הנבואה ודרך‬- ‫אש ובעל כנפים‬
‫חידה לומר שאינו גוף ואינו כבד כגופות‬
‫ אלהיך אש אוכלה‬w‫הכבדים כמו שנאמר כי ה‬
‫הוא ואינו אש אלא משל וכמו שנאמר עושה‬
/‫מלאכיו רוחות‬
What did the prophets mean that they
saw the angel burning or in flight? All
are prophetic visions and parables that
[angels] lack body or bodily mass. As it
is said (Deut. 4:24): "YHVH, your God,
is consuming fire" – but God is not fire
[so this description] is a metaphor. Also
as it is said (Ps. 104:4): "God makes [the]
angels like winds."
‫ • הלכה ה‬Halachah 5
‫ובמה יפרדו הצורות זו מזו והרי אינן גופין‬
‫לפי שאינן שוין במציאותן אלא כל אחד מהן‬
‫למטה ממעלתו של חבירו והוא מצוי מכחו‬
‫זה למעלה מזה והכל נמצאים מכחו של‬
‫הקדוש ברוך הוא וטובו וזהו שרמז שלמה‬
/‫בחכמתו ואמר כי גבוה מעל גבוה שומר‬
Since they lack bodies, what separates
[angelic] forms from each other? Their
existence is not alike. Rather each exists
below the other's level and by virtue of
its influence [in a progression of levels],
one above the other. All exist by the
power of the Holy Blessed One and
God's goodness. Solomon alluded to
this [concept] in his wisdom, and said
(Eccl. 5:7): "For above the one who is
high there is an [even higher] watcher."
- 26 -
‫ • הלכה ו‬Halachah 6
‫זה שאמרנו למטה ממעלתו של חבירו אינה‬
‫מעלת מקום כמו אדם שיושב למעלה‬
‫מחבירו אלא כמו שאומרין בשני חכמים‬
‫שאחד גדול מחבירו בחכמה שהוא למעלה‬
‫ממעלתו של זה וכמו שאומרין בעילה שהיא‬
/‫למעלה מן העלול‬
The above phrase "below the other's
level" refers [to spiritual height] not to
height in a spatial sense – as in, "He sits
higher than his colleague." Rather, as
speaking of two sages, one greater than
the other, we say, "One is above the
level of the other." Similarly, a cause is
referred to as "above" its effect.
‫ • הלכה ז‬Halachah 7
‫שינוי שמות המלאכים על שם מעלתם הוא‬
‫ולפיכך נקראים חיות הקדש והם למעלה מן‬
‫הכל ואופנים ואראלים וחשמלים ושרפים‬
‫ומלאכים ואלהים ובני אלהים וכרובים‬
‫ כל אלו עשרה השמות שנקראו בהן‬/‫ואישים‬
‫המלאכים על שם עשר מעלות שלהן הן‬
‫ומעלה שאין למעלה ממנה אלא מעלת האל‬
‫ברוך הוא היא מעלת הצורה שנקראת חיות‬
‫לפיכך נאמר בנבואה שהן תחת כסא הכבוד‬
‫ומעלה עשירית היא מעלת הצורה שנקראת‬
‫אישים והם המלאכים המדברים עם הנביאים‬
‫ונראים להם במראה הנבואה לפיכך נקראו‬
‫אישים שמעלתם קרובה למעלת דעת בני אדם‬
Angels' different names correspond to
their [spiritual] heights. They are called
Chayot HaKodesh (holy life forces), above
all; Ofanim (turnings); Erelim (helpers);
Chashmalim (electrics); Seraphim (flames);
Malachim (messengers); Elohim (powers);
B'nei Elohim (lesser powers); K'ruvim
(blesseds); Ishim (persons). All ten names
by which angels are called reflect their
heights. The level above which there is
no higher except that of God, Blessed Be,
is the form called Chayot, so the prophets
say that [Chayot] are just below God's
throne of glory. The tenth level is the
form called Ishim. They are the angels
who speak with the prophets and are
seen by them in prophetic visions. Thus
they are called Ishim as their level
approximates human knowledge.
‫ • הלכה ח‬Halachah 8
‫וכל הצורות האלו חיים ומכירין את הבורא‬
‫ויודעים אותו דעה גדולה עד למאד כל צורה‬
‫וצורה לפי מעלתה לא לפי גודלה אפילו‬
‫מעלה הראשונה אינה יכולה להשיג אמתת‬
‫הבורא כמו שהוא אלא דעתה קצרה להשיג‬
‫ולידע אבל משגת ויודעת יותר ממה שמשגת‬
‫ויודעת צורה שלמטה ממנה וכן כל מעלה‬
‫ומעלה עד מעלה עשירית גם היא יודעת‬
‫הבורא דעה שאין כח בני האדם המחוברים‬
‫מגולם וצורה יכול להשיג ולידע כמותה והכל‬
/‫אינן יודעין הבורא כמו שהוא יודע עצמו‬
All these forms live. They recognize and
know the Creator with a great knowing,
each form according to its level and not
its greatness. Even the highest level is
unable to conceive the Creator's truth as
God [truly] is, for its capacity is limited
to know or to grasp [God]. But it does
comprehend and know more than the
form below it. This is true regarding
every level, including the tenth. This
[tenth level] also knows the Creator in a
way surpassing the potential of humans
with body and soul to comprehend and
know [God]. No [angelic level] knows
the Creator as God knows Godself.
- 27 -
‫ • הלכה ט‬Halachah 9
‫כל הנמצאים חוץ מן הבורא מצורה הראשונה‬
‫עד יתוש קטן שיהיה בטבור הארץ הכל מכח‬
‫אמתתו נמצאו ולפי שהוא יודע עצמו ומכיר‬
‫גדולתו ותפארתו ואמתתו הוא יודע הכל ואין‬
/‫דבר נעלם ממנו‬
All existence aside from the Creator,
from the [highest angelic] form to a
small mosquito in the navel of the earth,
exists from the power of God's truth.
As God knows Godself and recognizes
God's greatness, beauty and truth, [so]
God knows all and nothing is hidden.
‫ • הלכה י‬Halachah 10
‫הקב"ה מכיר אמתו ויודע אותה כמו שהיא‬
‫ואינו יודע בדעה שהיא חוץ ממנו כמו שאנו‬
‫יודעין שאין אנו ודעתנו אחד אבל הבורא‬
‫יתברך הוא ודעתו וחייו אחד מכל צד ומכל‬
‫ שאלמלי היה חי בחיים‬/‫פינה ובכל דרך ייחוד‬
‫ויודע בדעה חוץ ממנו היו שם אלוהות הרבה‬
‫הוא וחייו ודעתו ואין הדבר כן אלא אחד מכל‬
‫צד ומכל פינה ובכל דרך ייחוד נמצאת אתה‬
‫אומר הוא היודע והוא הידוע והוא הדעה‬
‫ דבר זה אין כח בפה‬/‫עצמה הכל אחד‬
‫לאומרו ולא באוזן לשמעו ולא בלב האדם‬
ֵ ‫להכירו על בוריו ולפיכך אומר ֵחי פרעה‬
‫ שאין‬w‫ אלא ַחי ה‬w‫נפשך ואין אומר ֵחי ה‬
‫הבורא וחייו שנים כמו חיי הגופים החיים או‬
‫כחיי המלאכים לפיכך אינו מכיר הברואים‬
‫ויודעם מחמת הברואים כמו שאנו יודעין‬
‫אותם אלא מחמת עצמו ידעם לפיכך מפני‬
‫שהוא יודע עצמו יודע הכל שהכל נסמך לו‬
The Holy Blessed One recognizes divine
truth and knows it as it is. God does
not know with external knowledge in
the way of our knowledge, for we and
our knowledge are not one. The
Creator, God's knowledge and life are
one from all sides and corners, in all
manners of unity. Were God to live [an
earthly] life or know with external
knowledge, there would be many gods.
Rather, God is One from all sides and
corners, in all manners of unity. Thus
God is knower, subject of knowledge,
and knowledge itself: all is One. This
matter is beyond a mouth's power to
relate or ears to hear, nor can the human
heart grasp it fully [as in] (Gen. 42:15):
"Chei (by the life) of Pharaoh" and (1
Sam. 25:26): "Chei (by the life) of your
soul," but (1 Sam. 25:26) does not
continue "Chei (by the life) of God" but
rather "Chai Adonai (as God lives)." As
the Creator and God's life are not two,
as are earthly or angelic lives, so God
does not know and recognize the
creations in terms as we know them.
Rather, God knows them in terms of
Godself. As God knows Godself, so
God knows everything, for the existence
of everything else depends on God.
‫ • הלכה יא‬Halachah 11
‫ כמו טיפה מן‬/// ‫דברים אלו שאמרנו בענין זה‬
‫הים הם ממה שצריך לבאר בענין זה וביאור‬
‫כל העיקרים ]ה[אלו הוא הנקרא מעשה‬
Our discussion of [this] matter ... is like
a drop from the sea relative to what is
necessary to explain it. Explanation of
[these] key matters ... is called Ma'aseh
Merkavah (the work of [God’s] chariot).
- 28 -
‫ • הלכה יב‬Halachah 12
‫צוו חכמים הראשונים שלא לדרוש בדברים‬
‫אלו אלא לאיש אחד בלבד והוא שיהיה חכם‬
‫ומבין מדעתו ואחר כך מוסרין לו ראשי‬
‫הפרקים ומודיעין אותו שמץ מן הדבר והוא‬
‫מבין מדעתו וידע סוף הדבר ועומקו ודברים‬
‫אלו דברים עמוקים הם עד למאד ואין כל‬
‫דעת ודעת ראויה לסובלן ועליהם אמר‬
‫שלמה בחכמתו דרך משל כבשים ללבושך כך‬
‫אמרו חכמים בפירוש משל זה דברים שהן‬
‫כבשונו של עולם יהיו ללבושך כלומר לך‬
‫לבדך ואל תדרוש אותם ברבים ועליהם אמר‬
‫יהיו לך לבדך ואין לזרים אתך ועליהם אמר‬
‫דבש וחלב תחת לשונך כך פירשו חכמים‬
‫הראשונים דברים שהן כדבש וחלב יהיו תחת‬
The early-generation sages commanded
that we don't explain [Merkavah] matters
except to a single person [at a time] who
is wise, understanding with one's [own]
knowledge (M. Chagigah 2:1). In such
an instance, one is given basic points,
and an outline of concepts is made
known. One [then learns alone] to
achieve understanding with one's own
knowledge, grasping the ultimate
meaning and depth of the concept.
These concepts are extremely deep, and
not everyone has the ability necessary to
appreciate them. In his wisdom,
Solomon described them with the
metaphor (Prov. 27:26), "Lambs for your
clothing." [Ed. – The root ‫"( כבש‬lamb")
also means "to hide."] Our sages read
this metaphor [to mean]: Matters that
are the secrets of the world will be your
clothing - i.e. they will be for you alone,
and you should not discuss them in
public. Concerning them, it is said
(Prov. 5:17), "They will be for you but
not for others with you," and (Song of
Songs 4:11), "Honey and milk will be
under your tongue." Early-generation
sages read this [latter text as metaphor]:
subjects that are like honey and milk
should be [kept] under your tongue.
- 29 -
Markus, D. "Halachah of Learning and Teaching Mysticism"
(rev. 2015)
The mystical Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation) describes the energetic flow
among 10 "vehicles" of creation – the same number of angelic levels that Maimonides
recognized in Mishneh Torah's treatment of the Foundations of the Universe (above).
The Sefer Yetzirah description of creation adopts the language of Ezekiel's vision of
angelic Chayot ("life forces," the highest angelic realm of Maimonides' explanation)
that, in Ezekiel's words, carried the Throne of Glory in the Merkavah (chariot) as they
"ran to and fro" (Ezek. 1:14). This vision is the source text of Merkavah mysticism,
and returns throughout the Jewish canon as a metaphor for angelic qualities.
But, say the rabbis, don't get too close. For 2,000 years, rabbinic texts have
cautioned against making mysticism a focus of Jewish education. Their potential
reasons are diverse – perhaps rabbinic rationalist skepticism, or an overt power grab
against mystics who might challenge rabbinic authority. Perhaps the rabbis wisely
were admonishing us to stay spiritually grounded, as in the aggadic tale of the four
who entered Pardes but only R. Akiva returned whole (B.T. Chagigah 14b). Maybe
the rabbis were concerned that excess focus on the mystical might fuel a spirituality
so individualized as to undermine communal aspects of Jewish identity and practice.
While we can debate their reasoning, it is clear that from the earliest days of
rabbinic life, Mishnah has warned against teaching mystical matters too publicly or
deeply, opting to leave them to students who understand them on their own:
M. Chagigah 2:1
‫ במעשה בראשית בשניים ולא‬/// ‫ אין דורשין‬One may not expound ... the account of
‫ במרכבה ביחיד אלא אם כן היה חכם ומבין‬creation before two, nor the Merkavah
[even] one unless one is wise and
/‫ מדעתו‬before
understands from one's own knowledge.
- 30 -
This restriction against overt public teaching of mysticism probably is what
motivated Maimonides to couch his own writing about the angelic realms in similar
metaphorical terms, and then to disclaim his own metaphor and echo the Mishnah's
discouragement of mystical instruction except by rough outline and subject heading
(Mishneh Torah, Yesodei HaTorah 2:11-12). We can only say "probably" concerning
Maimonides' intentions because Mishneh Torah made no attempt to provide citations
for its halachic propositions. (Such was Maimonides stated purpose in crafting his
Mishneh Torah: to create a text that offered answers rather than exhaustive process,
debate and textual citations. By the same token, for a Jewish tradition so rooted in
text, debate and uplifting minority opinion, this strategy was perhaps the greatest
controversy of the Mishneh Torah. By offering a treatise without citations to any
rabbinic authority other than his own distillation of the canon, Maimonides tacitly
suggested that his compilation of Jewish law was akin to a second giving of the Law,
hence his title Mishneh Torah – a "Second Torah.")
As careful as Maimonides claimed himself to be in describing angelic realms,
Talmud's rabbis were even more careful to caution against public dissemination of
mysticism. In Gemara's explication of the Mishnah on this subject, even the mere
reading of chapter headings of so-called Merkavah literature should be undertaken
cautiously (see B.T. Chagigah 13a). To R. Zera, even the chapter headings should
banned except to the Av Beit Din (head of the rabbinical court), and then only for one
especially well-grounded and cautious in temperament (id.). Talmud articulates a
fear that one who learns mysticism "too young" – whether chronologically or
spiritually – is likely to burn up. The Gemara continues: "A boy who learned the
meaning of [Ezekiel's use of the word] chashmal" ("electricity," Ezek. 1:4) to describe
the prophet's angelic vision – and perhaps not coincidentally, the same word
Maimonides used to describe the fourth highest angelic level – "immediately was
- 31 -
consumed by fire" (B.T. Chagigah 13b). It is as if this trope of aggadic literature is
cautioning readers not to get too close, lest they burn up in a fiery spark of electric
current emanating from the angelic realm of chashmal.
Like the maxim that one should not study Zohar until one reaches age 40 (an
age traditionally associated with stability and maturity), we might understand these
Talmudic comments as helpful admonitions to stay grounded when we enter the
esoteric realms of angelology. Obviously the ideal context for esoteric learning is not
while multi-tasking, or as an escape, or if feeling unstable. Jewish spiritual practice
aspires to healthy and balanced lives in the grounded world of practicality: spiritual
tools and practices – including and especially ones we might call "mystical" – should
support rather than detract from the fullness of lived experience. Understood in this
way, esoteric study and mystical experience of the angelic realms can be healthy,
empowering and profoundly transformational.
We also can understand this trope in sociopolitical terms of rabbinic elitism.
This field of study, suggests the rabbis, is not for anyone whom they regard as
young, spiritually immature or intellectually dependent on others. Rather, Mishnah
purports to ban rabbinic discussion of this subject ‫ אלא אם כן היה חכם ומבין מדעתו‬/
"except to those already wise and understanding from their own knowledge" (M.
Chagigah 2:1). Maimonides wrote that "these concepts are extremely deep, and not
everyone has the ability necessary to appreciate them" (Mishneh Torah, Yesodei
HaTorah 2:12). While we moderns might bristle at this display of intellectual and
spiritual elitism, it is important to appreciate in affirmative spiritual terms rather
than negative reactionism why our rabbinic forebears adopted these orientations.
A third way to understand this recurring trope of caution invites a spiritual
inversion of intellectual elitism. While the rabbis purported to restrict the public
from angelic and mystical education, the rabbis certainly did not ban their own
- 32 -
learning in this realm – though R. Zera's admonition to ban even mystical chapter
headings from all but the head of the rabbinical court is a notable exception. Maybe
to R. Zera's dismay, the rabbinic canon is full of angels because Tanakh itself is full of
angels, so the rabbis could not ignore much less fully suppress (for themselves or for
others) a spiritual theme so alluring and prominent as to appear throughout Jewish
sacred literature. So while the rabbis described the angelic realm in terms that
evoked caution and sometimes also danger, the rabbis also knew that this realm can
be sweet on the lips. As Maimonides wrote quoting Song of Songs 4:11, what we
might call "angel talk" should be Q ֵ‫נ‬I‫ ַבשׁ ְו ָחלָ ב ַתּ ַחת לְ שׁ‬Sְ ‫ ַכּלָּ ה‬/"for the [mystical] bride,
like honey and milk under your tongue" (Mishneh Torah, Yesodei HaTorah 2:11). To
the rabbis, mystical understanding of angels should be a sweet secret, like honey
under the tongue – literally kept under the tongue, secret except to they who already
With these principles in mind, we can approach angelic literature less as
precise language or doctrine than as clusters of imagery and metaphor – more like
out-of-focus impressionist paintings than crystal-clear photographs. At the
emotional level (yetzirah), we can approach with a mix of sweet curiosity and heartwise caution, with the intention to deepen rather than detach. At the intellectual
level (briyah), we can recall that all mystical language is an imperfect attempt to
portray a transcendence that inherently defies language, and therefore we mustn't
confuse metaphor for message. Rooted in these ways, at the spiritual level (atzilut)
we can allow ourselves to soar, intending that we – like R. Akiva – always must be
ready to return whole. In the words of Sefer Yetzirah 1:8, "If your heart runs, return
to your place – as it is written, ‫ב‬I‫א ָושׁ‬I‫ת ָרצ‬IH‫ ְו ַה ַח‬/ 'The chayot [Maimonides' highest
angelic level] ratzo va'shov / running and returning' (Ezek. 1:14)."
- 33 -
'Angel' and 'Amen' as Unifications
Moshe Chayim Ephraim of Sudilkov (1748-1800), grandson of the Ba'al Shem Tov, was born
in Medzhybizh, studied under the Maggid of Mezrich and succeeded his grandfather as rebbe
of Medzhybizh. His seminal work, "Degel Machaneh Ephraim," excerpted here, is one of the
primary contemporaneous sources of the Ba'al Shem Tov's teachings.
In this selection, the Degel makes a profound observation: in gematria, the Hebrew for
"angel," "amen" and the sum of YHVH (‫ה‬ww‫ )יהו‬and ADNY (‫י‬ww‫ ')אדנ‬have the same
equivalent value of 91. What might the liturgical and spiritual implications be?
Degel Machaneh Ephraim, P. Mishpatim
‫ואלה המשפטים אשר תשים לפניהם )שמות‬
‫את‬w (‫ט‬:‫ כי הנה בנח נאמר )בראשית ו‬- (‫א‬:‫כא‬
'‫' היינו בשוה עמו כביכול‬w‫האלקים התהלך נח‬
'w‫התהלך לפני‬w (‫א‬:‫ובאברהם נאמר )שם יז‬
‫ת‬ww‫שהוא מדרגה יותר גדולה שילך לפני השי‬
(‫ג‬:‫ה נאמר )שמות כג‬ww‫ה' ולמשה רבנו ע‬ww‫ב‬
‫' שזהו מדרגה‬w‫הנה אנכי שלח מלאך לפניך‬w
‫א' והיינו יחוד‬ww‫יותר גדולה' כי מלאך מספר צ‬
‫קודשא בריך הוא ושכינתיה כביכול הם לפניו‬
"These are the judgments (i.e. halachic
statutes) you will place before them"
(Ex. 21:1) – Of Noah it is said (Gen. 6:1),
"Noah walked with God" as if equals, as
it were; and of Abraham it is said (Gen.
17:1), "Walk before Me," which is a much
higher level in walking before the Holy
One. And of Moshe it is said (Ex. 23:3),
"Behold, I send an angel before you,"
which is an even higher level, for angel
in gematria has a value of 91, which is
the unification of the Holy Blessed One
and Shechinah [though], as it were, they
always are before him....
Tikkunei Zohar 34b
‫י איהא קודשא בריך הוא‬ww‫ה אדנ‬ww‫תא חזי יהו‬
‫י‬ww‫ה לימינא אדנ‬ww‫ושכינתיה בתרין שוקין יהו‬
Come and see: YHVH and ADNY are
the Holy Blessed One and Shechinah,
the two together – YHVH on the right,
ADNY on the left.
Zohar 1:262b
//// ‫י‬ww‫ן יאהדונה‬ww‫ דא הוא רזא אמ‬This is the secret of "Amen" – [that it has
the same value] as YHVH+ADNY....
- 34 -
Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed
Book 2, Chapter 6
As for the existence of angels, there is no necessity to cite any proof from
Scripture, where the fact is frequently mentioned. The term Elohim means "judges,"
as in (Ex. 22:8), "[In case of a dispute,] the cause of both parties shall come before the
judges (ha-Elohim)." The term has been figuratively applied to angels, and to the
Creator as judge over the angels. When God says, "I am YHVH your God," the
pronoun "your" refers to all humanity, but in the phrase Elohei ha-Elohim, God is
described as God of the angels; and in Adonei ha-Adonim, as God of the spheres and
stars, which are masters of the rest of the corporeal creation. The nouns Elohim and
Adonim in these phrases do not refer to human judges or masters, because these are
in rank inferior to the heavenly bodies: much less do they refer to humankind in
general, including masters and servants, or to objects of stone and wood worshipped
by some as gods; for it is no honor or greatness to God to be superior to stone, wood
or a piece of metal. The phrases therefore admit of no other meaning than this: God
is the judge over the judges, that is, over the angels, and over the heavenly spheres.
We have already stated above that the angels are incorporeal. This agrees
with the opinion of Aristotle: there is only this difference in the names employed -he uses the term "Intelligences," and we say instead "angels." His theory is that the
Intelligences are intermediate beings between the Prime Cause and existing things,
and that they [comprise the natural forces that] effect the motion of the spheres, on
which motion the existence of all things depends. This is also the view we meet with
in all parts of Scripture: every act of God is described as being performed by angels.
But "angel" [also] means "messenger": hence every one that is intrusted with a
certain mission is an angel. Even the movements of the brute creation are sometimes
- 35 -
due to the action of an angel, when such movements serve the purpose of the
Creator, who endowed it with the power of performing that movement, as in (Dan.
6:22), "God sent [God's] angel and shut the lions' mouths that they have not hurt
me." Another instance may be seen in the movements of Balaam's donkey, described
as caused by an angel. The elements are also called angels, as in (Ps. 104:4), "Who
makes God's angels as winds, flaming fire God's ministers." There is no doubt that
the word "angel" is used [to describe] a messenger sent by a human, as in (Gen. 32:4),
"And Jacob sent angels"; [or] for the sake of deliverance, as in (Judg. 2:1), "An angel
of God came up from Gilgal to Bochim"; or (Num. 20:16), "[God] sent an angel, and
brought us forth from Egypt." [The word "angel"] is also used of ideals, perceived
by prophets in prophetic visions, and of humanity's animal powers, as will be
explained in another place.
When we assert that Scripture teaches that God governs this world through
angels, we mean such angels as are identical with the Intelligences. In some
passages the plural is used of God, as in (Gen. 1:26), "Let us make humanity in our
image"; or (Gen. 11:7), "Let us go down and there confound their language." Our
sages explain this in the following manner: God, as it were, does nothing [below]
without contemplating the host above. I wonder at the expression "contemplating,"
which is the very expression used by Plato. God, as it were, "contemplates the world
of ideals, and thus produces the existing beings." In other passages our Sages
expressed it more decidedly: "God does nothing without consulting the Heavenly
Host." Concerning the words (Eccl. 2:12), "What they have already made," the
following remark is made in Bereishit Rabbah and Midrash Kohelet: [Solomon] "did not
say 'What God has made,' but 'What they have made'; hence we infer that God, as it
were, with God's court, agreed on the form of each of the limbs of humanity before
placing it in its position, as it is said (Deut. 32:6), "Did God not make and establish
- 36 -
you?'" In Bereishit Rabbah ch. 51, it is also stated that wherever the term "and YHVH"
occurs in Scripture, God with the Heavenly Court is to be understood.
These passages do not convey the idea that God spoke to or reflected,
consulted or employed the opinion of other beings, as ignorant persons believe.
How could the Creator be assisted by those whom God created! [These passages]
only show that all parts of the Universe, even the limbs of animals in their actual
form, are produced through angels: natural forces and angels are identical. How
bad and injurious is the blindness of ignorance! Say to one believed to belong to the
wise of Israel that the Almighty sends God's angel to enter the womb of a woman
and to form there a fetus, and this person will be satisfied with the account. The
wise will believe it, and even find in it a description of the greatness of God's might
and wisdom; although he believes that the angel consists of burning fire, and is as
big as a third part of the Universe, yet he considers it possible as a divine miracle.
But tell [the supposedly wise] that God gave the seed a formative power to produce
and shape the limbs, and that this power is called an "angel," or that all forms are the
result of the influence of the Active Intellect and that the latter is the angel... and
[even they] will turn away, unable to comprehend the true greatness and power of
creating forces that act in a body without being perceived by our senses.
Our Sages have already stated – for one who has understanding – that all
forces residing in a body are angels, much more the forces that are active in the
Universe. The theory that each force acts only in one particular way, is expressed in
Bereishit Rabbah ch. 1, as follows: "One angel does not perform two things, and two
angels do not perform one thing": this is exactly the property of all forces [of nature].
We may find a confirmation of the opinion that the natural and psychical forces of
an individual are called angels in a frequently quoted statement of our Sages and
which occurs originally in Bereishit Rabbah ch. 78: "Every day God creates a legion of
- 37 -
angels; they sing before God, and disappear." When, in opposition to this statement,
other statements were quoted to the effect that angels are eternal – and, in fact, it has
repeatedly been shown that they live permanently – the reply has been given that
some angels live permanently and others perish; and that this is really the case, for
individual forces are transient while genera are permanent and imperishable. Again,
we read [Bereishit Rabbah, ch. 85], in reference to the relation between Judah and
Tamar: "R. Yochanan said that Judah was about to pass by [without noticing Tamar],
but God caused the angel of lust – that is, the libidinous disposition – to present
itself to him." Man's [sexual] disposition is here called an angel.
Likewise we frequently meet with the phrase, "The angel set over" a certain
thing. In Kohelet Rabbah 10:20 [concerning Eccl. 10:7], the following passage occurs:
"When one sleeps, [the body tells the soul what it did during the day]. The soul
speaks to the angel, the angel to the k'ruv [and the k'ruv to the seraph], who then
brings it before God." The intelligent reader will find here a clear statement that the
human imaginative faculty is also called "angel," and that k'ruv is used for the
intellectual faculty. How beautiful must this appear to one who understands it, how
absurd to the ignorant!
We have already stated that the forms in which angels appear form part of the
prophetic vision. Some prophets see angels in the form of man, as in (Gen. 18:2),
"And behold three men stood by him" [concerning the visitation of Abraham after
his circumcision]. Others perceive an angel as a fearful and terrible being, as in
(Judg. 13:6), "And his countenance was as the countenance of an angel of God, very
terrible." Others see them as fire, as in (Ex. 3:2), "And the angel of YHVH appeared
to [Moses] in a flame of fire" [at the Burning Bush]. In Bereishit Rabbah ch. 1, the
following remark occurs: "To Abraham, whose prophetic power was great, the
angels appeared in the form of men; to Lot, whose power was weak, they appeared
- 38 -
as angels." ... Another passage in Bereishit Rabbah runs thus: "Before the angels have
accomplished their task they are called men, when they have accomplished it they
are angels." Consider how clearly they say that the term "angel" signifies nothing
but a certain action, and that every appearance of an angel is part of a prophetic
vision, depending on the capacity of the person perceiving it.
There is nothing in the opinion of Aristotle on this subject contrary to the
teaching of Scripture. The whole difference between him and ourselves [the Jews] is
this: he believes all these beings to be eternal, co-existing with the First Cause as its
necessary effect. We, however, believe that they have had a beginning, that God
created the Intelligences as angels, and gave the spheres the capacity of seeking to
become like them; and that in creating the Intelligences and spheres, God endowed
them with their governing powers. Only in this point do we differ from Aristotle.
- 39 -
The Angelic "Ish"
Gen. 37:12-18
:‫ ְשׁ ֶכם‬Cִ ‫יהם‬
ֶ ‫ת ֶאת־צֹאן ֲא ִב‬I‫ ֶא ָחיו לִ ְרע‬U‫ֵ לְ כ‬H‫ יב ַו‬12. [Joseph's] brothers went to feed their
father’s flock in Shechem.
‫ ר ִֹעים‬W‫א ַא ֶחי‬I‫סף ֲהל‬I‫ל־י‬
‫אמר יִ ְשׂ ָר ֵאל ֶא‬
ֶ ֹH‫ יג ַו‬13. Israel said to Joseph: Aren't your
:‫ ִהנֵּ נִ י‬I‫אמר ל‬
ֶ ֹH‫יהם ַו‬
ֶ ֵ‫ ֲאל‬W‫ ְשׁ ֶכם לְ ָכה ְו ֶא ְשׁלָ ֲח‬Cִ brothers feeding the flock in Shechem?
Go: I will send you to them. [Joseph]
said to [Israel]: Here am I.
W‫ם ַא ֶחי‬I‫ת־שׁל‬
ְ ‫־נָ א ְר ֵאה ֶא‬Q ֶ‫ ל‬I‫אמר ל‬
ֶ ֹH‫יד ַו‬
U‫ִ ְשׁלָ ֵחה‬H‫ ָבר ַו‬Sָ ‫ם ַהצֹּאן ַו ֲה ִשׁ ֵבנִ י‬I‫ת־שׁל‬
ְ ‫ ְו ֶא‬14. [Israel] said to [Joseph]: Please go see
how your brothers and flocks are faring,
:‫ָ בֹא ְשׁ ֶכ ָמה‬H‫ן ַו‬I‫ ֵמ ֵע ֶמק ֶח ְבר‬and bring me word. So he sent him out
from the valley of Hebron, and he came
U‫ִ ְשׁ ָאלֵ ה‬H‫ ָשּׂ ֶדה ַו‬Cַ ‫ ִאישׁ ְו ִהנֵּ ה ת ֶֹעה‬U‫ִ ְמ ָצ ֵאה‬H‫ טו ַו‬to Shechem.
:‫ה־תּ ַב ֵרּשׁ‬
ְ ‫ ָה ִאישׁ לֵ אמֹר ַמ‬15. A man found [Joseph], and [t]here he
was wandering in the field; and the man
‫ ָידה־נָּ א לִ י‬Dִ ‫ת־א ַחי ָאנ ִֹכי ְמ ַב ֵרּשׁ ַה‬
ַ ‫אמר ֶא‬
ֶ ֹH‫ טז ַו‬asked him: What do you seek?
:‫ ֵאיפֹה ֵהם ר ִֹעים‬16. [Joseph] said: I seek my brothers.
Please tell me where they are pasturing.
‫ֶ ה ִכּי ָשׁ ַמ ְע ִתּי א ְֹמ ִרים‬Z‫ ִמ‬U‫אמר ָה ִאישׁ נָ ְסע‬
ֶ ֹH‫ יז ַו‬17. The man said: They traveled from
‫ִ ְמ ָצ ֵאם‬H‫סף ַא ַחר ֶא ָחיו ַו‬I‫י‬
ֵ Q ֶ‫ֵ ל‬H‫ ָֹתיְ נָ ה ַו‬S ‫ נֵ לְ ָכה‬here; for I heard them say, Let us go to
:‫ד ָֹתן‬Cְ Dothan. Joseph went after his brothers,
and found them in Dothan.
ֶ ֵ‫ב ֶט ֶרם יִ ְק ַרב ֲאל‬Uְ ‫ ֵמ ָרחֹק‬I‫ אֹת‬U‫ִ ְרא‬H‫ יח ַו‬18. When they saw [Joseph] from afar,
:I‫ לַ ֲה ִמית‬I‫ אֹת‬U‫ִ ְתנַ ְכּל‬H‫ ַו‬even before he came near them, they
conspired to slay him.
Rashi Gen. 37:15
(‫כא‬:‫ ט‬w‫ זה גבריאל שנאמר )דנ‬/‫ וימצאהו איש‬A man found [Joseph] – This is Gavriel,
:‫ והאיש גבריאל‬as it is said (Dan. 9:21), "And the man,
Gen. Rabbah 84:14
‫ אמר רבי‬- ‫וימצאהו איש והנה תועה בשדה‬
‫ שלושה מלאכים נזדווגו לו' וימצאהו‬:‫ינאי‬
‫איש וישאלהו האיש ויאמר האיש נסעו מזה‬
/‫ממדותיו של מקום‬
A man found [Joseph], and [t]here he
was wandering in the field – R. Yannai
said: Three angels potentiated him: "A
man found" (Gen. 37:15); "The man
asked him" (Gen. 37:15); "The man said:
They traveled from here" (Gen. 37:17)
– [these three] being God's measures.
- 40 -
Wiener, S., "Angels and Jigsaw Puzzles" (1989)
written for the National Havurah Conference Newsletter
Until I was in my mid-thirties, Talmud was for me a foreign word, conjuring
up images of old men with beards arguing over how many angels could fit on the
head of a pin. This was especially puzzling to me since I knew from my studies of
medieval and Renaissance art that all angels had long white gowns and broad white
wings. Not even one of them was small enough to fit on the head of a pin.
I've since learned that the Jewish concept of angels is quite different. In
Hebrew the word for angel is mal'ach (messenger). A messenger can be any size or
shape. In [Parshat] Vayetze, Jacob dreams of a ladder reaching from earth to heaven.
"And behold the angels of God are ascending and descending on it" (Gen. 28:12). The
text is not concerned with what the angels look like; it notes instead that there are
many of them, enough to fill both sides of a ladder going from heaven to earth.
Rashi, a medieval commentator, explains that one group consists of the angels
that had accompanied Jacob in the Holy Land. The other group were angels coming
down to escort Jacob on his perilous journey outside the Holy Land. So why did he
need so many angels? Apparently that is not the way of Jewish angels. Midrash, a
collection of rabbinic interpretations, says, "One angel never performs two missions"
(Gen. Rabbah 50:2).
What a fantastic thought! If one angel is only good for one mission, then
there must be an infinite number of angels. Jacob, whose name is changed to Israel,
is the paradigm for the Jewish person. What was true for Jacob should be true for
us. We too must have countless numbers of angels. So what do they look like? And
how can we recognize them?
To Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, an angel can be anybody at all. And anybody at
- 41 -
all can be an angel. Here is how he explains it (Honey from the Rock. p. 68-69):
Each lifetime is the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle
For some there are more pieces.
For others the puzzle is more difficult to assemble.
Some seem to be born with a nearly completed puzzle.
And so it goes.
Souls going this way and that
Trying to assemble all the myriad parts.
But know this. No one has within themselves
All the pieces to their puzzle.
Like before the days when they used to seal
Jigsaw puzzles in cellophane. Insuring that
All the pieces were there.
Everyone carries with them at least one and probably
Many pieces to someone else's puzzle.
Sometimes they know it.
Sometimes they don't.
And when you present your piece
Which is worthless to you,
To another, whether you know it or not,
Whether they know it or not,
You are a messenger from the Most High.
A few weeks ago, I was meeting with incoming rabbinic students at The
Academy for Jewish Religion,1 and I read them this poem and asked them how it
was that they came to our school. The school [was] not well known. One woman
related the following:
"I was waiting in line at the drugstore when the woman
behind me said, 'Would you possibly let me go ahead of you
because I'm late for class?' I saw that she was much older
than the typical student, so I asked what class she was
taking? She told me she was in rabbinic school, and I was
shocked. There is no rabbinic school in the neighborhood.
When she told me that the school met in a building on the
upper West Side of Manhattan that I passed every day, I was
floored. I asked her for the address, and here I am. Imagine
if I had just turned away and said, 'Sorry.'"
1. Ed. – The author was first Dean and then President of the trans-denominational
Academy for Jewish Religion in New York City, after which time she was recruited to serve
as Rosh Hashpa'ah (Head of Spiritual Direction) for the ALEPH Ordination Programs.
- 42 -
Jewish mysticism teaches us that every moment reflects God's intention and
input. Whether or not we believe this is true, living as if it were can make life more
exciting and meaningful. I no longer get fidgety on lines. The person behind me is
now someone I'd like to meet. Maybe he has a piece of my puzzle. Maybe I have a
piece of his. It's a nice thought.
- 43 -
Rabbinic Imagination and the Throne of Glory
As Talmud's rabbis try to discern the composition of heaven, note their the mystical
reference to the Throne of Glory as a vehicle (Merkavah) with a rider, and another "heaven"
above the angels, both of them references Ezekiel 1. Note too the reference to just three levels
of angelic presence inhabiting the realm below the Throne of Glory – not the 10 levels of
Maimonides' rendition – and that these angelic levels are the same ones that the piyyut "El
Adon" describes as carrying the Throne of Glory. Finally, note the rabbinic sense that there
is an even higher heaven but that we mortals are not permitted to speak of it.
Babylonian Talmud, Chagigah 12b-13a
‫שם אופנים ושרפים וחיות הקדש ומלאכי‬
‫ מלך אל חי רם‬/‫השרת וכסא הכבוד‬
w‫ונשא שוכן עליהם בערבות' שנאמר )תה‬
/‫ה( סלו לרכב בערבות ביה שמו‬:‫ס"ח‬
‫ואמר רב אחא בר יעקב עוד רקיע אחד‬
‫יש למעלה מראשי החיות דכתיב‬
‫כב( ודמות על ראשי החיה‬:‫)יחזקאל א‬
‫ יש לך‬/// /‫רקיע כעין הקרח הנורא עד כאן‬
‫רשות לדבר מכאן ואילך אין לך רשות‬
‫לדבר שכן כתוב בספר בן סירא במופלא‬
‫ממך אל תדרוש ובמכוסה ממך אל‬
‫תחקור במה שהורשית התבונן אין לך‬
/‫עסק בנסתרות‬
There [in heaven] are the Ophanim and
Seraphim and Chayot haKodesh, and the
ministering angels and the Throne of Glory.
The Sovereign – the living God, high and
exalted, dwells among them [there] in
heaven – as it is said (Ps. 68:5), "Extol the
rider on the heavens by [the] name Yah." R.
Acha bar Jacob said, "There is one more
heaven above the Chayot," as it is written
(Ezek. 1:22), "And the likeness of the
firmament was on the heads of the Chayot,
like the color of awesome ice stretched
above their heads." ... Until this point, you
have permission to speak [about], but
further you do not have permission to
speak, as it is written in the Book of Ben
Sira, "Do not request what is too wondrous
for you: you have no business investigating
the [innermost] secrets [of the heavens]."
Psalm 68:1-5
:‫ר ִשׁיר‬I‫ א לַ ְמנַ ֵצּ ַח לְ ָד ִוד ִמזְ מ‬1. To David's chief Musician, a psalm song:
2. May God arise, let God's enemies be
U‫ס‬U‫יְ ָביו ְויָ נ‬I‫ א‬U‫צ‬U‫הים יָ פ‬O
ִ ‫ם ֱא‬U‫ ב יָ ק‬scattered; let those who hate God flee
:‫ ְמ ַשׂנְ ָאיו ִמ ָפּנָ יו‬before [God's presence].
ֵ ֵ‫נַ ג ִמ ְפּנ‬IS ‫ֹף ְכּ ִה ֵמּס‬S ְ‫ֹף ָע ָשׁן ִתּנ‬S ְ‫ ג ְכּ ִהנ‬3. As smoke is driven away, so drive them
away; as wax melts before fire, so let the
ִ ‫ ְר ָשׁ ִעים ִמ ְפּנֵ י ֱא‬U‫אבד‬
ְ ֹ‫ י‬wicked perish at God's presence.
ִ Sִ ‫ ד ְו ַצ‬4. But let the righteous be glad; let them
ִ ‫ לִ ְפנֵ י ֱא‬U‫ יַ ַעלְ צ‬U‫יקים יִ ְשׂ ְמח‬
:‫ ְב ִשׂ ְמ ָחה‬U‫ ְויָ ִשׂישׂ‬rejoice before God and joyfully exult.
5. Sing to God, sing [God's] name; extol the
‫ לָ ר ֵֹכב‬U‫ סֹלּ‬I‫ ְשׁמ‬U‫הים זַ ְמּר‬O‫א‬
ֵ‫ ל‬U‫ ה ִשׁיר‬One who rides on the heavens by [the]
:‫ לְ ָפנָ יו‬U‫ ְו ִעלְ ז‬I‫ ְשׁמ‬V ָ‫י‬Cְ ‫ת‬I‫ ֲע ָרב‬Cָ name Yah: rejoice before [God].
- 44 -
Isaiah, Chapter 6:1-9
‫ ָו ֶא ְר ֶאה ֶאת־‬U‫ָ ה‬H ִZ‫ ֻע‬Q ֶ‫ת ַה ֶמּל‬I‫ ְשׁנַ ת־מ‬Cִ ‫ א‬1. In the year king Uzziah died, I saw God
‫לָ יו‬U‫ל־כּ ֵסּא ָרם ְונִ ָשּׂא ְושׁ‬
ִ ‫ישׁב ַע‬
ֵ ‫ ֲאדֹנָ י‬sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and
ָ ‫ת־ה ֵה‬
ַ ‫ ְמלֵ ִאים ֶא‬God's train filled the Temple.
‫ ֵשׁשׁ ְכּנָ ַפיִ ם‬I‫ ב ְשׂ ָר ִפים ע ְֹמ ִדים ִמ ַמּ ַעל ל‬2. Above it stood Seraphim: each had six
‫ ְשׁ ַתּיִ ם יְ ַכ ֶסּה ָפנָ יו‬Cִ ‫ ֵשׁשׁ ְכּנָ ַפיִ ם לְ ֶא ָחד‬wings – with two covering the face, with two
ֵ ְ‫ב ְשׁ ַתּיִ ם י‬Uִ ‫ב ְשׁ ַתּיִ ם יְ ַכ ֶסּה ַר ְגלָ יו‬Uִ covering the feet, and with two flying.
‫שׁ‬I‫שׁ ָקד‬I‫ ג ְו ָק ָרא זֶ ה ֶאל־זֶ ה ְו ָא ַמר ָקד‬3. And one cried to another saying, "Holy,
‫ל־ה ָא ֶרץ‬
ָ ‫א ָכ‬O‫ת ְמ‬I‫שׁ יְ ה ָֹוה ְצ ָבא‬I‫ ָקד‬holy, holy, is YHVH Tz'vaot; the whole earth
:I‫ד‬I‫ ְכּב‬fills with God's glory."
ֵ ‫ל ַה‬I‫ת ַה ִסּ ִפּים ִמרּ‬I‫ ַאמּ‬U‫ָ ֻנע‬H‫ ד ַו‬4. And the doorposts moved at the voice of
:‫יִ ת יִ ָמּלֵ א ָע ָשׁן‬Cַ ‫ ְו ַה‬the One calling, and the house was filled
with smoke.
‫יתי ִכּי ִאישׁ ְט ֵמא־‬
ִ ‫י־לִ י ִכי־נִ ְד ֵמ‬I‫ה ָוא ַֹמר א‬
‫ם־ט ֵמא ְשׂ ָפ ַתיִ ם‬
ְ ‫ ַע‬QI‫בת‬Uְ ‫ְשׂ ָפ ַתיִ ם ָאנ ִֹכי‬
‫ת‬I‫ יְ ה ָֹוה ְצ ָבא‬Q ֶ‫ת־ה ֶמּל‬
ַ ‫ָאנ ִֹכי יֹ ֵשׁב ִכּי ֶא‬
:‫ ֵעינָ י‬U‫ָרא‬
5. Then I said, "Woe is me, for I am undone;
because I am a man of unclean lips, and I
dwell in the midst of a people of unclean
lips; for my eyes have seen the Sovereign,
YHVH Tz'vaot."
I‫ביָ ד‬Uְ ‫ן־ה ְשּׂ ָר ִפים‬
ַ ‫ָ ָעף ֵאלַ י ֶא ָחד ִמ‬H‫ ו ַו‬6. One of the Seraphim flew to me with a live
:‫ ַח‬Cֵ ְ‫ ֶמלְ ָק ַחיִ ם לָ ַקח ֵמ ַעל ַה ִמּז‬Cְ ‫ ִר ְצ ָפּה‬coal in its hand, which it had taken with the
tongs from off the Altar.
‫אמר ִהנֵּ ה נָ ַגע זֶ ה ַעל־‬
ֶ ֹH‫ל־פּי ַו‬
ִ ‫ע ַע‬Dַ ַH‫ ז ַו‬7. And it laid [the coal] on my mouth saying,
:‫ ְתּ ֻכ ָפּר‬W‫את‬
ְ Yָ ‫ ְו ַח‬W ֶ‫נ‬I‫ ְו ָסר ֲע‬W‫" ְשׂ ָפ ֶתי‬Behold, this has touched your lips; and your
iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged."
ִ ‫ל ֲאדֹנָ י א ֵֹמר ֶא‬I‫ ח ָו ֶא ְשׁ ַמע ֶאת־ק‬8. I heard the voice of God, saying, "Whom
:‫ ָוא ַֹמר ִהנְ נִ י ְשׁלָ ֵחנִ י‬U‫־לָ נ‬Q ֶ‫מי יֵ ל‬U
ִ ‫ ֶא ְשׁלַ ח‬shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then
said I, "Here I am: send me."
U‫ֶ ה ִשׁ ְמע‬Z‫ ְו ָא ַמ ְר ָתּ לָ ָעם ַה‬Q ֵ‫אמר ל‬
ֶ ֹH‫ ט ַו‬9. And [God] said, "Go and tell this people,
:U‫ל־תּ ָדע‬
ֵ ‫ ְו ַא‬I‫ ָרא‬U‫רא‬Uְ U‫ל־תּ ִבינ‬
ָ ‫ע ְו ַא‬I‫מ‬
ַ ‫ ָשׁ‬You surely hear but do not understand. You
surely see but do not perceive."
- 45 -
Nusach HaTefilah, Shacharit l'Chol, Yotzer
May You be blessed, our Rock, Sovereign
and Redeemer, Creator of holiness. May
Your Name be praised forever, our
Sovereign, fashioner of ministering angels.
In [God's] service they all stand in
supernal heights and proclaim with awe,
together aloud, words of the living God
ִ Dִ ‫רים ֻכּלָּ ם‬U‫ר‬
ִ Cְ ‫בים ֻכּלָּ ם‬U‫ה‬
ִ ‫ ֻכּלָּ ם ֲא‬and Sovereign of the universe –
ֵ U‫ ְוג ֲֹאלֵ נ‬U‫ ַמלְ ֵכּנ‬U‫רנ‬U‫צ‬
ֵ Q‫ ַר‬Cָ ‫ִתּ ְת‬
ֵ U‫ח ִשׁ ְמך לָ ַעד ַמלְ ֵכּנ‬Cַ ‫ יִ ְשׁ ַתּ‬,‫שׁים‬I‫ד‬
ִ ‫ְק‬
‫מ ִדים‬I‫ע‬
ְ ‫ְמ ָשׁ ְר ִתים ַו ֲא ֶשׁר ְמ ָשׁ ְר ָתיו ֻכּלָּ ם‬
‫ל‬I‫ק‬Cְ ‫יִ ְר ָאה יַ ַחד‬Cְ ‫מ ְשׁ ִמ ִיעים‬U
ַ ‫לָ ם‬I‫ם ע‬U‫ר‬Cְ
.‫לָ ם‬I‫ ע‬Q ֶ‫מל‬U
ֶ ‫ִ ים‬H‫הים ַח‬O
ִ ‫ ְב ֵרי ֱא‬Sִ
.‫נָ ם‬I‫ן ק‬I‫ביִ ְר ָאה ְרצ‬Uְ ‫ימה‬
ָ ‫ ֵא‬Cְ ‫ ְו ֻכלָּ ם ע ִֹשׂים‬All beloved, all clear, all strong, and all
doing with dread and reverence the will of
their Maker.
‫ב ָט ֲֳה ָרה‬Uְ ‫ ְק ֻד ָשּׁה‬Cִ ‫יהם‬
ֶ ‫ת ִחים ֶאת ִפּ‬I‫פּ‬
ְ ‫ְו ֻכלָּ ם‬
‫ ִחים‬Cְ ‫מ ַשׁ‬U
ְ ‫ ְמ ָב ְר ִכים‬Uְ ‫בזִ ְמ ָרה‬Uְ ‫ ִשׁ ָירה‬Cְ
ִ ִ‫מ ְמל‬U
ַ ‫ישׁים‬
ִ Sִ ‫מ ְק‬U
ַ ‫יצים‬
ִ ‫מ ֲע ִר‬U
ַ ‫מ ָפ ֲא ִרים‬U
And they all open their mouths in holiness
and purity, in song and hymn, and they
bless, praise, glorify, revere, sanctify and
enthrone –
ָ ‫ר ְו ַה‬ICDִ ‫ל ַה‬I‫ד‬Dָ ‫ ַה‬Q ֶ‫ֶאת ֵשׁם ָה ֵאל ַה ֶמּל‬
‫יהם עֹל‬
ֶ ֵ‫לִ ים ֲעל‬Cְ ‫ ְו ֻכלָּ ם ְמ ַק‬:‫א‬U‫שׁ ה‬I‫ָקד‬
‫ת זֶ ה‬U‫תנִ ים ְרשׁ‬I‫נ‬
ְ ‫ֶ ה ְו‬Z‫ת ָשׁ ַמיִ ם זֶ ה ִמ‬U‫ַמלְ כ‬
‫ ָשׂ ָפה‬Cְ ‫ח‬U‫ר‬
ַ ‫נַ ַחת‬Cְ ‫צ ָרם‬I‫י‬
ְ ְ‫ישׁ ל‬Sִ ‫לָ זֶ ה לְ ַה ְק‬
‫נִ ים‬I‫ימה ְק ֻד ָשּׁה ֻכּלָ ם ְכּ ֶא ָחד ע‬
ָ ‫ב ִנְע‬Uִ ‫רה‬U‫ר‬
ָ ‫ְב‬
:‫יִ ְר ָאה‬Cְ ‫מ ִרים‬I‫א‬
ְ ‫ְו‬
the Name of God, the great, mighty and
awesome Sovereign, Blessed Be. And they
all take on themselves from one another
the yoke of heaven, and give each other
permission to sanctify the One who
formed them with pleasure, in clear
language and holy melody. All as one,
they answer and say with awe:
‫א ָכל‬O‫ת ְמ‬I‫שׁ ה' ְצ ָבא‬I‫שׁ ָקד‬I‫שׁ ָקד‬I‫" ָקד‬Holy, holy, holy is YHVH Tzeva'ot: the
:I‫ד‬I‫ ָה ָא ֶרץ ְכּב‬whole earth fills with [God's] glory."
‫ל‬I‫ד‬Dָ ‫ ַר ַעשׁ‬Cְ ‫ת ַהרּ ֶֹדשׁ‬IH‫פנִּ ים ְו ַח‬I‫א‬
ַ ‫ ְו ָה‬And the ophanim and chayot ha'kodesh, with
‫ ִמ ְתנַ ְשּׂ ִאים לְ ֻע ַמּת ְשׂ ָר ִפים לְ ֻע ָמּ ָתם‬great noise, rise opposite (ed. – or toward)
seraphim. Facing them, they praise saying –
– ‫מ ִרים‬I‫א‬
ְ ‫ ִחים ְו‬Cְ ‫ְמ ַשׁ‬
:I‫מ‬I‫ד ה' ִמ ְמּק‬I‫ ְכּב‬QU‫ר‬Cָ "Blessed is the glory of YHVH from
[God's] place."
‫ָ ם‬H‫ ֵאל ַחי ְו ַק‬Q ֶ‫ לְ ֶמל‬U‫ת יִ ֵתּנ‬I‫ ִנְעימ‬QU‫ר‬Cָ ‫לְ ֵאל‬
‫א‬U‫ ִכּי ה‬.U‫ת יַ ְשׁ ִמיע‬I‫ח‬Cָ ‫ ְו ִת ְשׁ‬U‫אמר‬
ֵ ֹ‫ת י‬I‫זְ ִמר‬
‫ ַעל‬Cַ ‫ת‬I‫ת ע ֶֹשׂה ֲח ָדשׁ‬I‫ר‬U‫ב‬Dְ ‫על‬I‫פּ‬
ֵ IS‫לְ ַב‬
‫ת‬I‫ע‬U‫יח יְ שׁ‬
ַ ‫ת ַמ ְצ ִמ‬I‫ר ַע ְצ ָדק‬I‫ז‬
ֵ ‫ת‬I‫ִמלְ ָחמ‬
‫ן‬I‫ת ֲאד‬I‫רא ְת ִהלּ‬I‫נ‬
ָ ‫ת‬I‫א‬U‫רא ְרפ‬IC
‫ם ָתּ ִמיד‬I‫ ָכל י‬Cְ I‫ב‬U‫ט‬Cְ ‫שׁ‬Sֵ ‫ ַה ְמ ַח‬.‫ת‬I‫ַהנִ ְפלָ א‬
ִ ‫ר לְ ע ֵֹשׂה‬U‫ ָכּ ָאמ‬.‫אשׁית‬
ִ ‫ַמ ֲע ֵשׂה ְב ֵר‬
:IS‫לָ ם ַח ְס‬I‫דֹלִ ים ִכּי לְ ע‬Dְ
To the blessed God they give melodies, to
the Sovereign, living and enduring God,
they sing hymns and proclaim praises. For
[God] alone effects mighty acts, makes
new things, masters war, sows justice,
causes the flourishing of salvation, creates
healing, awesome in praise, master of
wonders. In goodness God daily renews
creation, as it is said: [Praise] the Maker of
great lights whose kindness is eternal.
- 46 -
Ezekiel 1:5-28
ֶ ‫ת ְוזֶ ה ַמ ְר ֵא‬IH‫ע ַח‬Cַ ‫ת ַא ְר‬U‫מ‬Sְ V‫כ‬I‫תּ‬
ָ ‫מ‬U
ִ ‫ ה‬5. And out of its midst came the likeness of
:‫ת ָא ָדם לָ ֵהנָּ ה‬U‫מ‬Sְ four chayot. Their appearance was as a man.
6. Each had four faces and four wings.
‫ע ְכּנָ ַפיִ ם‬Cַ ‫ ָעה ָפנִ ים לְ ֶא ָחת ְו ַא ְר‬Cָ ‫ו ְו ַא ְר‬
:‫ לְ ַא ַחת לָ ֶהם‬7. And their feet were straight; and the sole
of their feet was like the sole of a calf’s foot
sparkling like the color of burnished bronze.
‫יהם ְכּ ַכף‬
ֶ ֵ‫יהם ֶר ֶגל יְ ָשׁ ָרה ְו ַכף ַר ְגל‬
ֶ ֵ‫ז ְו ַר ְגל‬
:‫ ֶר ֶגל ֵע ֶגל ְונ ְֹצ ִצים ְכּ ֵעין נְ ח ֶֹשׁת ָקלָ ל‬8. And they had a man's hands under their
wings on their four sides; and the four had
‫ ַעת‬Cַ ‫יהם ַעל ַא ְר‬
ֶ ‫ ח ִו ֵידי ָא ָדם ִמ ַתּ ַחת ַכּנְ ֵפ‬their faces and wings thus:
:‫ ְע ָתּם‬Cַ ‫יהם לְ ַא ְר‬
ֶ ‫יהם ְו ַכנְ ֵפ‬
ֶ ֵ‫פנ‬U
ְ ‫יהם‬
ֶ ‫ ִר ְב ֵע‬9. Their wings joined one to another, not
turning when they went; each went ahead.
ֶ ‫ ַכּנְ ֵפ‬V‫ת‬I‫ח‬
ָ ‫ל־א‬
ֲ ‫ט ח ְֹברֹת ִא ָשּׁה ֶא‬
:U‫ל־ע ֶבר ָפּנָ יו יֵ לֵ כ‬
ֵ ‫ ְבלֶ ְכ ָתּן ִאישׁ ֶא‬UC‫א־יִ ַסּ‬O 10. As for their faces, the four had the face
of a man and the face of a lion on the right
and the face of an ox on the left side;
‫פנֵ י ַא ְריֵ ה‬U
ְ ‫יהם ְפּנֵ י ָא ָדם‬
ֶ ֵ‫ת ְפּנ‬U‫דמ‬Uְ ‫ י‬side;
the four also had the face of an eagle.
‫ר‬I‫פנֵ י־שׁ‬U
ְ ‫ ְע ָתּם‬Cַ ‫ָ ִמין לְ ַא ְר‬H‫ל־ה‬
ַ ‫ֶא‬
:‫ ְע ָתּן‬Cַ ‫פנֵ י־נֶ ֶשׁר לְ ַא ְר‬U
ְ ‫ ְע ָתּן‬Cַ ‫ ֵמ ַה ְשּׂמֹאול לְ ַא ְר‬11. So were their faces, their wings stretched
upward; two wings of each joined one to
‫ת ִמלְ ָמ ְעלָ ה‬I‫יהם ְ ֻפּרד‬
ֶ ‫יהם ְו ַכנְ ֵפ‬
ֶ ֵ‫פנ‬U
ְ ‫ יא‬another, and two covered their bodies.
‫ת‬I‫שׁ ַתּיִ ם ְמ ַכסּ‬U
ְ ‫ת ִאישׁ‬I‫בר‬I‫ח‬
ְ ‫ לְ ִאישׁ ְשׁ ַתּיִ ם‬12. And they each went straight ahead;
:‫יהנָ ה‬
ֶ ‫ֹ ֵת‬H‫ ִו‬Dְ ‫ ֵאת‬where the spirit would go, they went; and
they turned not when they went.
‫ ֶאל ֲא ֶשׁר יִ ְהיֶ ה‬U‫ל־ע ֶבר ָפּנָ יו יֵ לֵ כ‬
ֵ ‫יב ְו ִאישׁ ֶא‬
:‫לֶ ְכ ָתּן‬Cְ UC‫א יִ ַסּ‬O U‫ח לָ לֶ ֶכת יֵ לֵ כ‬U‫ר‬
ַ ‫ ָשׁ ָמּה ָה‬13. And the likeness of the chayot was as
burning coals of fire, like the appearance of
ֵ ֵ‫יהם ְכּ ַג ֲחל‬
ֶ ‫ת ַמ ְר ֵא‬IH‫ת ַה ַח‬U‫דמ‬Uְ ‫ יג‬torches, flashing up and down among the
chayot, and the fire was bright, and from the
‫ין‬Cֵ ‫ת ְכּ ַמ ְר ֵאה ַהלַּ ִפּ ִדים ִהיא ִמ ְת ַהלֶּ ֶכת‬I‫ ֲֹער‬C fire went forth lightning.
:‫צא ָב ָרק‬I‫י‬
ֵ ‫ן־ה ֵאשׁ‬
ָ ‫מ‬U
ִ ‫ לָ ֵאשׁ‬V‫ת ְונ ַֹג‬IH‫ַה ַח‬
14. And the chayot ran and returned like the
:‫זָ ק‬Cָ ‫ב ְכּ ַמ ְר ֵאה ַה‬I‫א ָושׁ‬I‫ת ָרצ‬IH‫ יד ְו ַה ַח‬appearance of a flash of lightning.
‫ ָא ֶרץ‬Cָ ‫פן ֶא ָחד‬I‫א‬
ַ ‫ת ְו ִהנֵּ ה‬IH‫ טו ָו ֵא ֶרא ַה ַח‬15. As I saw the chayot, one wheel was on
:‫ ַעת ָפּנָ יו‬Cַ ‫ת לְ ַא ְר‬IH‫ ֵא ֶצל ַה ַח‬the earth by the chayot with its four faces.
16. The appearance of the wheels and their
‫יהם ְכּ ֵעין ַתּ ְר ִשׁישׁ‬
ֶ ‫מ ֲע ֵשׂ‬U
ַ ‫פנִּ ים‬I‫א‬
ַ ‫ טז ַמ ְר ֵאה ָה‬works was as the color of emerald, the four
ֶ ‫מ ְר ֵא‬U
ַ ‫ ְע ָתּן‬Cַ ‫ת ֶא ָחד לְ ַא ְר‬U‫דמ‬Uְ having one likeness; and their appearance
ָ ‫ ָה‬QI‫ת‬Cְ ‫פן‬I‫א‬
ַ ‫יהם ַכּ ֲא ֶשׁר יִ ְהיֶ ה ָה‬
ֶ ‫מ ֲע ֵשׂ‬U
ַ was like a wheel in the middle of a wheel.
‫א‬O U‫לֶ ְכ ָתּם יֵ לֵ כ‬Cְ ‫יהן‬
ֶ ‫ ַעת ִר ְב ֵע‬Cַ ‫ל־א ְר‬
ַ ‫ יז ַע‬17. From any of their four sides they moved;
:‫לֶ ְכ ָתּן‬Cְ UC‫ יִ ַסּ‬and they did not turn in their movement.
- 47 -
‫ ָֹתם‬C‫ לָ ֶהם ְויִ ְר ָאה לָ ֶהם ְו ַג‬V‫יהן ְוג ַֹב‬
ֶ Cֵ ‫ יח ְו ַג‬18. Their rim heights were awesome; and
:‫ ְע ָתּן‬Cַ ‫ ְמלֵ אֹת ֵעינַ יִ ם ָס ִביב לְ ַא ְר‬the rims around the[m] were full of eyes.
19. In the moving of the chayot, the ophanim
‫פנִּ ים ֶא ְצלָ ם‬I‫א‬
ַ ‫ ָה‬U‫ת יֵ לְ כ‬IH‫בלֶ ֶכת ַה ַח‬Uְ ‫ יט‬were with them; and in the chayot lifting off
‫פנִּ ים‬I‫א‬
ַ ָ
ְ ָ‫ת ֵמ ַעל ָה ָא ֶרץ יִ נּ‬IH‫ב ִהנָּ ֵשׂא ַה ַח‬Uְ the earth, the ophanim were lifted.
U‫ח לָ לֶ ֶכת יֵ לֵ כ‬U‫ר‬
ַ ‫ה־שּׁם ָה‬
ָ ֶ‫כ ַעל ֲא ֶשׁר יִ ְהי‬
U‫פנִּ ים יִ נָּ ְשׂא‬I‫א‬
ַ ‫ח לָ לֶ ֶכת ְו ָה‬U‫ר‬
ַ ‫ָשׁ ָמּה ָה‬
:‫פנִּ ים‬I‫א‬
ַ Cָ ‫ָ ה‬H‫ח ַה ַח‬U‫ר‬
ַ ‫לְ ֻע ָמּ ָתם ִכּי‬
20. Wherever the spirit went, they moved
for the spirit wanted to go there, and the
wheels were lifted with them; for the spirit
of the chayot was in the wheels.
U‫ב ָע ְמ ָדם יַ ֲעמֹד‬Uְ U‫לֶ ְכ ָתּם יֵ לֵ כ‬Cְ ‫כא‬
‫פנִּ ים‬I‫א‬
ַ ‫ ָה‬U‫ב ִהנָּ ְשׂ ָאם ֵמ ַעל ָה ָא ֶרץ יִ נָּ ְשׂא‬Uְ
:‫פנִּ ים‬I‫א‬
ַ Cָ ‫ָ ה‬H‫ח ַה ַח‬U‫ר‬
ַ ‫לְ ֻע ָמּ ָתם ִכּי‬
21. When they moved, these moved; and
when they stood still, these stood still; and
when they were lifted from the earth, the
wheels were lifted with them; for the spirit
of the chayot was in the wheels.
‫ָ ה ָר ִק ַיע ְכּ ֵעין‬H‫אשׁי ַה ַח‬
ֵ ‫ל־ר‬
ָ ‫ת ַע‬U‫דמ‬Uְ ‫כב‬
:‫יהם ִמלְ ָמ ְעלָ ה‬
ֶ ‫אשׁ‬
ֵ ‫ל־ר‬
ָ ‫י ַע‬U‫רא נָ ט‬I‫נּ‬
ָ ‫ ַה ֶרּ ַרח ַה‬22. And the likeness of the firmament was
on the heads of the chayot, like the color of
awesome ice stretched above their heads.
‫ת ִא ָשּׁה‬I‫יהם יְ ָשׁר‬
ֶ ‫כג ְו ַת ַחת ָה ָר ִק ַיע ַכּנְ ֵפ‬
‫ת לָ ֵהנָּ ה‬I‫ לְ ִאישׁ ְשׁ ַתּיִ ם ְמ ַכסּ‬V‫ת‬I‫ח‬
ָ ‫ל־א‬
ֲ ‫ ֶא‬23. And under the firmament their wings
ֶ ‫ֹ ֵת‬H‫ ִו‬Dְ ‫ת לָ ֵהנָּ ה ֵאת‬I‫לְ ִאישׁ ְשׁ ַתּיִ ם ְמ ַכסּ‬U were held straight, one toward another;
each had two covering them [and] each had
‫ל ַמיִ ם‬I‫יהם ְכּק‬
ֶ ‫ל ַכּנְ ֵפ‬I‫ כד ָו ֶא ְשׁ ַמע ֶאת־ק‬two covering the bodies.
‫ל‬I‫ל ֲה ֻמלָּ ה ְכּק‬I‫לֶ ְכ ָתּם ק‬Cְ ‫י‬Sַ ‫ל־שׁ‬I‫ק‬
‫ים ְכּ‬Cִ ‫ ַר‬24. I heard the voice of their wings like the
ֶ ‫ ָע ְמ ָדם ְתּ ַר ֶפּינָ ה ַכנְ ֵפ‬Cְ ‫ ַמ ֲחנֶ ה‬voice of great waters when they moved, like
the voice of the Almighty, the voice of a
ָ ‫ל ֵמ ַעל לָ ָר ִק ַיע ֲא ֶשׁר ַעל־ר‬I‫ כה ַויְ ִהי־ק‬tumult, like the noise of an army camp;
ֶ ‫ ָע ְמ ָדם ְתּ ַר ֶפּינָ ה ַכנְ ֵפ‬Cְ when they stood, they let down their wings.
25. There was a voice above the firmament
‫ֹאשׁם ְכּ ַמ ְר ֵאה‬
ָ ‫מ ַמּ ַעל לָ ָר ִק ַיע ֲא ֶשׁר ַעל־ר‬U
ִ ‫ כו‬over their heads, when they stood still and
‫ת ַה ִכּ ֵסּא‬U‫מ‬Sְ ‫ת ִכּ ֵסּא ְו ַעל‬U‫מ‬Sְ ‫ן־ס ִפּיר‬
ַ ‫ ֶא ֶב‬let down their wings.
:‫ת ְכּ ַמ ְר ֵאה ָא ָדם ָעלָ יו ִמלְ ָמ ְעלָ ה‬U‫מ‬Sְ
26. Above the firmament over their heads
like the appearance of sapphire stone,
V ָ‫ית־ל‬Cֵ ‫ה־אשׁ‬
ֵ ‫ כז ָו ֵא ֶרא ְכּ ֵעין ַח ְשׁ ַמל ְכּ ַמ ְר ֵא‬was
like a throne; and on [it] was a likeness as
‫מ ַמּ ְר ֵאה‬U
ִ ‫לְ ָמ ְעלָ ה‬U ‫ ָס ִביב ִמ ַמּ ְר ֵאה ָמ ְתנָ יו‬the appearance of a man.
I‫ ל‬V‫ה־אשׁ ְונ ַֹג‬
ֵ ‫יתי ְכּ ַמ ְר ֵא‬
ִ ‫ה ָר ִא‬Yָ ‫לְ ַמ‬U ‫ָמ ְתנָ יו‬
:‫ ָס ִביב‬27. I saw the color of electricity, like fire
around it, from what appeared to be loins
and from [there] downward, I saw
‫ם‬I‫י‬Cְ ‫ כח ְכּ ַמ ְר ֵאה ַה ֶרּ ֶשׁת ֲא ֶשׁר יִ ְהיֶ ה ֶב ָענָ ן‬upward;
what appeared to be fire, bright all around.
‫א ַמ ְר ֵאה‬U‫ ָס ִביב ה‬V‫ ֶשׁם ֵכּן ַמ ְר ֵאה ַהנּ ַֹג‬Dֶ ‫ַה‬
‫ל־פּנַ י‬
ָ ‫ ָו ֶא ְר ֶאה ָו ֶאפֹּל ַע‬w‫ד־ה‬I‫ת ְכּב‬U‫מ‬Sְ 28. Like the bow in the cloud on a rainy day,
:‫ר‬Cֵ ‫ל ְמ ַד‬I‫ ָו ֶא ְשׁ ַמע ק‬so did its brightness appear around it: this
was the likeness of God's glory, and when I
saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice
- 48 -
Nusach HaTefilah, Shacharit l'Shabbat v'Yom Tov, El Adon
"El Adon" is among the most famous and widely utilized piyyutim (liturgical poems)
of the Jewish canon. Believed to date to post-exile Israel between 100-300 C.E., this acrostic
piyyut depicts a divine ontology that includes angelic forms amidst God's works of Creation.
Note which angelic forms the piyyut mentions, what functions the piyyut attributes to them,
and in what order the piyyut lists them.
'‫ן ַעל ָכּל ַה ַמּ ֲע ִשׂים‬I‫ֵאל ָאד‬
/‫ ִפי ָכּל נְּ ָשׁ ָמה‬Cְ Q‫מב ָֹר‬U
ְ QU‫ר‬Cָ
'‫לָ ם‬I‫ ָמלֵ א ע‬I‫ב‬U‫ ְוט‬I‫ ְדל‬Dָ
:I‫ת‬I‫נָ ה ס ְֹב ִבים א‬U‫תב‬U
ְ ‫ ַעת‬Sַ
God, Master of all works
Blessed, made blessed by every soul,
God's greatness and goodness fills the world
Wisdom and insight surrounding [God].
ֶ ‫ת ַה‬IH‫ ֶאה ַעל ַח‬Dָ ‫ַה ִמּ ְת‬
/‫ד ַעל ַה ֶמּ ְר ָכּ ָבה‬I‫ ָכב‬Cְ ‫ר‬Sָ ‫ְונֶ ְה‬
'I‫ר לִ ְפנֵ י ִכ ְסא‬I‫מישׁ‬U
ִ ‫ת‬U‫זְ כ‬
:I‫ד‬I‫ֶח ֶסד ְו ַר ֲח ִמים לִ ְפנֵ י ְכב‬
The One exalted over the Chayot HaKodesh
Splendrous in glory on the Merkavah:
Merit and fairness are before [God's] throne,
Kindness and mercy before God's glory.
ֵ ‫ ָרא ֱא‬Cָ ‫ת ֶש‬I‫ר‬I‫בים ְמא‬I‫ט‬
/‫ב ַה ְשׂ ֵכּל‬Uְ ‫ ִבינָ ה‬Cְ ‫ ַד ַעת‬Cְ ‫יְ ָצ ָרם‬
'‫ ֶהם‬Cָ ‫רה נָ ַתן‬U‫ב‬
ָ ‫ג‬Uְ ‫כּ ַֹח‬
:‫ ֶק ֶרב ֵתּ ֵבל‬Cְ ‫שׁלִ ים‬I‫מ‬
ְ ‫ת‬I‫לִ ְהי‬
'V‫יקים נ ַֹג‬
ִ ‫מ ִפ‬U
ְ ‫ְמלֵ ִאים זִ יו‬
/‫לָ ם‬I‫ ָכל ָהע‬Cְ ‫נָ ֶאה זִ ָיום‬
ָ Cְ ‫אתם ְו ָשׂ ִשׂים‬
ָ ‫ ֵצ‬Cְ ‫ְשׂ ֵמ ִחים‬
:‫נָ ם‬I‫ן ק‬I‫ימה ְרצ‬
ָ ‫ ֵא‬Cְ ‫ע ִֹשׂים‬
'I‫תנִ ים לִ ְשׁמ‬I‫נ‬
ְ ‫ד‬I‫ְפּ ֵאר ְו ָכב‬
/I‫ת‬U‫ָצ ֳהלָ ה ְו ִרנָּ ה לְ זֵ ֶכר ַמלְ כ‬
'‫ר‬I‫ִ זְ ַרח א‬H‫ָק ָרא לַ ֶשּׁ ֶמשׁ ַו‬
:‫רת ַהלְּ ָבנָ ה‬U‫צ‬
ַ ‫ָר ָאה ְו ִה ְת ִקין‬
I‫תנִ ים ל‬I‫נ‬
ְ ‫ֶשׁ ַבח‬
'‫ם‬I‫ָכּל ְצ ָבא ָמר‬
'‫ִתּ ְפ ֶא ֶרת ְו ְג ֻדלָּ ה‬
:‫ת ַהרּ ֶֹדשׁ‬IH‫פנִּ ים ְו ַח‬I‫א‬
ַ ‫ְשׂ ָר ִפים ְו‬
The lights that God made are good,
Made with wisdom, insight and discernment.
[God] gave them power and strength,
To be dominant in the midst of the world.
Filled with luster and radiating brightness,
Their luster is beautiful worldwide
Joyful in going out, exultant in coming in,
They do with awe the will of their Creator.
Splendor and glory that give [God's] Name,
Jubilation and song on recalling God's reign.
[God] called the sun and it shined with light,
[God] saw and fixed the form of the moon.
Give [God] praise,
All the tz'va marom;
Splendor and greatness,
Seraphim, ofanim and chayot ha'kodesh.
- 49 -
"Grow, Grow"
Bereshit Rabbah 10:6
'‫ אלוה העלה סמים מן הארץ‬:‫ בר סירא אמר‬Bar Sirah said, "God causes drugs to rise
‫ בהם הרופא מרפא את המכה' ובהם הרוקח‬from the ground; with them the doctor
the wound and the apothecary
‫ אין לך‬:‫ אמר רבי סימון‬/‫ מרקח את המרקחת‬heals
compounds the preparation." R. Simon
‫ כל עשב ועשב' שאין לו מזל ברקיע' שמכה‬said, "There is not even a blade of grass
‫ אותו ואומר לו גדל' הדא הוא דכתיב )איוב‬lacking a mazal in the heavens, which
‫ הידעת חקות שמים אם תשים משטרו‬:(‫ לח‬hits it and says, "Grow," as it is written
/w‫( בארץ וגו‬Job 38:33), "Can you know heaven's
ordinances? Can you establish its
dominion on the earth?"
Job 38:25-33
:‫ת‬Iֽ‫ לַ ֲֽחזִ יז קֹל‬Q‫ֽי־פלַּ ג לַ ֶשּׁ ֶטף ְתּ ָעלָ ה ְו ֶד ֶר‬
ִ ‫ כה ִמ‬25. [Do you know] who divided a water
course for the rain torrents, or a way for
the lightning of thunder,
‫ֽא־א ָדם‬
ָ O ‫ר‬Cָ ‫ֽא־אישׁ ִמ ְד‬
ִ O ‫ל־א ֶרץ‬
ֶ ‫כו לְ ַה ְמ ִטיר ַע‬
:IֽC 26. To cause rain on land where no man
is, on wilderness where there is no man,
:‫יח מ ָֹצא ֶד ֶֽשׁא‬
ְ ‫ ַיע שׁ ָֹאה‬Cִ ‫ כז לְ ַה ְשׂ‬27. To satisfy the desolate and waste
ַ ‫לְ ַה ְצ ִמ‬U ‫משׁ ָֹאה‬U
ָ ֵ‫לִ יד ֶא ְגל‬I‫ ִמי־ה‬I‫כח ֲהיֵ שׁ־לַ ָמּ ָטר ָאב א‬
ground; and cause the bud of tender
herb to sprout?
28. Has the rain a father? Or who begot
:Iֽ‫כפֹר ָשׁ ַמיִ ם ִמי יְ לָ ד‬U
ְ ‫ ֶטן ִמי יָ ָצא ַה ָרּ ַרח‬Cֶ ‫ כט ִמ‬the drops of dew?
29. Out of whose womb came the ice?
:U‫ם יִ ְתלַ ָכּֽד‬I‫פנֵ י ְתה‬U
ְ U‫א‬Cָ ‫ ל ָכּ ֶא ֶבן ַמיִ ם יִ ְת ַח‬And heaven's hoary frost, who gave it
‫ת ְכּ ִסיל‬I‫־מ ְֽשׁכ‬Iֽ‫ימה א‬
ָ ‫ת ִכּ‬I‫ לא ַה ְת ַק ֵשּׁר ַמ ֲֽע ַדנּ‬30. The waters are hidden as with a
:‫ ְתּ ַפ ֵתּ ַֽח‬stone, and the face of the deep is frozen.
31. Can you bind the chains of the
:‫יה ַתנְ ֵחֽם‬
ָ ֶ‫נ‬C‫ל־‬
ָ ‫ ְו ַעיִ שׁ ַע‬I‫ ִעתּ‬Cְ ‫ת‬I‫ָ ר‬Z‫ לב ֲהת ִֹציא ַמ‬Pleiades, or loose the cords of Orion?
32. Can you bring forth the Mazzarot in
I‫ם־תּ ִשׂים ִמ ְשׁ ָטר‬
ָ ‫ת ָשׁ ָמיִ ם ִא‬I‫ לג ֲהיָ ַד ְע ָתּ ֻחרּ‬their season? Can you guide the Bear
:‫ באֽרץ‬with his sons?
ֶָ ָ
33. Do you know heaven's ordinances?
Can you establish its dominion on the
- 50 -
McLean, D., "Devas, Fairies and Nature Spirits," Big Book of Angels,
(Rodale ed. 2002), pp. 109-113.
In 1962, Dorothy McLean and friends founded a spiritual community called
Findhorn in a desolate, cold and sandy area of Scotland, 600 miles south of the Arctic Circle.
They grew 42 pound cabbages and other amazing plants without fertilizers or pesticides, a
feat which they attributed to divine and angelic guidance. A close friend of R. Shohama who
lived there has confirmed these reports. Angels who guide nature are sometimes referred to
as devas (Sanskrit for “shining ones”), nature spirits or fairies. Dorothy McLean has since
written a number of books, including To Hear the Angels Sing.
Years ago while at Findhorn, I was very surprised and skeptical when I was
told from my inner divinity that such things as planets, clouds and vegetables had
an overlighting intelligence and that I was to attune to and harmonize with these
intelligences. When I finally got around to such attunements, I began with the
garden pea, my favorite among the vegetables that we were trying to grow. From its
intelligence, I received a clear inner message, which I put into words as I had been
doing for ten years with my inner attunements. That began my collaboration with
the energies of various plants. These I encountered on the soul level: each group or
species having a soul, which I called a deva, or angel, although to me they were
formless energy fields. With answers to our questions and with our conscious
cooperation, we [at Findhorn] grew remarkably healthy vegetables. The Findhorn
garden became well known for our particular method of gardening.
Almost immediately after my first plant contact, I became aware of a presence
that seemed to be in charge of the area in which we were living. I called it the
Landscape Angel, and it became my mentor regarding various approaches to
gardening and how to cooperate with the devic realm, among other lessons. It, as
well as the God within, often urged me to contact other members of these other
dimensions, and I gradually attuned to angels of qualities, such as an Angel of
Serenity and an Angel of Sound, as these came up in my life. Also, I learned that
- 51 -
when a group of people were separate enough to have their own unique identity,
there was also an inner-level identity representing that particular group. My first
experience of this aspect was with the angel of our own group: Angel of Findhorn.
I had long disliked cities and wanted to live in the country in harmony with
all life, which was the way that I considered that primal peoples lived. While in the
United States in 1976, however, I had the opportunity to visit Native American sites
and found that my notions were merely romantic dreams, for I learned that the
Native Americans had consisted of warring tribes and also live in conditions that
would be very uncomfortable compared to my [then] twentieth-century standards.
The Soul of a City
That discovery broke down my rigid antipathy to cities, and when I next
came to a large city, I was open to any spiritual aspect of the city. I experienced a
wonderful overlighting angel, from whom I received a message in which I was
asked to send love to it. That amazed me, for I thought we receive love from the
angels, not send it. On pondering this, I realized that the angels of our large cities
must have about the most difficult job on the planet, for they were trying to bring joy
and peace to our darkest spots: the crowded, rebellious, poor, drug-filled, criminal
districts in our cities. How different form looking after a beautiful nature area!
I also realized that I had made the job of the city angels more difficult, for I
had used cities for shopping, movies, museums and so forth, without a word of
thanks, quickly getting out of what I considered concrete jungles. This encounter
completely changed my view of cities, and I settled in a large city – Toronto – in a
downtown area, on an eighth floor, and had no more problems with living in a city.
Of course, nothing was different except my attitude. We can all find something to
love in a city, such as a tree in a park, which will get love flowing and enable us to
make contact with the angel of the city.
- 52 -
Another area of the angelic world opened up to me at that same time. I had
considered myself a planetary citizen and even created a planetary passport (though
this passport was not recognized by any country). I thought I had outgrown
nationalism in my concept of myself as a citizen of the world. In my Toronto
neighborhood, I found a deep love and nostalgia for such things as the wonderful
wildflowers growing in the Canadian woods before the leaves unfolded – flowers
that seemed so much more exquisite than any garden blooms – and for the climate
with its rich seasons. I had been bored with the continual rain of Britain or the
continual sun of California. And the peaches of the Niagara Peninsula were the most
luscious in the world!
Communicating with the Angel of Canada
As a seventh-generation Canadian, I knew the past of the area. Even the
present was familiar, for there was a big new library in Toronto named the John
Robarts Library, and I had attended the same university at the time he did. As all
these familiarities appeared, I began to wonder if there was more relevance in our
national and ethnic backgrounds than I had thought. So I wondered if there was an
Angel of Canada whose advice I could seek.
With love, I focused on such a presence and got in touch with a wonderful
energy with quite a feel of nature. It communicated that it could not do its job
properly, as it worked through people and we Canadians didn’t know our identity.
That motivated me and others on a long search for our identity on the personality
level. It also began my contact with angels of other countries that I visited. I learned
that it can be helpful to contact such angels, see what they have to communicate, and
ask questions or offer our love and assistance in whatever way we can.
- 53 -
Markus, D., "Kruvim in the Canon: Angelic Paradigm Shift" (2015)
For all their prominence in the modern popular culture of angels, kruvim
(cherubim) are relative bit players in the Jewish angelic pantheon, making just three
kinds of appearances in Tanakh. In textual order, kruvim guard the path back to Gan
Eden,1 adorn the Ark of the Covenant and ancient Temple,2 and accompany the
celestial Merkavah.3 Kruvim, however, are absent from the high celestial angelology
of Talmudic imagination, which lists only seraphim, ophanim and chayot ha'kodesh.4
Likewise, kruvim are not part of traditional liturgies crafted using these materials:
Yotzer and El Adon omit kruvim from the angelic pantheon. On the other hand,
Maimonides held kruvim as the ninth of the 10 angelic levels, just above ishim,5 and
deemed kruvim essential to conveying prayers to God.6 Using both rational and
mystical approaches, this article will examine "cherubic" functions in Jewish thought.
This article asks how these various functions and approaches speak to each other
spiritually and inter-textually, and uses this inter-textuality to shift tradition's
understanding of kruvim as angel and spiritual energetic.
Guarding the Path Back to Gan Eden
Torah records the Creator to speak in the tantalizingly plural before creating
humanity: U‫תנ‬U‫מ‬
ֵ ‫ ִכּ ְד‬U‫ ַצלְ ֵמנ‬Cְ ‫הים ֲנַע ֶשׂה ָא ָדם‬O
ִ ‫אמר ֱא‬
ֶ ֹH‫ ַו‬/ "Let Us make humanity in Our
1. See Gen. 3:24.
2. See Ex. 25:18-22, 37:7-9; 1 Kings 6:23-28; 2 Chron. 3:1-13.
3. See e.g. Ezek. 10:1-20; 2 Sam. 22:11; Ps. 18:10.
4. See B.T. Chagigah 12b-13a.
5. See Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Yesodei HaTorah 2:7.
6. See Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed, Book 2, ch. 6; Kohelet Rabbah 10:20.
- 54 -
image."7 While midrash understands this plural form to connote God consulting the
angelic host,8 ostensively including kruvim, Rambam understands this consultation
as only an allegorical reference to the forces of nature and not to any specific angels
as such.9 Leaving implied allegory aside, Torah's first explicit mention of an angelic
form concerns kruvim. After God speaks concern – again, in a tantalizingly plural
form – that humans might eat from the Tree of Life and become immortal, God
exiles them from the Garden and places kruvim to bar their return:10
Gen. 3:22-24
‫הים ֵהן ָה ָא ָדם ָהיָ ה ְכּ ַא ַחד‬O
ִ ‫ ֱא‬w‫אמר ה‬
ֶ ֹH‫ כב ַו‬22. YHVH Elohim said, "Behold, the
I‫ב ָו ָרע ְו ַע ָתּה ֶפּן־יִ ְשׁלַ ח יָ ד‬I‫ לָ ַד ַעת ט‬U‫ ִמ ֶמּנּ‬man has become like one of us, knowing
good and evil; and now what if he sends
:‫ִ ים ְו ָא ַכל ָו ַחי לְ עֹלָ ם‬H‫ם ֵמ ֵעץ ַה ַח‬Dַ ‫ ְולָ ַקח‬forth his hand and also takes from the
Tree of Life, and eats, and lives forever?"
‫ן־ע ֶדן לַ ֲעבֹד‬
ֵ Dַ ‫הים ִמ‬O
ִ ‫ ֱא‬w‫ ה‬U‫כג ַויְ ַשׁלְּ ֵחה‬
:‫ת־ה ֲא ָד ָמה ֲא ֶשׁר ֻל ַרּח ִמ ָשּׁם‬
ָ ‫ ֶא‬23. YHVH Elohim sent him out of Gan
Eden to work the ground from which he
was taken.
‫ן־ע ֶדן‬
ֵ ‫ַ ְשׁ ֵכּן ִמ ֶרּ ֶדם לְ ַג‬H‫ת־ה ָא ָדם ַו‬
ָ ‫כד ַויְ ָג ֶרשׁ ֶא‬
‫ת־ה ְ ֻכּר ִבים ְו ֵאת לַ ַהט ַה ֶח ֶרב ַה ִמּ ְת ַה ֶפּ ֶכת‬
ַ ‫ ֶא‬24. [God] drove out the man, and caused
:‫ִ ים‬H‫ ֵעץ ַה ַח‬Q‫ ֶר‬S‫ת־‬
ֶ ‫ לִ ְשׁמֹר ֶא‬the kruvim to dwell east of Gan Eden,
and the flaming sword turning around,
to guard the path of the Tree of Life.
This rendition seems to say little about kruvim. It does not suggest anyone
ever seeing them. It does not indicate how many kruvim there were (except that they
existed in the plural), what they looked like or when they were created. Midrash
notes these "gaps" and, in classic fashion, fills in from other parts of the canon:
7. Gen. 1:26.
8. See e.g. Gen. Rabbah 51.
9. See Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed 2:6. Indeed, Rambam understands
all angels to be allegories to natural forces, having no independent existence separate
from the Creator. See Id. On the other hand, even rationalist Rambam imagines that
angels "know" God, with each angel's capacity for divine knowledge corresponding
to the angel's spiritual height. See Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Yesodei HaTorah 2:8.
10. Gen. 3:22-24.
- 55 -
Bereishit Rabbah 21
‫ קדם לג"ע נבראו המלאכים' הדא‬- ‫ מקדם‬Mi'kedem – Angels were created before
‫כ( היא החיה אשר‬:‫( הוא דכתיב )יחזקאל י‬kodem) Gan Eden, as it is written (Ezek.
"This is the living creature I saw
‫ ראיתי תחת אלהי ישראל בנהר כבר' ואדע כי‬10:20):
under the God of Israel by the Chebar,
/‫ כרובים המה‬and I knew that they were kruvim."
‫ד( ומשרתיו אש‬:‫ ע"ש )תהלים קד‬- ‫ ואת להט‬And the flaming sword – [The angels
are so called] in accord with (Ps. 104:4):
/‫[" לוהט‬God's] ministers are as flaming fire."
‫ שהם מתהפכים פעמים אנשים‬- ‫ המתהפכת‬Turning – [Kruvim] change: sometimes
/‫ פעמים נשים פעמים רוחות פעמים מלאכים‬appearing as men, sometimes women,
sometimes spirits, sometimes angels.
Bereishit Rabbah suggests that God created kruvim before creating the Garden
of Eden, as if to hint that God knew their sword-wielding purpose would become a
necessary response to human disobedience in the Garden. (In so doing, this midrash
raises juicy questions about the divine-human relationship and whether humanity
defied God in the Garden, or rather fulfilled God's creative intention by eating of the
Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.) As to the physical form of kruvim, midrash
suggests that the descriptor ‫ ַה ִמּ ְת ַה ֶפּ ֶכת‬/ "[the] turning around" of Genesis 3:24
concerns not the flaming sword but kruvim themselves, which rabbis thus imagined
to transmogrify between human and spirit, and between male and female.11 Much
like Rashi's angelic sense of Joseph's "Ish" who was the angel Gabriel and not a mere
mortal,12 this midrash about kruvim understands the angelic form to be malleable by
its nature, and even to conflate the forms of angels and humans.
If we understand kruvim as symbolic purveyors of ‫ ַה ִמּ ְת ַה ֶפּ ֶכת‬/ "[the] turning
around," then kruvim might represent or facilitate translation between human and
angelic realms, between the morality of human existence and the immortality
imputed to the fruit of the Tree of Life, between this world and the world to come,
11. See Gen. Rabbah 21.
12. See Rashi Gen. 37:15.
- 56 -
and even between genders in this world. If so, then we might understand kruvim as
portals between realms of existence – symbolized ontologically as the apparent
binarisms of male-female, human-angel and mortal-immortal among which the
rabbis imagined kruvim to oscillate in appearance. Against the backdrop of these
apparent binarisms, kruvim simultaneously represent all of them together and each
of them separately – the ultimate symbolic manifestation of "both/and" liquefying
all distinctions and categories on the path back to mystical unity in Gan Eden.
Adorning the Ark of the Covenant
Kruvim next appear in Torah's recitation of how Moses and Betzalel crafted
the Ark of the Covenant – two kruvim adorning the cover, wings outstretched, God
speaking from between their outstretched wings.13 One might wonder how recently
freed Egyptian slaves could know what kruvim were or how they should appear in
their golden representations atop the Ark: nothing else in the canon told Moses and
Betzalel how the kruvim should appear, other than to make outstretched wings.
While the canon is notably silent on this matter, it is reasonable to assume that
Torah's brief description of kruvim had to make sufficient sense to Moses and
Betzalel in their day that they could fulfill these instructions without the painstaking
detail accorded other aspects of building the Mishkan. It may be that the imagined
form of kruvim was sufficiently well-known across the Lavant, or at least among the
once-enslaved Israelities, that detailed instructions would have been redundant.
Alternatively, it may be that these design details were left to oral or mystical
transmission unpreserved in written form. Either way, the instructions transmitted
to the Israelites, newly freed from Egypt, plainly directed the making of two kruvim
to adorn the Ark of the Covenant:
13. See Ex. 25:18-22.
- 57 -
Ex. 25:18-22
‫ית ְשׁנַ יִ ם ְ ֻכּר ִבים זָ ָהב ִמ ְק ָשׁה ַתּ ֲע ֶשׂה‬
ָ ‫ יח ְו ָע ִשׂ‬18. Make two kruvim of gold, hammered
:‫ת ַה ַכּפּ ֶֹרת‬I‫ א ָֹתם ִמ ְשּׁנֵ י ְקצ‬workmanship to make them, from the
two ends of the cover [of the Ark].
‫ב־א ָחד‬U‫ר‬
ְ ‫ֶ ה‬Z‫ב ֶא ָחד ִמ ָרּ ָצה ִמ‬U‫ יט ַו ֲע ֵשׂה ְכּר‬19. Make one k'ruv at one end, and the
‫ת־ה ְ ֻכּר ִבים‬
ַ ‫ֶ ה ִמ‬Z‫ ִמ ָרּ ָצה ִמ‬other k'ruv at the other end: make the
ַ ‫ ֶא‬U‫ן־ה ַכּפּ ֶֹרת ַתּ ֲעשׂ‬
ָ ‫ל־שׁנֵ י ְק‬
ְ ‫ ַע‬kruvim of the two ends of the cover.
‫ ַה ְ ֻכּר ִבים פּ ְֹר ֵשׂי ְכנָ ַפיִ ם לְ ַמ ְעלָ ה ס ְֹכ ִכים‬U‫כ ְו ָהי‬
‫ל־א ִחיו‬
ַ ‫יהם ַע‬
ָ ‫יהם ִאישׁ ֶא‬
ֶ ֵ‫פנ‬U
ְ ‫ל־ה ַכּפּ ֶֹרת‬
ֶ ‫ ַכנְ ֵפ‬Cְ
:‫ ְפּנֵ י ַה ְ ֻכּר ִבים‬U‫ל־ה ַכּפּ ֶֹרת יִ ְהי‬
ַ ‫ֶא‬
20. The kruvim will stretch their wings
on high, covering the cover with their
wings, and each faces the other: toward
the cover will the faces of the kruvim be.
‫ל־ה ָארֹן ִמלְ ָמ ְעלָ ה‬
ַ ‫ כא ְונָ ַת ָתּ ֶא‬21. Put the cover atop the Ark, and put
ָ ‫ת־ה ַכּפּ ֶֹרת ַע‬
:W‫ת־ה ֵע ֻדת ֲא ֶשׁר ֶא ֵתּן ֵאלֶ י‬
ָ ‫ל־ה ָארֹן ִתּ ֵתּן ֶא‬
ָ ‫ ְו ֶא‬in [it] the testimony that I will give you.
‫ ֵמ ַעל ַה ַכּפּ ֶֹרת‬W‫ ְר ִתּי ִא ְתּ‬Cַ ‫ ָשׁם ְו ִד‬W ְ‫ע ְד ִתּי ל‬I‫נ‬
ַ ‫כב ְו‬
‫ן ָה ֵע ֻדת ֵאת‬I‫ל־אר‬
ֲ ‫ין ְשׁנֵ י ַה ְ ֻכּר ִבים ֲא ֶשׁר ַע‬Cֵ ‫ִמ‬
:‫נֵ י יִ ְשׂ ָר ֵאל‬C‫ל־‬
ְ ‫ ֶא‬W‫ת‬I‫א‬
ְ ‫ֶה‬U‫ל־א ֶשׁר ֲא ַצ‬
ֲ ‫ָכּ‬
22. There I will make Myself known to
you, and I will talk with you from above
the cover – between the two kruvim on
the Ark of Testimony – of all that I will
command you for B'nai Yisrael.
Rashi understood the Ark's kruvim to have the childlike "cherubic" faces today
prominent in the Christian angelology of cherubim. Rashi relied on Talmud's sense
of ‫ כרבים‬/ kruvim as ‫רביא‬-‫ כ‬/ "like a young one," drawing from Ezekiel's Merkavah:14
Rashi Ex. 25:18
/‫ דמות פרצוף תינוק להם‬- ‫ כרבים‬Kruvim – Having a likeness of a child's
B.T. Sukkah 5b
‫כרוב א"ר אבהו כרביא שכן בבבל קורין‬
‫לינוקא רביא א"ל אביי אלא מעתה דכתיב‬
‫פני האחד פני הכרוב ופני השני פני אדם‬
‫היינו כרוב היינו אדם אפי רברבי ואפי‬
What is a k'ruv? R. Abbahu said, ‘Like a
child’ for in Babylon they call[ed] a child
ravia (‫)רביא‬. Abaye said to him: If so,
how do you explain (Ezek. 1:14) "The
first face was the face of the k'ruv and
the second face the face of a man"? [He
answered]: the face of a k'ruv is the same
as that of a man – one has a large face
and the other a small face.
Not all agreed that kruvim had a child's visage. The Rashbam (R. Samuel ben
Meir, c. 1085-1158), Rashi's grandson, construed kruvim "to be birdlike: we base this
14. See B.T. Sukkah 5b, quoting Ezek 1:14.
- 58 -
on [Ezek 28:14] ‫ את כרוב ממשח הסוכך‬/ as a kruv with protective outstretched wings.
Thus we infer that a kruv is a large bird [able to fly] ‫ בהר קודש אלהים‬q "on God's holy
mountain."15 To be sure, Rashbam, ever loyal to his grandfather, also noted Rashi's
view "that the word k'ruv means having the faces of young children: toddlers."16
In Israel, kruvim would adorn both the Ark of the Covenant and the Temple
itself. As repository for the Holy of Holies, the Temple – taking an architectural
design page from the Ark's rendition – now required two kruvim of its own. In the
prophetic rendition of these Temple kruvim,17 they faced each other with wings
outstretched, much as kruvim did atop the Ark. In the Chronicles rendition of the
Temple's construction, however, the kruvim take another direction entirely:18
2 Chron 3:10-13
‫בים ְשׁנַ יִ ם‬U‫ר‬
ִ ‫ ֵבית־ק ֶֹדשׁ ַה ֳרּ ָד ִשׁים ְכּ‬Cְ ‫ַ ַעשׂ‬H‫ י ַו‬10. In the Holy of Holies, [Solomon]
:‫ א ָֹתם זָ ָהב‬U‫ ַמ ֲע ֵשׁה ַצ ֲע ֻצ ִעים ַויְ ַצפּ‬made two kruvim of image work, and
overlaid them with gold.
‫ת ֶע ְשׂ ִרים ְכּנַ ף‬I‫בים ָא ְר ָכּם ַאמּ‬U‫ר‬
ִ ‫יא ְו ַכנְ ֵפי ַה ְכּ‬
‫יִ ת ְו ַה ָכּנָ ף‬Cַ ‫ ַעת לְ ִקיר ַה‬Dַ ‫ת ָח ֵמשׁ ַמ‬I‫ָה ֶא ָחד לְ ַאמּ‬
:‫ב ָה ַא ֵחר‬U‫יע לִ ְכנַ ף ַה ְכּר‬
ַ Dִ ‫ת ָח ֵמשׁ ַמ‬I‫ָה ַא ֶח ֶרת ַאמּ‬
11. And the wings of the kruvim were 20
cubits long; one wing of the one k'ruv
was five cubits, reaching to the Temple
wall; and the other wing was five cubits,
reaching to the other k'ruv's wing.
‫יע לְ ִקיר‬
ַ Dִ ‫ת ָח ֵמשׁ ַמ‬I‫ב ָה ֶא ָחד ַאמּ‬U‫כנַ ף ַה ְכּר‬U
ְ ‫ יב‬12. And one wing of the other k'ruv was
‫ ֵב ָקה לִ ְכנַ ף‬Sְ ‫ת ָח ֵמשׁ‬I‫יִ ת ְו ַה ָכּנָ ף ָה ַא ֶח ֶרת ַאמּ‬Cָ ‫ ַה‬five cubits, reaching to the Temple wall;
:‫ב ָה ַא ֵחר‬U‫ ַה ְכּר‬and the other wing was five cubits also,
joining to the wing of the other k'ruv.
‫ת ֶע ְשׂ ִרים‬I‫בים ָה ֵאלֶּ ה פּ ְֹר ִשׂים ַאמּ‬U‫ר‬
ִ ‫ יג ַכּנְ ֵפי ַה ְכּ‬13. These kruvim wings spread 20 cubits
:‫יִ ת‬Cָ ַ‫יהם ל‬
ֶ ֵ‫פנ‬U
ְ ‫יהם‬
ֶ ֵ‫ל־ר ְגל‬
ַ ‫ ְו ֵהם ע ְֹמ ִדים ַע‬standing on their feet facing the Temple.
Talmud's rabbis noted this inconsistency between the accounts of kruvim atop
the Ark and Solomon's account of kruvim at the Temple – the former facing each
15. Rashbam Ex. 25:18, quoting Ezek. 28:14.
16. Rashbam Ex. 25:18, quoting B.T. Sukkah 5b.
17. See 1 Kings 6:23-27.
18. See 2 Chron 3:10-13.
- 59 -
other and the latter facing the Temple.19 The rabbis reasoned that this distinction
must be intentional:
B.T. Bava Batra 99b
‫ אלעזר חד אמר‬w‫ כיצד הן עומדין רבי יוחנן ור‬R. Yochanan and R. Elazar on the case of
‫ פניהם איש אל אחיו וחד אמר פניהם לבית‬how [the kruvim] stand: One said (Ex.
"They stand each facing the other"
‫ ולמ"ד פניהם איש אל אחיו הא כתיב ופניהם‬25:20)
... and the other said, [as] it is written (2
‫ לבית לא קשיא כאן בזמן שישראל עושין‬Chron. 3:13) "They face the Temple."
‫ רצונו של מקום כאן בזמן שאין ישראל עושין‬There is no difficulty here: [one is] when
/‫ רצונו של מקום‬Israel does [God's] will, and [another is]
when Israel does not do [God's] will.
This narrative suggests that in rabbinic imagination, kruvim were spiritual
compass needles, able to turn and by their turning indicate whether the people
honored God's will. Also important for paradigm shifting our understanding of
kruvim – and the particularistic tradition of Judaism itself – is the rabbinic sense that
kruvim face the Temple when the people dishonor God. Perhaps shockingly – if also
appropriately given the destruction of the Temple in whose figurative rubble the
rabbis assembled to develop Talmud – the rabbis associated the Temple, earthly
manifestation of the divine abode, with not doing God's will!
Tradition offers at least three ways to understand kruvim through the lens of
this teaching. The first harkens back to the Temple's destruction, which the rabbis of
Talmud blamed on the people's "senseless hatred" for each other20 – the ultimate of
dishonors because it led to the destruction of the Temple, God's figurative abode on
Earth. As such, kruvim remind us to treat each other well as a means of honoring
God: when we behave in a manner that points the kruvim toward each other, God
then can be heard from between the wings of the kruvim.
19. See B.T. Bava Batra 99b.
20. B.T. Yoma 9b.
- 60 -
A second approach evokes a mystical inversion, refigureing kruvim not only
as compass needles indicating the holiness of human activity but also as recipients of
human holiness. So suggested Moshe Chayim Ephraim of Sudilkov, grandson of the
Ba'al Shem Tov:21
‫ כביכול ישראל במעשיהם הטובים נותנים כח‬As it were, Israel – in its good deeds –
/‫ וקדשה בפמליא של מעלה‬gives strength and holiness to the
heavenly retinue [above].
In this understanding, the kruvim, as spiritual members of the heavenly
retinue, are powerful and holy to the extent that Israel (or, in a post-triumphal sense,
humanity) transmits to them holiness by doing God's will. In turn, the direction of
the kruvim turns in human fulfillment of divine intention. Each appearance of
kruvim in the Jewish canon thus can remind us that the holiness of heaven's hosts
depends vitally on human behavior: "as below, so above."22
A third approach to understanding kruvim concerns their number – in the
plural rather than singular atop the Ark and at the Temple. To Maimonides, the fact
that kruvim appeared in the plural was critical to the theology and role of angels:
[Polytheists] built temples to stars and set up in those
temples the image which they agreed to worship, because it
was in some relation to a certain star or a portion of one of
the spheres. Therefore we were commanded to build a
Temple to the Name of God, and to place therein the Ark
with two tables of stone, on which there were written the
commandments "I am YHVH," etc., and "You will have no
other God before me," etc. Naturally the fundamental belief
in prophecy precedes belief in [Torah], for without belief in
prophecy there can be no belief in [Torah] – but a prophet
only receives divine inspiration through an angel's agency,
as in, "God's angel called" (Gen. 22:15), "God's angel said to
21. Degel Machaneh Ephraim, P. Kedoshim (‫)עוד ירמז בזה יכול כמוני‬, at 385 &
n.7, citing Lam. Rabbah 1:33 ("At the time that Israel does the will of the Holy Blessed
One, heaven's power and strength increase"); Kedushat Levi, P. Vaera.
22. See Zohar 2:176b ("[t]he world above and the world below are perfectly
balanced"); Gen. Rabbah 1:15 ("heaven and earth perfectly balance each other").
- 61 -
her" (Gen. 16:11), and other innumerable instances. Even
Moses received his first prophecy through an angel: "And an
angel of God appeared to him in the flame of fire" (Ex. 3:2).
It is thus clear that belief in the existence of angels precedes
belief in prophecy, and the latter precedes belief in [Torah].
The Sabeans, in their ignorance of God, believed that the
spheres with their stars were beings without beginning or
end; that their images and certain trees, the Asherot, derived
certain powers from the spheres; and that they inspired the
prophets, spoke to them in visions and told them what was
good and what bad.... But when the wise discovered and
proved that there was a Being, neither itself corporeal nor
residing as a force in a corporeal body – the true, one God –
and that there existed other purely incorporeal beings that
God endowed with God's goodness and light, namely, the
angels, and that these beings are not included in the sphere
and its stars, it became evident that it was these angels and
not the images or Asherot that charged the prophets.
From the preceding remarks it is clear that the belief in the
existence of angels is connected with belief in the Existence
of God; and belief in God and angels leads to belief in
Prophecy and [Torah's] truth. To firmly establish this creed,
God commanded [Israel] to make over the Ark the form of
two angels. The belief in the existence of angels is thus
inculcated into the people, and this belief is in importance
next to the belief in God's existence; it leads us to believe in
Prophecy and [Torah], and oppose idolatry. Had there been
just one figure of a k'ruv, the people would have been misled
and mistaken it for God's image that was to be worshipped,
like the heathen; or they might have assumed that the angel
was also a deity, thus adopting a dualism. By making two
kruvim and distinctly declaring "YHVH is our God, YHVH is
One," Moses clearly proclaimed the theory of the existence of
a number of angels: he left no room for error in considering
those figures as deities, since God is one in number and
created the angels, who are more than one.23
For Rambam, kruvim atop the Ark and in front of the Temple were negative
symbols – manifestations of precisely what they were not. They existed partly to
convey prophesy and remind us of prophesy, but not to be prophesy; to remind of
God and thus remind us that they are not God. Precisely in the physicality of their
hewn gold, they were spiritual correctives for temptation to equate physicality with
23. Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed 3:45.
- 62 -
essence. Sitting atop the Ark and in front of the Temple, Rambam's kruvim were
dogmatic disclaimers, as if to say, "See all that is here, but not more. See that these
glorious depictions do not depict divinity. Let their angelic forms remind you what
they never can be, but rather what they suggest far exceeding any thought accessible
to humanity." As for Maimonides, so for us. Kruvim remind us that physicality can
never fully depict divine ontology. By their negative symbolism, kruvim remind us
that they represent much less – and thus much more – than they might appear to be.
Carrying the Divine Rider
The canon's most esoteric treatment of kruvim arises with its perhaps most
esoteric subject, the Merkavah (vehicle) that the canon describes angels to either
carry, accompany or comprise. While Ezekiel's first vision of the Merkavah omits
explicit reference to kruvim,24 Ezekiel's later mention of a k'ruv suggests that God's
glory rose up from the Temple kruvim,25 which thus functioned as a metaphysical
repository or focusing implement for divine energy:
Ezek. 9:3
‫ב ֲא ֶשׁר‬U‫הי יִ ְשׂ ָר ֵאל ֲנַעלָ ה ֵמ ַעל ַה ְכּר‬O
ֵ ‫ד ֱא‬I‫כב‬U
ְ The glory of the God of Israel was gone
‫ל־ה ִאישׁ‬
ָ ‫ִ ְק ָרא ֶא‬H‫יִ ת ַו‬Cָ ‫ ָהיָ ה ָעלָ יו ֶאל ִמ ְפ ַתּן ַה‬up from on the k'ruv, where it was on it,
to the threshold of the Temple; and then
:‫ ָמ ְתנָ יו‬Cְ ‫ים ֲא ֶשׁר ֶק ֶסת ַהסּ ֵֹפר‬Sִ Cַ ‫[ ַהלָּ ֻבשׁ ַה‬God] called to the man clothed in linen,
with the writer's inkhorn on his side.
(Ed. – This "man," likely an angel, was to
use the ink to mark the foreheads of
Jerusalemites who decried the city's sins,
thus saving them from God's wrath.)
Kruvim figure even more prominently in Ezekiel's later vision, in which they
seem to hold or lead both the Merkavah – where kruvim went, the Merkavah's wheels
24. See generally Ezekiel 1.
25. See Ezekiel 9:3.
- 63 -
followed26 – and fire coals between their wings. Ezekiel compares the sound of their
wings flapping to God's voice; indeed, their flapping wings might be God's voice:
Ezek. 10:5
‫ד־ה ָח ֵצר ַה ִחיצֹנָ ה‬
ֶ ‫בים נִ ְשׁ ַמע ַע‬U‫ר‬
ִ ‫ל ַכּנְ ֵפי ַה ְכּ‬I‫ ְוק‬The sound of kruvim wings was heard to
:I‫ר‬Cְ ‫ ַד‬Cְ ‫י‬Sַ ‫ל־שׁ‬
ַ ‫ל ֵא‬I‫ ְכּק‬the [Temple's] outermost court, as (Ed. –
or "like") the voice of God speaking.
To be sure, long in historical time27 before Ezekiel, David also sensed God as a
rider of a mystical vehicle. For David, this vehicle was not separate from kruvim but
rather were kruvim themselves, which God rode liked a winged horse28 – an apt
military allegory for a king extolling a God of both physical and spiritual salvation:
2 Chron. 22:7-11
‫ִ ְשׁ ַמע‬H‫הי ֶא ְק ָרא ַו‬O
ַ ‫ל־א‬
ֱ ‫ ְו ֶא‬w‫ ַצּר־לִ י ֶא ְק ָרא ה‬Cַ ‫ ז‬7. In my distress I called YHVH, to my
:‫ ָאזְ נָ יו‬Cְ ‫לִ י ְו ַשׁ ְו ָע ִתי‬I‫ ק‬I‫יכל‬
ָ ‫ ֵמ ֵה‬God I called; and [God] heard my voice
from [God's] temple, and my cry entered
[God's] ears.
‫ת ַה ָשּׁ ַמיִ ם‬I‫סד‬I‫מ‬
ְ ‫ ַעשׁ ַו ִתּ ְר ַעשׁ ָה ָא ֶרץ‬Dָ ‫ִ ְת‬H‫ח ַו‬
The earth shook and trembled; the
:I‫י־ח ָרה ל‬
ָ ‫ ִכּ‬U‫ ֲעשׁ‬Dָ ‫ִ ְת‬H‫ ַו‬U‫ז‬Dָ ‫ יִ ְר‬8.
foundations of heaven moved and
shook because of [God's] anger.
‫ ָחלִ ים‬Dֶ ‫ֹאכל‬
ֵ ‫ ְו ֵאשׁ ִמ ִפּיו תּ‬I‫ ַאפּ‬Cְ ‫ט ָעלָ ה ָע ָשׁן‬
9. Smoke went up from [God's] nostrils
:U‫ ִמ ֶמּנּ‬U‫ ֲער‬Cָ and devouring fire from [God's] mouth:
coals were kindled by it.
:‫ֵ ַרד ַו ֲע ָר ֶפל ַתּ ַחת ַר ְגלָ יו‬H‫ֵ ט ָשׁ ַמיִ ם ַו‬H‫ י ַו‬10. [God] bowed the heavens and came
‫ל־כּנְ ֵפ‬
ַ ‫ֵ ָרא ַע‬H‫ָ עֹף ַו‬H‫ב ַו‬U‫ל־כּר‬
ְ ‫ִ ְר ַכּב ַע‬H‫יא ַו‬
down; darkness was under [God's] feet.
11. [God] rode on a k'ruv and flew, and
was seen on the wings of spirit.
This role of k'ruv as God's vehicle is so vital that the Psalmist repeated it
nearly verbatim, suggesting that this poetic vision or at least the allegory of k'ruv as
26. See Ezek. 10:16.
27. To be sure, it is well-settled that in spiritual rather than physical time,
there is no necessary "before" or "after": ‫ אין מוקדם ומאוחר בתורה‬q "There is no before or
after in Torah" (Kohelet Rabbah 1:12; Rashi Ex. 31:18; Ramban Num. 9:1).
28. See 2 Chron. 22:7-11.
- 64 -
divine carrier might have been deeply embedded in tradition at that time. Indeed,
most Near Eastern civilizations, including Assyrians and Babylonians co-evolving
with ancient pre-Israelites, imagined a heavens-riding deity named with the k-r-v
Semitic root: kirubu for Assyrians, karubu for Babylonians. Elsewhere in the Jewish
canon, the Psalmist understood God to be a rider on the heavens – "Sing to God, sing
[God's] name; extol the One who rides on the heavens by [the] name Yah: rejoice
before [God]"29 – but didn't indicate what vehicle God rode. Here, the Psalmist is
explicit that God rode a k'ruv. While there are subtle textual differences between the
Psalmist and Chronicler rendition of this poetic treatment – to the Psalmist, God
heard a "cry" rather than a "call,"30 and "swooped" rather than "was seen" in flight31 –
both are explicit that God rode a flying k'ruv:
Ps. 18:7-11
‫ ֵַע יִ ְשׁ ַמע‬U‫הי ֲא ַשׁ‬O
ַ ‫ל־א‬
ֱ ‫ ְו ֶא‬w‫ ַצּר־לִ י ֶא ֲק ָרא ה‬Cַ ‫ ז‬7. In my distress I called YHVH, to my
:‫א ְב ָאזְ נָ יו‬I‫לִ י ְו ַשׁ ְו ָע ִתי לְ ָפנָ יו ָתּב‬I‫ ק‬I‫יכל‬
ָ ‫ ֵמ ֵה‬God I cried; and [God] heard my voice
from [God's] temple, and my cry came
before [God] and entered [God's] ears.
U‫ז‬Dָ ‫ס ֵדי ָה ִרים יִ ְר‬I‫מ‬U
‫ח ַו ִתּ ְג ַעשׁ ַו ִתּ ְר ַעשׁ ָה ָא ֶרץ‬
I‫ ִכּי ָח ָרה ל‬U‫ ֲעשׁ‬Dָ ‫ִ ְת‬H‫ ַו‬8. The earth shook and trembled; the
foundations of the mountains moved
and shook because of [God's] anger.
‫ ָחלִ ים‬Dֶ ‫ֹאכל‬
ֵ ‫ ְו ֵאשׁ ִמ ִפּיו תּ‬I‫ ַאפּ‬Cְ ‫ט ָעלָ ה ָע ָשׁן‬
9. Smoke went up from [God's] nostrils
:U‫ ִמ ֶמּנּ‬U‫ ֲער‬Cָ and devouring fire from [God's] mouth:
coals were kindled by it.
:‫ֵ ַרד ַו ֲע ָר ֶפל ַתּ ַחת ַר ְגלָ יו‬H‫ֵ ט ָשׁ ַמיִ ם ַו‬H‫ י ַו‬10. [God] bowed the heavens and came
‫ל־כּנְ ֵפ‬
ַ ‫ֵ ֶדא ַע‬H‫ָ עֹף ַו‬H‫ב ַו‬U‫ל־כּר‬
ְ ‫ִ ְר ַכּב ַע‬H‫יא ַו‬
down; darkness was under [God's] feet.
11. [God] rode on a k'ruv and flew, and
swooped on the wings of spirit.
Whether kruvim accompany, lead or lift the Merkavah (in Ezekiel's various
visions), or themselves serve as divinity's vehicle (in the Chronicler and Psalmist's
29. Ps. 68:5.
30. Compare Ps. 18:7 with 2 Chron. 22:7.
31. Compare Ps. 18:11 with 2 Chron 22:11.
- 65 -
renditions), these narratives share a common sense that the k'ruv conveys divinity.
Understood this way, kruvim can be understood as transporters for God, whether
atop the Ark, in the Temple or on the celestial Merkavah.
Toward a Modern Re-Understanding of Kruvim
By placing these various understandings of kruvim – guarding Gan Eden's
entrance, adorning the Ark and Temple, and carrying the divine rider – in spiritual
and inter-textual dialogue with each other, we can harvest new gleanings of the roles
of kruvim for a post-triumphal era.
The first cherubic function, to safeguard Gan Eden from humanity seeking
eternal life, arose only after primordial humanity ate of the Tree of Knowledge of
Good and Evil, and precisely as a direct consequence of that ostensible "infraction."
Indeed, Bereshit Rabbah's treatment of kruvim tacitly suggests that God created
kruvim with the heavens on the second day to serve as Eden's protectors, knowing
that humanity would disobey God's very first command against eating of the Tree of
Knowledge of Good and Evil. How redemptive that kruvim, later adorning the Ark
so God would speak from between their wings and impart spiritual knowledge, first
emerged as divine response to primordial humanity obtaining knowledge ostensibly
in opposition to God's command. The symbolism of cherubim atop the Ark – now
placed without ‫ החרב המתהפכת‬/ the constantly turning sword – thus suggests that
the way to Gan Eden may be closed to physical approach but is open by means of
God's revelation emerging between the wings of the kruvim.
The third function of kruvim – to accompany or convey the divine Presence
– adds profound resonance to the first two. If kruvim convey divinity, then what
other angelic typology could better serve as spiritual focus for God's revelation from
between their wings? If Ezekiel was correct that the sound of the kruvim wings
- 66 -
flapping is (or is like) God's voice, then what other angels could better serve as the
symbolic platform for God speaking?
To this understanding, Rambam might add that the very plurality of kruvim
guarding Gan Eden hints that God (a unity) does not block the way to paradise, as
might be mis-understood if only one k'ruv guarded the path to Gan Eden. The very
plurality of kruvim guarding Eden's path suggests that God placed a formidable
angelic barrier in the way but not the fullness of Godself. If so, then maybe God did
not entirely shut the door to our return to paradise after all? To this hint, one might
add the gleaning of midrash that Eden's kruvim were constantly shifting – sometimes
angelic, sometimes human – symbolizing the ceaseless evolution of spiritual barriers
en route back to Gan Eden. By the time of Talmud and Rashi's explication of the
kruvim atop the Ark, however, rabbis understood kruvim to take on the childlike
appearance most familiar from Christian angelology. Today giving these post-exilic
commentators their due, should we imagine that the kruvim concretized from their
Edenic flexibility into angelic proto-children? Might we understand from their
childlike visages that God's speech emerging from between the wings of the Ark's
kruvim now asks of us the psycho-spirituality of a child's innocence and openness to
receive that voice?
Perhaps the inter-textual approach most important to a postmodern sense of
kruvim arises from Talmud's treatment of how kruvim can turn – to face each other
when we honor God's will, and face the Temple when we dishonor God's will.
Placing this understanding in dialogue with kruvim as modulators that amplify
God's voice between their wings, we arrive at a profound resonance: if kruvim face
each other when we honor God's will, and if God speaks from between the kruvim
wings outstretched toward each other, then God speaks from between the kruvim
only when we honor God's will. The koan, of course, is that we mortals risk spiritual
- 67 -
arrogance (or worse) to assume that we ever fully know God's will, or that we can
discern whether we do God's will based on whether we believe ourselves to hear
God's voice. As a way to "understand" kruvim, this koan – like so many others – can
leave us feeling precisely like do not and cannot possibly understand.
More spiritually accessible to us mortals is the question of whether we place
ourselves in the flow of divinity, with humility and by diligently discerning and
dissolving barriers to the flow through us. Mashpi'im (spiritual directors) know this
wisdom as a tautology. When we are in the divine flow, we can discern wisdom and
holiness flowing through us; but when we are not in the divine flow, we may feel
blocked or blind to the flow of wisdom and holiness through us. Perhaps the kruvim
can remind us likewise: the flow of divinity is symbolized by the kruvim facing each
other, not the kruvim facing away from each other, whether to face the Temple or any
other particularistic religious or spiritual construct – including our very own.
If so, then we can understand the flow of divinity as emanating symbolically
and symbiotically from between the kruvim. Just as God spoke from between the
wings of the kruvim atop the Ark in ancient days, so too can we imaginally invoke
kruvim today, with the intention of placing ourselves in the divine flow so as to hear
God's voice emanating from between their wings. Not from an egotistical stance
but with humility and childlike simplicity, and not from a triumphalist perspective
that turns the wings away but with a spacious openness represented by the space
between the wings, we can use this understanding of kruvim to prime ourselves to
receive whatever new Torah might be ready to emerge now.
Perhaps this very approach to kruvim – as a portal for ongoing revelation –
can offer us a way to journey back toward the Garden:32
32. This exegetical chiddush is original to the author and styled in the Degel's form.
- 68 -
To explain (Ex. 25:20-22) "The kruvim
will stretch their wings on high ... each
facing the other ... and there I will make
Myself known to you, and I will talk
with you from above the cover, between
the two kruvim on the Ark of Testimony,
of all that I will command you for B'nai
‫ה‬ww‫ סוד שני הכרבים היא שניהם דוקא כשהקב‬Yisrael" --
w‫לפרש והיו הכרבים פרשי כנפים למעלה וכו‬
‫ ונועדתי לך שם‬w‫ופניהם איש אל אחיו וכו‬
‫ודברתי אתך מעל הכפרת מבין שני הכרבים‬
‫אשר על ארון העדת את כל אשר אצוה אותך‬
-- ‫אל בני ישראל‬
‫השתמש האמצעות שהיו בניכם לדבר עם בני‬
‫ ושניהם‬w‫ מלאך הוא מלא כ‬w‫ בגמ‬/‫ישראל‬
‫' מספר שבועי הריון וימי‬w‫כפול הם מלא מ‬
/‫הולדת נשמות חדשות ותורה חדשה כביכול‬
‫ה שני כרבים יחדיו‬ww‫על כן משתמש הקב‬
/‫להולד תורה חדשה לבני ישראל וזהו פירושו‬
The secret of the two kruvim is precisely
their twoness, for God used their
between-space from which to speak
with B'nai Yisrael. In gematria angel is
equivalent to "the value of 20," and two
of them doubled are equivalent to "the
value of 40" – the number of weeks of
pregnancy and days to birth new souls
and new Torah, as it were.33 And so
God uses two kruvim together to birth
new Torah for B'nai Yisrael, and this is
the explanation.
33. In rabbinic thought, 40 was the number of days of giving Torah on Sinai,
and also the number of days after which a new soul enters a fetus. See B.T. Yevamot
69a; Niddah 30b.
- 69 -
Archangels by Name
Post-exilic tradition understood that Torah never called an angel by name, and that calling
angels by name was not an authentic Israelite or Jewish practice until after the first exile.
Jerusalem Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 1:2
(Trans., Sefer Ha'Aggadah 514:83)
‫ רשב"ל אמר אף שמות המלאכים עלו בידן‬R. Simeon ben Lakish said: The names of
‫ב( ויעף אלי אחד‬:‫ בראשונה )ישעיהו ו‬/‫ מבבל‬angels came up in their hands from
in] Babylon. Before [they went to
‫[ מן השרפים )שם( שרפים עומדים ממעל לו‬exile
Babylon,] it was (Is. 6:7) "One of the
‫כא( והאיש גבריאל‬:‫ מיכן והילך )דניאל ט‬seraphim flew to me," and (Is. 6:2),
/‫כא( כי אם מיכאל שרכם‬:‫" )דניאל י‬Above [God] stood the seraphim" But
after they went [up from Babylon], it is
(Dan. 9:21), "the man Gavriel" and (Dan.
10:21) "for with Michael, your prince."
Bereishit Rabbah 48:9
‫ א"ר חנינא שמות חדשים עלו מבבל ריש‬R. Chanina said: The names of the
‫ לקיש אמר אף שמות מלאכים מיכאל רפאל‬months came up [with us] from [exile
Babylon. Reish Lakish said: Also the
/‫ וגבריאל‬in]
names of the angels Michael, Raphael
and Gabriel.
Daniel 9:20-23
ִ Yָ ‫ה ַח‬Sֶ ‫מ ְת ַו‬U
ִ ‫מ ְת ַפּלֵּ ל‬U
ִ ‫ר‬Cֵ ‫ד ֲאנִ י ְמ ַד‬I‫ ְוע‬/‫ כ‬20. And as I was speaking and praying,
w‫מ ִפּיל ְתּ ִחנָּ ִתי לִ ְפנֵ י ה‬U
ַ ‫את ַע ִמּי יִ ְשׂ ָר ֵאל‬Yַ ‫ ְו ַח‬and confessing my sin and the sin of my
people Israel, presenting supplication to
ָ ‫הי ַעל ַהר־ק ֶֹדשׁ ֱא‬O
ַ ‫ ֱא‬YHVH my God on God's holy mountain,
ֵ ‫ ְב ִר‬Dַ ‫ ְתּ ִפלָּ ה ְו ָה ִאישׁ‬Cַ ‫ר‬Cֵ ‫ד ֲאנִ י ְמ ַד‬I‫כא ְוע‬
‫ ָיעף נ ֵֹג ַע ֵאלַ י‬Cִ ‫ ְתּ ִחלָּ ה ֻמ ָעף‬Cַ ‫ן‬I‫יתי ֶב ָחז‬
ִ ‫ֲא ֶשׁר ָר ִא‬
:‫ת־ע ֶרב‬
ָ ‫ְכּ ֵעת ִמנְ ַח‬
21. And as I spoke in prayer, the man
Gabriel, whom I saw in [my] vision at
the start, was caused to fly swiftly,
touching me at the time of the evening
ִ ‫ֵ אל ַע ָתּה יָ ָצ‬H ִ‫נ‬Sָ ‫אמר‬
ַ ֹH‫ר ִע ִמּי ַו‬Cֵ ‫ָ ֶבן ַויְ ַד‬H‫ כב ַו‬22. And he made me understand, and
:‫ ִבינָ ה‬W ְ‫ לְ ַה ְשׂ ִכּיל‬talked with me, and said, "Daniel, I now
went out to give you wisdom [in]
ִ Cָ ‫ יָ ָצא ָד ָבר ַו ֲאנִ י‬W‫נֶ י‬U‫ ְת ִחלַּ ת ַתּ ֲחנ‬Cִ ‫כג‬
‫ ָבר ְו ָה ֵבן‬Sָ Cַ ‫בין‬Uִ ‫ת ָא ָתּה‬I‫ד‬U‫יד ִכּי ֲחמ‬Dִ ‫ לְ ַה‬23. "At the start of your supplication the
:‫ ַמּ ְר ֶאה‬Cַ command came out, and I have come to
tell it, for you are greatly beloved; so
consider the word, and understand the
vision [as I now explain it to you]."
- 70 -
Daniel 10:13-21
‫י ֶע ְשׂ ִרים ְו ֶא ָחד‬Sִ ‫ת ָפּ ַרס ע ֵֹמד לְ נֶ ְג‬U‫ יג ְו ַשׂר ַמלְ כ‬13. [T]he prince of Persia withstood me
‫א‬Cָ ‫יכ ֵאל ַא ַחד ַה ָשּׂ ִרים ָה ִראשֹׁנִ ים‬
ָ ‫ם ְו ִהנֵּ ה ִמ‬I‫ י‬for twenty-one days but, behold,
Michael, one of the chief princes, came
:‫ת ְר ִתּי ָשׁם ֵא ֶצל ַמלְ ֵכי ָפ ָרס‬I‫נ‬
ַ ‫ לְ ָעזְ ֵרנִ י ַו ֲאנִ י‬to help me; and I was left there beside
the kings of Persia.
W‫ ֵאת ֲא ֶשׁר־יִ ְק ָרה לְ ַע ְמּ‬W ְ‫אתי לַ ֲה ִבינ‬
ִ ‫ב‬Uָ ‫ יד‬14. Now I come to make you understand
:‫ָ ִמים‬H ַ‫ן ל‬I‫ד ָחז‬I‫ָ ִמים ִכּי־ע‬H‫ ַא ֲח ִרית ַה‬Cְ what will befall your people in the latter
days, for the vision is for days yet to
‫ ָב ִרים ָה ֵאלֶּ ה נָ ַת ִתּי ָפנַ י‬Sְ ‫ ִע ִמּי ַכּ‬I‫ר‬Cְ ‫ב ַד‬Uְ ‫ טו‬come.
:‫ ַא ְר ָצה ְונֶ ֱאלָ ְמ ִתּי‬15. And when he spoke these words to
me, I set my face to the ground and
‫ל־שׂ ָפ ָתי‬
ְ ‫נֵ י ָא ָדם נ ֵֹג ַע ַע‬Cְ ‫ת‬U‫ טז ְו ִהנֵּ ה ִכּ ְדמ‬became dumb.
‫י‬Sִ ‫ל־הע ֵֹמד לְ נֶ ְג‬
ָ ‫ ָרה ָוא ְֹמ ָרה ֶא‬Cְ ‫ח־פּי ָו ֲא ַד‬
ִ ‫ ָו ֶא ְפ ַתּ‬16. Behold, one in the likeness of the
:‫א ָע ַצ ְר ִתּי כּ ַֹח‬O‫ ִצ ַירי ָעלַ י ְו‬U‫ ַמּ ְר ָאה נֶ ֶה ְפכ‬Cַ ‫ ֲאדֹנִ י‬sons of men touched my lips; I opened
my mouth and spoke, and said to him
who stood before me, "My lord, in [my]
‫ם־אדֹנִ י זֶ ה‬
ֲ ‫ר ִע‬Cֵ ‫כל ֶע ֶבד ֲאדֹנִ י זֶ ה לְ ַד‬U‫י‬
ַ Q‫ יז ְו ֵהי‬visions pains come on me, and I have
‫א‬O ‫נְ ָשׁ ָמה‬U ‫י כּ ַֹח‬C‫ד־‬
ִ ‫א־יַ ֲע ָמ‬O ‫ ַו ֲאנִ י ֵמ ַע ָתּה‬not retained strength.
ִ ‫נִ ְשׁ ֲא ָר‬
17. "So how can my lord's servant talk
with my lord? Now no strength remains
:‫ְ ֵקנִ י‬Z‫י ְכּ ַמ ְר ֵאה ָא ָדם ַויְ ַח‬C‫ע־‬
ִ Dַ ִH‫ֹ ֶסף ַו‬H‫ יח ַו‬in me, and no breath is left in me."
18. [Once again] one in the likeness of a
Q ָ‫ם ל‬I‫ת ָשׁל‬I‫ישׁ־ח ֻמד‬
ֲ ‫ל־תּ ָירא ִא‬
ִ ‫אמר ַא‬
ֶ ֹH‫ יט ַו‬man touched me and strengthened me.
‫ַ ְק ִתּי ָוא ְֹמ ָרה‬Z‫ ִע ִמּי ִה ְת ַח‬I‫ר‬Cְ ‫כ ַד‬U
ְ ‫ ֲחזַ ק ַו ֲחזָ ק‬19. He said, "Do not fear, greatly
:‫ַ ְק ָתּנִ י‬Z‫ר ֲאדֹנִ י ִכּי ִח‬Cֵ ‫ יְ ַד‬beloved [one]; peace be to you; be
strong, be strong." And like his words
‫ ְו ַע ָתּה‬W‫אתי ֵאלֶ י‬
ִ C‫ה־‬
ָ ‫אמר ֲהיָ ַד ְע ָתּ לָ ָמּ‬
ֶ ֹH‫ כ ַו‬with me, I became strengthened and
‫צא ְו ִהנֵּ ה‬I‫י‬
ֵ ‫ם־שׂר ָפּ ָרס ַו ֲאנִ י‬
ַ ‫ב לְ ִהלָּ ֵחם ִע‬U‫ ָאשׁ‬said, "Let my lord speak, for you have
strengthened me."
:‫א‬Cָ ‫ַשׂר־יָ ָון‬
20. He said, "Do you know why I have
to you? For now I will return to
‫ ְכ ָתב ֱא ֶמת‬Cִ ‫ם‬U‫ת־ה ָרשׁ‬
ָ ‫ ֶא‬W ְ‫יד ל‬Dִ ‫ כא ֲא ָבל ַא‬come
fight with the prince of Persia; and when
‫ל־אלֶּ ה ִכּי‬
ֵ ‫ֵ ק ִע ִמּי ַע‬Z‫ ְו ֵאין ֶא ָחד ִמ ְת ַח‬I depart from him, the prince of Greece
:‫יכ ֵאל ַשׂ ְר ֶכם‬
ָ ‫ם־מ‬
ִ ‫ ִא‬will come.
21. But I will tell you that which is
inscribed in the book of truth; and there
is none who can overpower me against
[these writings], except Michael your
- 71 -
Archangelic Functions: Selected Midrashim
Companies of Archangels
Four companies of ministering angels utter praise before the Holy Blessed
One. The first camp, that of Michael, at [God's] right; the second camp, that of
Gabriel, at [God's] left; the third camp, that of Uriel, in front of [God]; and the fourth
camp, that of Raphael, behind [God]. The presence of the Holy Blessed One is thus in
the center.
– Sefer Ha'Aggadah 512:69
As the Holy Blessed One created four winds (directions) and four banners (for
Israel's army), so did God make four angels to surround God's throne – Michael,
Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael. Michael is on its right, corresponding to the tribe of
Reuben; Uriel on its left, corresponding to the tribe of Dan, which was located in the
north; Gabriel in front, corresponding to the tribe of Judah as well as Moses and
Aaron who were in the east; and Raphael in the rear, corresponding to the tribe of
Ephraim which was in the west.
– Shapiro, The Angelic Way, p. 80; Num. Rabbah 2:10
Individual Archangels
NB: Gabriel is usually the angel who executes God’s judgment. Michael is associated
with the national angel of Israel.
When wicked Nimrod cast our father Abraham into the open fire, Gabriel
spoke up to the Holy One of Blessing: “Master of the universe, may I go down and
cool the fire, to save the righteous man from burning in it?” The Holy One replied,
“I am the Unique One in My world, even as [Abraham] is the unique one in his. It is
fitting that the Unique One should deliver the unique one. But since the Holy One
does not hold back the reward of any creature,” he said to Gabriel, “yours will be the
privilege of saving ... his descendants.”
– Sefer Ha'Aggadah 33:9; B.T. Pesachim 118a
Job 25:1-3
I‫ ַה ְמ ֵשׁל ָו ַפ ַחד ִעמּ‬:‫אמֽר‬
ַ ֹH‫ד ַה ֻשּׁ ִחי ַו‬Sַ ְ‫ל‬Cִ ‫ַ ַען‬H‫ ַו‬Bildad the Shuhite answered [Job] and
ָ ‫ ֲהיֵ שׁ ִמ ְס ָפּר לִ ְג‬:‫מֽיו‬I‫ר‬
ָ ‫ ְמ‬Cִ ‫ם‬I‫ ע ֶֹשׂה ָשׁל‬said: Dominion and fear are with [God],
who makes peace in [God's] high places.
ֵ ‫ם‬U‫ֽא־יָ ק‬O ‫ל־מי‬
ִ ‫ ְו ַע‬Is there a number to God's armies, and
on whom does God's light not arise?
- 72 -
Rashi Job 25:3
‫ כלפי שאמר איוב אערכה‬- ‫" המשל ופחד עמו‬Dominion and fear are with [God]" –
‫ אמר לו המשל ופחד עמו‬/‫ לפניו משפט‬On this account it is said, I will arrange
for Job. [Bildad] said to [Job],
‫ המשל זה מיכאל ופחד זה גבריאל כלום‬judgment
dominion and fear are together.
/‫ אתה יכול להשיב את אחד מהם‬Dominion (goodness) is Michael and
fear is [with] Gabriel: one can't respond
with [only] one of them.
"And he lifted up his eyes, and looked, and lo, three men stood by him" (Gen.
18:2). What kind of people were these three [who were able to stir abroad on such a
hot day]? They were the angels Michael, Raphael and Gabriel. Michael came to
announce to Sarah [that she was to bear a child]; Raphael, to heal Abraham; and
Gabriel, to overturn Sodom.
– Sefer Ha'Aggadah 35:26; B.T. Bava Metzia 86b
While Jacob and Michael were wrestling, Michael’s band of angels were about
to put Jacob’s life in jeopardy. At that time Holy One revealed Godself to them. As
Michael saw the Holy One, his strength was depleted, as it is said, “When he saw
that he was unable to prevail against him, he could do no more than touch the
hollow of his thigh" (Gen. 32:26). Then the Holy One said to Michael, “Was it seemly
for you to cripple my priest?” Michael answered, “Master of the universe, am I not
your priest?” God replied, “You are My priest above, while Jacob is My priest on
earth.” At once Michael summoned Raphael and said, “My comrade, I beg you,
stand to with me in my distress, for you are in charge of healing.” So Raphael went
down and healed Jacob.
– Sefer Ha'Aggadah 49:83; Midrash Avkir, Gen. 32
- 73 -
Angels at the Sea
Midrash Avkir, whose stories emerge primarily from the Books of Genesis and Exodus,
is one of the shorter and later compendia of midrash aggadah. Named for the roshei teivot
(‫ר‬ww‫ )אבכי‬of the phrase completing each of its component midrashim (‫ אמן בימינו כן יהי רצון‬/
"Amen, in our day may it be [God's] will"), its precise provenance is unknown. Because
its topics cover many of the same ones from Midrash Rabbah, some scholars date the work to
the post-exilic era (c. 300 CE). Unlike much of Midrash Rabbah, however, Midrash Avkir
has a distinctly mystical bent that repeatedly invokes angels, imagining a plethora of angels
with identity and will independent of the Creator.
Note how this Midrash Avkir selection implies that each nation has its own angel
– a perspective that Reb Zalman z"l shared with the Dalai Lama (see The Jew in the Lotus,
excerpted for Day Five). Also note the distinctions in content and tone between Midrash
Avkir's rendition of the angels at the Sea, and the rendition codified in the Talmudic exegesis
on Exodus 14.
Ex. 14:19-20
‫ לִ ְפנֵ י ַמ ֲחנֵ ה‬Q ֵ‫הים ַההֹל‬O
ִ ‫ ָה ֱא‬Q‫ִ ַסּע ַמלְ ַא‬H‫ יט ַו‬19. The angel of God, who went before
‫ד ֶה ָענָ ן‬U‫ִ ַסּע ַעמּ‬H‫יהם ַו‬
ֶ ‫ ֵמ ַא ֲח ֵר‬Q ֶ‫ֵ ל‬H‫ יִ ְשׂ ָר ֵאל ַו‬the Israelite camp, went behind them;
the pillar of cloud went and stood
ֶ ‫ַ ֲעמֹד ֵמ ַא ֲח ֵר‬H‫יהם ַו‬
ֶ ֵ‫ ִמ ְפּנ‬and
behind them.
‫בין ַמ ֲחנֵ ה יִ ְשׂ ָר ֵאל‬Uֵ ‫ין ַמ ֲחנֵ ה ִמ ְצ ַריִ ם‬Cֵ ‫ָ בֹא‬H‫ כ ַו‬20. It came between the Egyptian camp
‫ק ַרב‬-‫א‬O
‫הלָּ יְ לָ ה ְו‬-‫ת‬
ַ ‫ָ ֶאר ֶא‬H‫ ַו‬Q‫ ַויְ ִהי ֶה ָענָ ן ְו ַהח ֶֹשׁ‬and Israelite camp; and there was the
/‫הלָּ יְ לָ ה‬-‫ל‬
ַ ‫זֶ ה ָכּ‬-‫ זֶ ה ֶאל‬cloud and the darkness, illuminating the
night; and the one did not approach the
other all night.
Midrash Avkir, Ex. 14:20
(Trans. Sefer Ha'Aggadah 73:86)
When the Holy One was about to drown the Egyptians in the sea, Uzza, the
heavenly prince of Egypt, rose up and prostrated himself before the Holy One,
saying: "Master of the universe, You created the world by the measure of mercy.
Why then do You wish to drown my children?" The Holy One gathered the entire
heavenly household and said to them: You be the judge between Me and Uzza, the
prince of Egypt. At that moment, the heavenly princes of the other nations began to
speak up in behalf of Egypt. When Michael [ed. – Michael is imagined to be Israel's
"heavenly price"] perceived this, he gave the sign to Gabriel, who in one swoop
darted down to Egypt, where he pulled out a brick with its clay enclosing a [dead]
infant who had been immured alive in the structure. [Gabriel] then came back,
stood before the Holy One, and said: Master of the Universe, thus did the Egyptians
enslave Your children. Then did the Holy One sit in judgment over the Egyptians in
accord with the measure of justice and drowned them in the sea.
- 74 -
B.T. Sanhedrin 39b
‫ה במפלתן של רשעים? הכתיב‬ww‫ ומי חדי קב‬Does the Holy Blessed One rejoice at the
‫כא( בצאת לפני החלוץ ואמרים‬:‫ב כ‬ww‫ )דהי‬fall of the wicked? Is it not written (2
20:21), "As they go out before the
:‫ כי לעולם חסדו' ואמר רבי יונתן‬w‫ הודו לה‬Chron.
army, say: Give thanks to YHVH, whose
‫ מפני מה לא נאמר בהודאה זו כי טוב' לפי‬mercy endures forever" – concerning
'‫ה שמח במפלתן של רשעים‬ww‫ שאין הקב‬which R. Yochanan said: Why are the
:‫ דאמר רבי שמואל בר נחמן אמר רבי יונתן‬words 'God is good' omitted from this
‫כ( ולא קרב זה אל זה‬:‫ מאי דכתיב )שמות יד‬expression of thanks? Because the Holy
One does not rejoice at the fall of
‫ כל הלילה' באותה שעה בקשו מלאכי השרת‬Blessed
the wicked. R. Shmuel b. Nahman said
:‫ה‬ww‫ה' אמר להן הקב‬ww‫ לומר שירה לפני הקב‬in R. Yochanan's name: What is meant
‫ מעשה ידי טובעין בים ואתם אומרים שירה‬by (Ex. 14:20) "And one did not
?‫ לפני‬approach the other all night?" In that
hour the ministering angels wished to
utter song before the Holy One, but God
rebuked them saying: The works of my
hands drown in the sea, and you utter
song before Me?
Shemot Rabbah 23:7
‫כו( קדמו שרים‬:‫ סח‬w‫ד )תה‬ww‫" אז ישיר משה' הה‬Then Moses sang" (Ex. 15:1) – It is
‫ר יוחנן בקשו המלאכים לומר‬ww‫ אחר נוגנים' א‬written (Ps. 68:26), "Singers go first, the
follow." R. Yochanan said:
‫ה באותו הלילה שעברו‬ww‫ שירה לפני הקב‬minstrels
When the angels desired to chant song
‫ל‬ww‫ה א‬ww‫ ישראל את הים ולא הניחן הקב‬before God on the night Israel crossed
‫ לגיונותי נתונין בצרה ואתם אומרים לפני‬the Sea, God prevented them saying, My
‫כ( ולא קרב זה אל זה‬:‫ד )שמות יד‬ww‫ שירה' הה‬legions are in distress and you want to
‫ג( וקרא זה‬:‫ כל הלילה' כמה דתימא )ישעיה ו‬utter song before Me? Hence it says (Ex.
"And the one did not approach
‫ אל זה ואמר' וכיון שיצאו ישראל מן הים באו‬14:20),
the other all night," as it says (Is. 6:3),
‫ל‬ww‫ה א‬ww‫" המלאכים להקדים שירה לפני הקב‬And one called to the other and said."
‫ד אז ישיר משה‬ww‫ה יקדמו בני תחלה הה‬ww‫ הקב‬And as soon as Israel emerged from the
‫ וכן דוד הוא אומר קדמו שרים אלו ישראל‬//// sea, the angels rushed in to be the first to
‫ שעמדו על הים דכתיב אז ישיר משה' אחר‬utter song before the Holy Blessed One.
said to them: Let my children be
‫ה‬ww‫ נוגנים אלו המלאכים ולמה כך' אמר הקב‬God
first to do so; hence it says, "Then Moses
‫ למלאכים לא מפני שאני משפיל אתכם אני‬sang." ... This is why David says (Ps.
‫ אומר שיקדמו תחלה אלא מפני שבשר ודם‬68:26) "Singers go first," namely Israel
‫ יאמרו תחלה עד שלא ימות אחד מהם אבל‬standing at the sea, as it says, Then
‫ אתם כל זמן שאתם מבקשים אתם חיים‬Moses sang. "The minstrels follow" –
are the angels. Why? God said to
/‫ וקיימים‬these
the angels: I don't in any way degrade
you by saying that [my children] should
precede you, but as flesh and blood they
must be first, before they die, but you
can [utter song] at any time you wish
because you are immortal.
- 75 -
Liberation from Bondage
In Torah's narrative of the Tenth Plague and the Haggadah's re-telling of Exodus,
God – not an angel, a seraph or a messenger – liberated Israel from Egyptian bondage. Note
how the Haggadah follows Rashi's attribution of liberation to God and not an angel, and how
Ramban responds.
Passover Haggadah
‫ ממצרים ביד חזקה ובזרע נטויה‬w‫ ויוצאנו ה‬And God brought us out of Egypt with a
/‫ ובמרא גדול ובאתות ומפתים‬mighty hand and outstretched arm, with
great awe, with signs and wonders.
‫ לא על ידי מלאך' ולא‬- ‫ ממצרים‬w‫ויוצאנו ה‬
‫על ידי שרף' ולא על ידי שליח' אלא הקדוש‬
‫ שנאמר' ועברתי‬/‫ברוך הוא בכבודו ובעצמו‬
‫בארץ מצרים בלילה הזה והכיתי כל בכור‬
‫בארץ מצרים מאדם ועד בהמה' ובכל אלהי‬
/w‫מצרים אעשה שפטים אני ה‬
And God brought us out of Egypt – Not
by an angel, not by a seraph, not by a
messenger, but rather the Holy Blessed
One in [God's] glory and in [God's very]
self. As it is said: "I will pass in the Land
of Egypt on this night, and I will strike
all the firstborn of Egypt, from man to
beast, and on all gods of Egypt I will
‫ והכיתי‬/‫ אני ולא מלאך‬:‫ ועברתי בארץ מצרים‬execute judgment: I am YHVH."
‫ ובכל‬/‫ אני ולא שרף‬:‫ כל בכור בארץ מצרים‬I will pass in the Land of Egypt: I and
/‫ אלהי מצרים אשעה שפטים' אני ולא השליח‬not an angel. I will strike all the firstborn
/‫ אני הוא ולא אחר‬/w‫ אני ה‬of Egypt: I and not a seraph. And on all
gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I
and not a messenger. I am YHVH: I am
[God], and there is no other.
Ex. 12:12
ִ ‫ֶ ה ְו ִה ֵכּ‬Z‫לַּ יְ לָ ה ַה‬Cַ ‫ץ־מ ְצ ַריִ ם‬
ִ ‫" ְו ָע ַב ְר ִתּי ְב ֶא ֶר‬I will pass in the Land of Egypt on this
‫ ֵה ָמה‬C‫ד־‬
ְ ‫ ֶא ֶרץ ִמ ְצ ַריִ ם ֵמ ָא ָדם ְו ַע‬Cְ ‫ר‬I‫כ‬C‫ל־‬
ְ ‫ ָכ‬night, and I will strike all the firstborn of
Egypt, from man to beast, and on all the
:w‫הי ִמ ְצ ַריִ ם ֶא ֱע ֶשׂה ְשׁ ָפ ִטים ֲאנִ י ה‬O
ֵ ‫ל־א‬
ֱ ‫ב ָכ‬Uְ gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I
am YHVH.
Rashi, Ex. 12:12
‫ כמלך העובר ממקום למקום‬- "‫" "ועברתי‬I will pass" – [Allegorically] like a king
////‫ ובהעברה אחת וברגע אחד כולן לוקין‬passing from place to place, [but here]
with a single passing, and in an instant,
all were struck down....
‫ אני בעצמי ולא ע"י‬- "w‫"אעשה שפטים אני ה‬
/‫" שליח‬I will pass judgment, I am YHVH" – I
Myself, and not by means of an [angelic]
- 76 -
Ramban, Ex. 12:12
‫ועברתי בארץ מצרים אני ולא מלאך והכיתי‬
‫כל בכור אני ולא שרף ובכל אלהי מצרים‬
‫ אני‬w‫אעשה שפטים אני ולא השליח אני ה‬
‫ פירושו כי בעבור שהפרשה‬/‫הוא ולא אחר‬
‫דבר משה עם ישראל היה ראוי שיאמר "ועבר‬
‫ בארץ מצרים והכה כל בכור" ולכך ידרשו‬w‫ה‬
‫כי ועברתי אני בעצמי לא על ידי מלאך שלוח‬
(‫טז‬:‫ב כד‬ww‫מאתו במגפות כענין בדוד )ש‬
/(‫לה‬:‫ב יט‬ww‫ובסנחריב )מ‬
"I will pass in the Land of Egypt: I and
not an angel. I will strike all firstborn of
Egypt: I and not a seraph. And on all
gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I
and not a messenger. I am YHVH: I am
[God], and there's no other." Its meaning
is that, when Moses spoke with Israel, it
was fitting – [only] for clarity's sake –
that he should say, God passed through
the Land of Egypt and smote all the
firstborn. So explains [Rashi Ex. 12:12]
concerning "I will pass" in the Land of
Egypt: "I myself and not by means of an
[angelic] agent," from whom arose
plagues, as in the cases of David (2 Sam.
24:16) and Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:35).
‫והכיתי כל בכור אני ולא שרף לומר כי גם‬
‫המכה תהיה על יד הקב"ה לא כמלך שיעשה‬
‫נקמה בשונאיו לפניו על ידי ספקלטורים שלו‬
‫שהם השרפים שמהם תצא אש שורפת‬
/(‫י‬:‫ב א‬ww‫" באויביו כענין אליהו בשרי החמשים )מ‬I will smite all the firstborn: I and not a
‫ ובכל אלהי מצרים אעשה שפטים ולא על ידי‬seraph" – says that the strike comes from
the Holy Blessed One, but not like a king
‫ השליח השלוח מאתו יתברך לכל המעשים‬taking revenge against those who hate
‫ הנעשים בארץ והוא המלאך הגדול שנקרא‬him, by means of executioners who are
‫ בעבור כן מטטרון כי פירוש המלה מורה‬like seraphim from whom fire goes out
‫ הדרך כמו שאמר בספרי מאצבעו של הקב"ה‬to burn enemies, as in the case of Elijah
‫ לשון שומר( למשה‬:‫ נעשה מטטרון )הגה‬and the fifty captains (2 Kings 1:10).
‫ "וישמע‬/// ‫" והראהו כל ארץ ישראל ובילמדנו‬And on all gods of Egypt I will execute
‫לו( ששלח‬:‫ בלק כי בא בלעם" )במדבר כב‬judgment" – not from the emissary sent
‫ מטטרון לפניו ועוד שם "ראה החילותי תת‬by God, Blessed Be, to all creations of
earth, who is the great angel called
‫לא( אי אכפת לך אני‬:‫ לפניך" )דברים ב‬Metatron. Such is the usual explanation
‫ מטטרון שלך ואל תתמה שהרי אני עתיד‬of the word "Metatron," as in Sifre: From
‫ לעשות מטטור לפני אדם ערל לפני כורש‬the Holy Blessed One's finger, Metatron
‫ב( לפני‬:‫( שנאמר "אני לפניך אלך" )ישעיה מה‬i.e. "guardian") was made for Moses to
w‫ לפני דבורה וברק שנאמר "הלא ה‬/// ‫ אשה‬show him all the Land of Israel.... We are
taught, "Balak heard that Bil'am came"
‫יד( וכן במקומות‬:‫( יצא לפניך" )שופטים ד‬Num. 22:36), for God sent Metatron
"‫ רבים וכן שמעתי כי שליח בלשון יון "מטטר‬before him; and "See, I began to deliver
‫ אני הוא ולא אחר שהוא אחד‬w‫[ ודרשו אני ה‬the Land to you]" (Deut. 2:31), which
/‫ ואין אלהים עמו למחות על ידו‬couldn't be so unless "I" refers to your
emissary, Metatron. But don't speculate
if in the future "I" will send a guardian
for a non-Jew like Cyrus as in, "I will go
before you" (Is. 45:2); or for a woman
like Deborah and Barak as in, "Doesn't
God go out before you?" (Judges 4:14);
and many other places. I [also] heard
that the Greek for "emissary" is metator.
Hence the explanation of "I am YHVH: I
am God and there is no other" – God is
One and there are no gods to limit Him.
- 77 -
2 Sam. 24:14–16
‫ד ַצר־לִ י ְמאֹד נִ ְפּלָ ה־נָּ א ְביַ ד‬D‫ל־‬
ָ ‫ ִוד ֶא‬Sָ ‫אמר‬
ֶ ֹH‫ ַו‬David said to Gad, I am in great distress:
‫ִ ֵתּן‬H‫ ַו‬:‫ל־אפֹּלָ ה‬
ֶ ‫ד־א ָדם ַא‬
ָ ַ‫בי‬Uְ ‫ים ַר ֲח ָמיו‬Cִ ‫י־ר‬
ַ ‫ ִכּ‬w‫ ה‬let us fall into the hand of God, whose
mercies are great, and let me not fall into
‫ָ ָמת‬H‫עד ַו‬I‫מ‬
ֵ ‫ד־עת‬
ֵ ‫ ֶֹקר ְו ַע‬C‫יִ ְשׂ ָר ֵאל ֵמ ַה‬Cְ ‫ ֶבר‬Sֶ w‫ ה‬the hand of man. God sent pestilence on
‫ ֵאר ֶשׁ ַבע ִשׁ ְב ִעים ֶאלֶ ף‬C‫ד־‬
ְ ‫ן ְו ַע‬Sָ ‫ן־ה ָעם ִמ‬
ָ ‫ ִמ‬Israel from morning to the appointed
V‫שׁלַ ם לְ ַשׁ ֲח ָת‬U‫ר‬
ָ ְ‫ י‬Q‫ ַה ַמּלְ ָא‬I‫ִ ְשׁלַ ח יָ ד‬H‫ ַו‬:‫ ִאישׁ‬time; and there died seventy thousand
‫ ַה ַמּ ְשׁ ִחית‬Q‫אמר לַ ַמּלְ ָא‬
ֶ ֹH‫ל־ה ָר ָעה ַו‬
ָ ‫ ֶא‬w‫ִ נָּ ֶחם ה‬H‫ ַו‬of the nation from Dan to Beersheba.
////W‫ ָעם ַרב ַע ָתּה ֶה ֶרף יָ ֶד‬Cָ When the angel stretched out his hand
on Jerusalem to destroy it, God repented
of the evil, and said to the angel who
destroyed the people, "Enough: now
stay your hand...."
2 Kings 19:31-36
‫ן‬IH‫יטה ֵמ ַהר ִצ‬
ָ ֵ‫פל‬U
ְ ‫שׁלַ ם ֵתּ ֵצא ְשׁ ֵא ִרית‬U‫יר‬
ָ ‫ ִכּי ִמ‬For from Jerusalem will go forth a
w‫ֹה־א ַמר ה‬
ָ ‫ לָ ֵכן כּ‬:‫ֹאת‬Z‫ת ַתּ ֲע ֶשׂה־‬I‫ ְצ ָבא‬w‫ ִקנְ ַאת ה‬remnant [along with] they who escape
from Mount Zion; the zeal of the Lord of
‫א־‬O‫ֹאת ְו‬Z‫ל־ה ִעיר ַה‬
ָ ‫א יָ בֹא ֶא‬O ‫ר‬U‫ ַאשּׁ‬Q ֶ‫ל־מל‬
ֶ ‫ ֶא‬Hosts will do this. So thus said YHVH
Qֹ‫א־יִ ְשׁפּ‬O‫ ֶמנָּ ה ָמ ֵגן ְו‬Sְ ‫א־יְ ַק‬O‫רה ָשׁם ֵחץ ְו‬I‫י‬
ֶ concerning the king of Assyria: He will
‫ב ְו ֶאל־‬U‫ יָ שׁ‬VCָ ‫ ֲא ֶשׁר־יָ בֹא‬Q‫ ֶר‬Sֶ Cַ :‫יה סֹלְ לָ ה‬
ָ ֶ‫ ָעל‬not come to this city, or shoot an arrow
‫ל־ה ִעיר‬
ָ ‫תי ֶא‬I‫נּ‬
ִ ‫ ְו ַג‬:w‫א יָ בֹא נְ ֻאם־ה‬O ‫ֹאת‬Z‫ ָה ִעיר ַה‬there, or come before it with a shield, or
up a mound against it. By the way
‫ ַויְ ִהי‬:‫י‬Sִ ‫ ִוד ַע ְב‬Sָ ‫לְ ַמ ַען‬U ‫ לְ ַמ ֲענִ י‬V‫שׁ ָיע‬I‫ה‬
ִ ְ‫ֹאת ל‬Z‫ ַה‬cast
he came, by the same he will return, and
‫ר‬U‫ ַמ ֲחנֵ ה ַאשּׁ‬Cְ Q ַH‫ ַו‬w‫ ה‬Q‫ֵ ֵצא ַמלְ ַא‬H‫א ַו‬U‫לַּ יְ לָ ה ַהה‬Cַ will not come into this city, said YHVH.
‫ ֶֹקר‬C‫ ַב‬U‫ַ ְשׁ ִכּימ‬H‫נִ ים ַו ֲח ִמ ָשּׁה ָאלֶ ף ַו‬I‫ ֵמ ָאה ְשׁמ‬For I will defend this city, to save it for
‫ָ ָשׁב‬H‫ ַו‬Q ֶ‫ֵ ל‬H‫ִ ַסּע ַו‬H‫ו‬:ַ ‫ ְו ִהנֵּ ה ֻכלָּ ם ְפּ ָג ִרים ֵמ ִתים‬My own sake and My servant David’s
/‫נִ ינְ ֵוה‬Cְ ‫ֵ ֶשׁב‬H‫ר ַו‬U‫־אשּׁ‬Q
ַ ֶ‫ ַסנְ ֵח ִריב ֶמל‬sake. And it came to pass that night, that
God's angel went out, and struck in the
Assyrian camp one hundred and eighty
five thousand; and when they arose in
the morning, all were dead corpses.
Sennacherib king of Assyria departed,
went, returned and dwelled in Nineveh.
2 Kings 1:10
‫ל־שׂר ַה ֲח ִמ ִשּׁים ְו ִאם־‬
ַ ‫ר ֶא‬Cֵ ‫ ַויְ ַד‬U‫ָ ה‬H ִ‫ַ ֲענֶ ה ֵאל‬H‫ ַו‬Elijah answered and said to the captain
ַ ‫ן־ה ָשּׁ ַמיִ ם ְות‬
ַ ‫הים ָאנִ י ֵתּ ֶרד ֵאשׁ ִמ‬O
ִ ‫ ִאישׁ ֱא‬of fifty: "If I am a man of God, may fire
come down from heaven, and consume
‫ן־ה ָשּׁ ַמיִ ם‬
ַ ‫ ַו ֵתּ ֶרד ֵאשׁ ִמ‬W‫ת־ח ִמ ֶשּׁי‬
ֲ ‫ ְו ֶא‬W‫ א ְֹת‬you and your fifty." Fire descended from
:‫ת־ח ִמ ָשּׁיו‬
ֲ ‫ ְו ֶא‬I‫ֹאכל אֹת‬
ַ ‫ ַותּ‬heaven and consumed him and his fifty.
- 78 -
Elior, R., "Mysticism, Magic & Angelology: The Perception of
Angels in Hekhalot Literature," Jewish Stud. Q. 1 (1993), 37-39
- 79 -
- 80 -
- 81 -
Wiener, S., "Guidance from Other Dimensions of the God-Field:
Ancestors, Angels and Guides,” in Milgram & Wiener (eds.), Seeking and
Soaring: Jewish Approaches to Spiritual Guidance and Development, 2nd ed,
Reclaiming Judaism Press, New Rochelle, NY (2014), pp. 226-227.
I used to think that angels were mere folklore, a literary device found in talltales. My shift began in the mid 1980’s, when I joined the Manhattan congregation
of the great musical rebbe, Shlomo Carlebach, of blessed memory. In addition to the
music being gloriously uplifting, his theology challenged and inspired me. My
favorite song was B’Shaim HaShem (in the name of God) – The Angel Song, which
contained the text asking for blessing, in the name of God, from the four Archangels
Michael, Gavriel, Uriel and Raphael, as well as the Shechinah (God’s presence in
rabbinic literature, which evolved into God’s feminine side in Judaism). This text
appears in traditional prayer books as part of the bedtime Shema prayer. I made it a
practice to chant the song or say the words morning and night, as well as at other
times when I needed protection.
I wasn’t sure initially whether the angels were “real” or just a name for
energetic qualities of love, strength, vision, and healing. After studying the tradition
and realizing that they appear in many places in the Hebrew Bible, as well as in the
Talmud and mystical Jewish literature, I was able to suspend my doubts.
One day in 1994, I was lying on my bed, in a meditative frame of mind, when
a huge, loving wave of energy swept through my body. In my mind’s eye I saw a
large, loving man with huge wings, and felt intuitively that he was an angel. A
name came to me, which I hold close to my heart. As I called out this name, my
body became swept up in waves of ecstatic energy. That is how this angel made his
appearance known. Since that time, I connect regularly with his presence, which
feels like a loving and wise guide. I sense that he is the specific angel that God has
sent me to help with my work as a mashpi’ah and teacher of hashpa’ah.
- 82 -
Our sister religions, Christianity and Islam, also teach about the significance
of angels as agents of God. M. Ibrahim Baha’uddin Farajaje, a professor, sheikh and
spiritual director in the Sufi tradition, shared with me his life-changing encounter
with an angel. A couple of years ago he was in the hospital, at death’s door due to a
serious lung infection, feeling as if he were drowning. Finally he dozed, and saw an
enormous Archangel place his hands on the left side of his chest and pull out
“something.” The Archangel communicated without words that all would be well,
and that this was his initiation so that he could help others through the passageway
to the Divine Light.
The following day chest X-rays were taken, revealing only healthy tissue. The
pathology in the left side of his lung had vanished. Professor Farajaje experienced
this as a miracle sent by God through the Divine messenger, the Archangel.
Not all encounters with angels bring about miracles; but they always serve a
function or bring a message. For example, in the spring of 2008, while in meditation,
I wrote down the following, which I felt came from the angelic realm:
Dearly Beloved, I come to you today with a message of hope.
Be not fearful for your future. We here stand ready to assist
you in the evolution of your planet. But we must be asked….
You have been given a great and difficult task, to raise the
energies of your bodies and of your planet to a level where
peace and love will prevail. It begins with you, each one of
you. Know that the force of light can banish darkness
whenever it is directed in sufficient strength. Your strength
lies in numbers. It says in your Talmud, “Every blade of grass
has its angel that bends over it and whispers, ‘Grow, grow.’
How much more is it true for every human.
We bless you to grow, grow.
- 83 -
Excerpts from Bedtime Shema & HaMapil
ִ ‫חל לְ ָכל ִמי ֶשׁ ִה ְכ ִעיס ְו ִה ְקנִ יט‬I‫מ‬
ֵ ‫ֲה ֵרינִ י‬
‫ין‬Cֵ ‫נִ י‬I‫ ָממ‬Cְ ‫ין‬Cֵ ‫פי‬U‫ג‬
ִ Cְ ‫ין‬Cֵ ‫י‬Sִ ‫ ֶשׁ ָח ָטא ְכּנֶ ְג‬I‫א‬
‫ין‬Cֵ '‫אֹנֶ ס‬Cְ ‫ין‬Cֵ '‫ין ְב ָכל ֲא ֶשׁר לִ י‬Cֵ ‫די‬I‫ב‬
ִ ‫ ְכ‬Cִ
‫ר‬UC‫ ִד‬Cְ ‫ין‬Cֵ '‫ ֵמזִ יד‬Cְ ‫ין‬Cֵ '‫גג‬I‫שׁ‬
ֵ Cְ ‫ין‬Cֵ '‫ן‬I‫ ָרצ‬Cְ
‫ין‬Cֵ '‫ר‬U‫ ִה ְרה‬Cְ ‫ין‬Cֵ ‫ ַמ ֲח ָשׁ ָבה‬Cְ '‫ ַמ ֲע ֵשׂה‬Cְ ‫ין‬Cֵ
‫ם‬U‫א יֵ ָענֵ שׁ שׁ‬O‫ל ַא ֵחר' ְו‬U‫ ִגלְ ג‬Cְ ‫ין‬Cֵ ‫ל זֶ ה‬U‫ ִגלְ ג‬Cְ
/‫ ִתי‬Cָ ‫ ִס‬Cְ ‫ָא ָדם‬
I hereby forgive anyone who angered and
antagonized me, or transgressed against
me, whether against my body, my
property, my honor or against any thing of
mine; whether by accident, intentionally,
carelessly or purposely; whether by speech
or by action, by thought or idea; whether
in this life or in another life – and may no
one be punished because of me.
ַ ‫הי ֲא‬O‫א‬
ֵ ‫הי ֵו‬O
ַ ‫ ֱא‬w‫ ה‬W‫ן ִמלְּ ָפנֶ י‬I‫יְ ִהי ָרצ‬
ִ ‫מה ֶשּׁ ָח ָט‬U
ַ '‫ד‬I‫א ֶא ֱח ָטא ע‬V‫תי' ֶשׁ‬I‫מ‬
ַ ‫ְו ִא‬
‫א ַעל‬O ‫ים' ֲא ָבל‬Cִ ‫ ָה ַר‬W‫ ַר ֲח ֶמי‬Cְ ‫ק‬I‫ ְמח‬W‫לְ ָפנֶ י‬
‫ן ִא ְמ ֵרי‬I‫ לְ ָרצ‬U‫ יִ ְהי‬/‫רים ָו ֳחלָ יִ ים ָר ִעים‬U‫סּ‬
ִ ִ‫יִ ֵדי י‬
/‫רי ְוג ֲֹאלִ י‬U‫צ‬
ִ w‫' ה‬W‫י לְ ָפנֶ י‬Cִ ִ‫ן ל‬I‫ִפי ְו ֶה ְגי‬
May it be Your will, Yah, my God and God
of my fathers and mothers, that I sin (miss
the mark) no more. Whatever my sins
(missed marks) of the past before You, blot
them out in Your abundant mercy – but
not by suffering or severe illness. May the
words of my mouth and the meditations of
my heart be acceptable to You, Yah, my
Rock and my Redeemer.
‫לָ ם' ַה ַמּ ִפּיל‬I‫ ָהע‬Q ֶ‫ ֶמל‬U‫הינ‬O
ֵ ‫ ֱא‬w‫ ַא ָתּה ה‬QU‫ר‬Cָ
ִ ‫ ִו‬/‫מה ַעל ַע ְפ ַע ָפּי‬U‫נ‬
ָ ‫ת‬U
ְ ‫ֶח ְבלֵ י ֵשׁנָ ה ַעל ֵעינָ י‬
ַ ‫הי ֲא‬O‫א‬
ֵ ‫הי ֵו‬O
ַ ‫ ֱא‬w‫ ה‬W‫ן ִמלְּ ָפנֶ י‬I‫ָרצ‬
‫ם ְו ַת ֲע ִמ ֵידנִ י‬I‫תי' ֶשׁ ַתּ ְשׁ ִכּ ֵיבנִ י לְ ָשׁל‬I‫מ‬
ַ ‫ְו ִא‬
‫ת ָר ִעים‬I‫מ‬I‫נַ י ַו ֲחל‬I‫נִ י ַר ְעי‬U‫ם' ְו ַאל יְ ַב ֲהל‬I‫לְ ָשׁל‬
‫ ִתי ְשׁלֵ ָמה‬Yָ ‫ת ֵהא ִמ‬U
ְ '‫רים ָר ִעים‬U‫ה‬
ִ ‫ְו ַה ְר‬
‫ישׁן ַה ָמּ ֶות' ִכּי ַא ָתּה‬
ַ ‫' ְו ָה ֵאר ֵעינַ י ֶפּן ִא‬W‫לְ ָפנֶ י‬
'w‫ ַא ָתּה ה‬QU‫ר‬Cָ /‫ת ָעיִ ן‬Cַ ‫ן‬I‫ַה ֵמּ ִאיר לְ ִאישׁ‬
/I‫ד‬I‫ ְכב‬Cִ I‫לָ ם ֻכּלּ‬I‫ַה ֵמּ ִאיר לָ ע‬
Blessed are You, Yah our God, sovereign
of time and space, who casts the bonds of
sleep on my eyes and slumber on my
eyelids. May it be Your will, Yah, my God
and God of my fathers and mothers, that
You lay me to sleep in peace and raise me
in peace. May my ideas, bad dreams and
bad thoughts not confound me: may my
resting place be perfect before You. May
You illuminate my eyes lest I die in sleep,
for You illuminate the pupil of the eye.
Blessed are You, Yah, illuminating all of
space-time with [Your] glory.
Concentrate on surrendering to God.
Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad.
(Baruch shem k'vod malchuto l'olam va'ed.)
:‫ | ֶא ָחד‬w‫ ה‬U‫הינ‬O
ֵ ‫ | ֱא‬w‫ְשׁ ַמע | יִ ְשׂ ָר ֵאל ה‬
(/‫לָ ם ָו ֶעד‬I‫ לְ ע‬I‫ת‬U‫ד ַמלְ כ‬I‫ ֵשׁם ְכּב‬QU‫ר‬C)ָ
- 84 -
‫ ֶאת‬Q‫ ֵֹאל א ִֹתי ִמ ָכּל ָרע יְ ָב ֵר‬D‫ ַה‬Q‫ַה ַמּלְ ָא‬
ַ ‫ַה ָנְּע ִרים ְויִ ָרּ ֵרא ָב ֶהם ְשׁ ִמי ְו ֵשׁם ֲא‬
:‫ ֶק ֶרב ָה ָא ֶרץ‬Cְ ‫ לָ רֹב‬UD‫ַא ְב ָר ָהם ְויִ ְצ ָחק ְויִ ְד‬
:W‫ ְויִ ְשׁ ְמ ֶר‬w‫ ה‬W‫יְ ָב ֶר ְכ‬
:W ֶ‫ ִו ֻיחנּ‬W‫ ָפּנָ יו ֵאלֶ י‬w‫יָ ֵאר ה‬
:‫ם‬I‫ ָשׁל‬W ְ‫ ְויָ ֵשׂם ל‬W‫ ָפּנָ יו ֵאלֶ י‬w‫יִ ָשּׂא ה‬
May [God's] angel who redeems me from
all evil bless the children, and may my
name be declared on them and the names of
my forefathers Abraham and Isaac. May
they be abundant as the fish [in the sea
even] amidst the land (Gen. 48:16).
May God bless you and keep you.
May God illuminate you and grace you.
May God's countenance turn toward you
and give you peace (Num. 6:24-26).
:‫מר יִ ְשׂ ָר ֵאל‬I‫שׁ‬
ֵ ‫ישׁן‬
ָ ִ‫א י‬O‫ם ְו‬U‫א יָ נ‬O ‫ ִהנֵּ ה‬Behold, the guardian of Israel neither
slumbers nor sleeps (Ps. 121:4).
'w‫יתי ה‬
ִ Uִ ‫ ִק‬W‫ע ְת‬U‫ישׁ‬
ָ ִ‫ ל‬For Your salvation I long, Yah
'w‫ ה‬W‫ע ְת‬U‫ישׁ‬
ִ‫יתי ל‬
ִ Uִ ‫ ִק‬I long, Yah, for Your salvation.
ִ Uִ ‫ ִק‬W‫ע ְת‬U‫ישׁ‬
ִ‫ ל‬w‫ ה‬Yah, for Your salvation I long. (Gen. 49:18)
'‫הי יִ ְשׂ ָר ֵאל‬O
ֵ ‫ ֱא‬w‫ ֵשׁם ה‬Cְ
'‫יכ ֵאל‬
ָ ‫ימינִ י ִמ‬
ִ ‫ִמ‬
ֵ ‫ ְב ִר‬Dַ ‫מ ְשּׂמֹאלִ י‬U
ֵ ‫ר‬U‫א‬
ִ ‫מלְּ ָפנַ י‬U
'‫רי ְר ָפ ֵאל‬I‫ח‬
ַ ‫מ ֲא‬U
/‫ֹאשׁי ְשׁ ִכינַ ת ֵאל‬
ִ ‫ְו ַעל ר‬
In the name of Yah, God of Israel,
May Michael be at my right,
Gavriel at my left,
Uriel before me,
Raphael behind me,
And above my head Shechinat-El.
- 85 -
Angelic Opposition and Prosecution
The Jewish canon envisions a spectrum of angelic roles in the shadows of human and
spiritual life. This spectrum ranges from recognizing negative behaviors and proclaiming
their consequences, to representing the negative as God's agent of redirection, to standing as
God's loyal opposition and human prosecutor, to representing or encouraging the so-called
evil inclination as an independent angelic entity standing opposed to God.
From historical and textual perspectives, this broad spectrum might well be
developmental, representing natural midrashic process and the evolution of human
understanding of "evil" and the Jewish "Satan" from verb/process to noun/identity. In a
spiritual sense, this spectrum – like much else in the Jewish canon concerning angels – offers
clergy and seekers a textual palette with which to connect and uplift the breadth of
individual and collective experience in the inevitable shadows of human life. Also like much
else in Jewish angelology, this breadth about angelic shadow cues up core questions of
theology: what is "evil," why does God allow "evil" to exist, how do we understand the roles
of "evil" and "opposition" in spiritual life, and what do our answers mean for our own faith
and practice?
The following texts offer examples (but by no means exhaustive examples) of this
philosophical and spiritual breadth, demonstrating some of how the Jewish canon wrestles
with angels through the lenses of shadow, temptation and evil.
A. An "Evil" Angel: Recognizing What Is
B.T. Shabbat 119b
‫ יוסי בר יהודה אומר שני מלאכי‬w‫ תניא ר‬It was taught, R. Yosi b. R. Yehudah
‫ השרת מלוין לו לאדם בע"ש מבית הכנסת‬said: Two ministering angels accompany
shul goer] on the eve of Shabbat from
‫ וכשבא לביתו‬/‫[ לביתו אחד טוב ואחד רע‬a
the synagogue to one's home – one a
‫ ומצא נר דלוק ושלחן ערוך ומטתו מוצעת‬good [angel] and one an evil [angel].
‫ מלאך טוב אומר יהי רצון שתהא לשבת‬When [the shul goer] arrives home to
/‫ אחרת כך ומלאך רע עונה אמן בעל כרחו‬find the [Shabbat] lamp burning, the
‫ ואם לאו מלאך רע אומר יהי רצון שתהא‬table set and the [bed] covered with a
the good angel says, "May the
/‫ לשבת אחרת כך ומלאך טוב עונה אמן‬spread,
next Shabbat be like this [also]," and the
evil angel unwillingly answers, "Amen."
But if not, the evil angel says, "May the
next Shabbat be like this [also]," and the
good angel unwillingly answers,
- 86 -
B. "Satan": Angelic Opposition for the Sake of Heaven
Num. 22:22-33
‫ִ ְתיַ ֵצּב‬H‫א ַו‬U‫ ה‬Q ֵ‫ל‬I‫הים ִכּי־ה‬O
ִ ‫ר־אף ֱא‬
ַ ‫ִ ַח‬H‫ כב ַו‬22. God’s anger flared because [Bilam]
ֲ ‫א ר ֵֹכב ַע‬U‫ ְוה‬I‫ לְ ָשׂ ָטן ל‬Q‫ ֶר‬Sֶ Cַ w‫ ה‬Q‫ ַמלְ ַא‬went; God's angel stood in the way to
oppose him. Now he rode his donkey,
:I‫שׁנֵ י ָנְע ָריו ִעמּ‬U
ְ and his two servants were with him.
IC‫ ְו ַח ְר‬Q‫ ֶר‬Sֶ Cַ ‫ נִ ָצּב‬w‫ ה‬Q‫ת־מלְ ַא‬
ַ ‫ן ֶא‬I‫כג ַו ֵתּ ֶרא ָה ָאת‬
Q ֶ‫ ַו ֵתּל‬Q‫ ֶר‬Sֶ ‫ן־ה‬
ַ ‫ן ִמ‬I‫ ַו ֵתּט ָה ָאת‬I‫יָ ד‬Cְ ‫פה‬U‫ל‬
ָ ‫ְשׁ‬
:Q‫ ֶר‬Sָ ‫ ַה‬V‫ ָֹת‬Y‫ן לְ ַה‬I‫ת־ה ָאת‬
ָ ‫לְ ָעם ֶא‬Cִ Q ַH‫ ָשּׂ ֶדה ַו‬Cַ
23. The donkey saw God's angel in the
way, his sword drawn in his hand; the
donkey turned out of the way and went
into the field; Bilam struck [her] to turn
her to the way.
‫ ֵדר‬Dָ ‫ל ַה ְכּ ָר ִמים‬I‫ ִמ ְשׁע‬Cְ w‫ ה‬Q‫ַ ֲעמֹד ַמלְ ַא‬H‫כד ַו‬
:‫ֶ ה‬Z‫ֶ ה ְו ָג ֵדר ִמ‬Z‫ ִמ‬24. God's angel stood in a path of the
vineyards, a wall on each side.
‫ ַו ִתּלָּ ֵחץ ֶאל־‬w‫ ה‬Q‫ת־מלְ ַא‬
ַ ‫ן ֶא‬I‫ כה ַו ֵתּ ֶרא ָה ָאת‬25. The donkey saw God's angel, pushed
‫ֹ ֶסף‬H‫ל־ה ִרּיר ַו‬
ַ ‫לְ ָעם ֶא‬Cִ ‫ת־ר ֶגל‬
ֶ ‫ ַה ִרּיר ַו ִתּלְ ַחץ ֶא‬herself to the wall and crushed Bilam's
:V‫ לְ ַהכּ ָֹת‬foot against the wall; again he hit her.
26. God's angel passed and stood in a
‫ם ָצר‬I‫ ָמק‬Cְ ‫ַ ֲעמֹד‬H‫ר ַו‬I‫ ֲעב‬w‫־ה‬Q‫סף ַמלְ ַא‬IH
ֶ ‫ כו ַו‬narrow place, with no way to turn right
ְ ‫ת יָ ִמין‬I‫ לִ נְ ט‬Q‫ ֶר‬S‫ין־‬
ֶ ‫ ֲא ֶשׁר ֵא‬or left.
‫ץ ַתּ ַחת‬Cַ ‫ ַו ִתּ ְר‬w‫ ה‬Q‫ת־מלְ ַא‬
ַ ‫ן ֶא‬I‫ כז ַו ֵתּ ֶרא ָה ָאת‬27. When the donkey saw God's angel,
:‫ ַמּ ֵרּל‬Cַ ‫ן‬I‫ת־ה ָאת‬
ָ ‫ ֶא‬Q ַH‫לְ ָעם ַו‬Cִ ‫ר־אף‬
ַ ‫ִ ַח‬H‫לְ ָעם ַו‬Cִ she fell under Bilam; [his] anger flared
and he struck [her] with a staff.
‫ֹאמר לְ ִבלְ ָעם‬
ֶ ‫ן ַותּ‬I‫ת־פּי ָה ָאת‬
ִ ‫ ֶא‬w‫ִ ְפ ַתּח ה‬H‫ כח ַו‬28. God opened the donkey's mouth,
:‫יתנִ י זֶ ה ָשׁלשׁ ְר ָגלִ ים‬
ָ ‫ ִכּי ִה ִכּ‬W ְ‫יתי ל‬
ִ ‫ה־ע ִשׂ‬
ָ ‫ ֶמ‬and she said to Bilam: What did I do to
you that you struck me so three times?
U‫י ל‬Cִ ‫ן ִכּי ִה ְת ַעלַּ לְ ְתּ‬I‫לְ ָעם לָ ָאת‬Cִ ‫אמר‬
ֶ ֹH‫ כט ַו‬29. Bilam said to [her]: Because you
:Q‫יָ ִדי ִכּי ַע ָתּה ֲה ַר ְג ִתּי‬Cְ ‫שׁ־ח ֶרב‬
ֶ ֶ‫ י‬abused me; would that I had a sword in
my hand so now I could kill you.
W ְ‫א ָאנ ִֹכי ֲאתֹנ‬I‫לְ ָעם ֲהל‬C‫ל־‬
ִ ‫ן ֶא‬I‫ֹאמר ָה ָאת‬
ֶ ‫ל ַותּ‬
[She] said to Bilam: Am not I your
‫ֶ ה ַה ַה ְס ֵכּן‬Z‫ם ַה‬IH‫ד־ה‬
ַ ‫ ַע‬W‫ד‬I‫ע‬
ְ ‫ר־ר ַכ ְב ָתּ ָעלַ י ֵמ‬
ָ ‫ ֲא ֶשׁ‬30.
donkey that you rode all this time? Have
:‫א‬O ‫אמר‬
ֶ ֹH‫ כֹּה ַו‬W ְ‫ת ל‬I‫ ִה ְס ַכּנְ ִתּי לַ ֲעשׂ‬I ever done this to you? He said: No.
w‫ ה‬Q‫ת־מלְ ַא‬
ַ ‫ַ ְרא ֶא‬H‫ת־עינֵ י ִבלְ ָעם ַו‬
ֵ ‫ ֶא‬w‫לא ַויְ ַגל ה‬
U‫ִ ְשׁ ַתּח‬H‫ִ רֹּד ַו‬H‫ ַו‬I‫יָ ד‬Cְ ‫ ְשׁ ֻל ָפה‬IC‫ ְו ַח ְר‬Q‫ ֶר‬Sֶ Cַ ‫נִ ָצּב‬
:‫לְ ַא ָפּיו‬
31. Then God opened Bilam's eyes, and
he saw God's angel standing in the way,
sword drawn in his hand; and he bowed
his head, and fell on his face.
‫ית ֶאת־‬
ָ ‫ל־מה ִה ִכּ‬
ָ ‫ ַע‬w‫ ה‬Q‫אמר ֵאלָ יו ַמלְ ַא‬
ֶ ֹH‫לב ַו‬
‫אתי לְ ָשׂ ָטן‬
ִ ‫שׁ ְר ָגלִ ים ִהנֵּ ה ָאנ ִֹכי יָ ָצ‬I‫ זֶ ה ָשׁל‬W ְ‫ֲאתֹנ‬
:‫י‬Sִ ‫ לְ נֶ ְג‬Q‫ ֶר‬Sֶ ‫ִכּי־יָ ַרט ַה‬
32. God's angel said to him: Why did
you strike your donkey so three times?
Look, I went out to oppose you because
your way is perverse before me.
‫ן ַו ֵתּט לְ ָפנַ י זֶ ה ָשׁלשׁ ְר ָגלִ ים‬I‫ לג ַו ִתּ ְר ַאנִ י ָה ָאת‬33. The donkey saw Me and turned from
‫ם־א ְֹת ָכה ָה ַר ְג ִתּי‬Dַ ‫לַ י נָ ְט ָתה ִמ ָפּנַ י ִכּי ַע ָתּה‬U‫ א‬Me three times; had she not turned from
ִ ֵ‫ ֶה ֱחי‬V‫ת‬I‫א‬
ָ ‫ ְו‬Me, I would've slain you and let her live.
- 87 -
Rashi Num. 22:22
‫ מלאך של רחמים היה והיה רוצה‬/‫ לשטן לו‬To oppose him – He was an angel of
/‫ למנעו מלחטוא' שלא יחטא ויאבד‬mercy, who had wanted to prevent
[Bilam] from sinning, that he shouldn't
sin and be destroyed.
Ibn Ezra Num. 22:22
‫ כבר פירשתיו בספר איוב כי השטן‬/‫ לשטן לו‬To oppose him – As already explained
‫ היה המלאך ודברי הגאון שהוא בן אדם לא‬in the Book of Job, the opposer is the
whom the wise held to be the Son
/‫ מעלין ולא מורידין‬angel
of Man neither ascended nor descended.
Kitzur Ba'al HaTurim, Num. 22:32
‫ יצאתי ממדתי ממדת‬/‫ הנה אנכי יצאתי לשטן‬Look, I went out to oppose you – I went
:‫ רחמים שמלאך רחמים היה‬out from My qualities, from the quality
of mercy [like] the angel of mercy.
C. "Satan": God's Loyal Prosecutor
Job 1:6
w‫הים לְ ִה ְתיַ ֵצּב ַעל־ה‬O
ִ ‫נֵ י ָה ֱֽא‬Cְ U‫ָ בֹא‬H‫ם ַו‬IH‫ ַויְ ִהי ַה‬The day came that the Bnei Elohim came
ָ Cְ ‫ם־ה ָשּׂ ָטן‬
ַ ‫א ַג‬I‫ָ ב‬H‫ ַו‬to stand in God's way; the Satan also
came among them.
Rashi Job 1:6
/‫ לקטרג הבריות‬/‫ ויבא גם השטן בתוכם‬The Satan also came among them – The
accuser of all creatures.
Avot 4:11
‫ רבי אליעזר בן יעקב אומר העושה מצוה‬R. Eliezer b. Yaakov said: One who does
‫ והעובר עברה‬/‫ אחת קונה לו פרקליט אחד‬one good deed acquires a defender. One
////‫ אחת קונה לו קטיגור אחד‬who does one sin acquires a prosecutor.
Bartenura Avot 4:11
Ovadiah b. Avraham (c. 1445-1515) was born in Bertinoro, Italy, and became an intellectual
leader of Jews exiled from Spain in 1492. He is best known for "The Bartenura," his
rationalist commentary on the Mishnah based primarily on Rashi and Rambam.
/‫ מלאך מליץ טוב‬- ‫ ְפּ ַר ְקלִ יט‬Praklit – An angel advocating for good.
/‫ מליץ רע ולשון קטיגור קורא תגר‬- ‫ קטיגור‬Katigor – [An angel] advocating for bad,
/‫ וסניגור שהוא הפך קטיגור פירושו שונא תגר‬meaning to proclaim prosecution. And
Sanegor is opposite Katigor, meaning to
hate (oppose) prosecution.
- 88 -
Ex. 12:29
‫ ֶא ֶרץ‬Cְ ‫ר‬I‫כ‬C‫ל־‬
ְ ‫ ִה ָכּה ָכ‬w‫ ֲח ִצי ַהלַּ יְ לָ ה ַוה‬Cַ ‫ ַויְ ִהי‬It came to pass, that at midnight God
‫ר‬I‫כ‬Cְ ‫ ַעד‬I‫ל־כּ ְסא‬
ִ ‫ֹ ֵשׁב ַע‬H‫כֹר ַפּ ְרעֹה ַה‬Cְ ‫ ִמ ְצ ַריִ ם ִמ‬struck all the firstborn of Egypt, from
the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his
:‫ ֵה ָמה‬Cְ ‫ר‬I‫כ‬Cְ ‫ר ְוכֹל‬IC‫ ֵבית ַה‬Cְ ‫ ַה ְשּׁ ִבי ֲא ֶשׁר‬throne to the firstborn of the captive in
prison; and all the firstborn of cattle.
Ex. Rabbah 18:5
(Trans. Sefer Ha'Aggadah 333:7)
- ?‫ למה מיכאל וסמאל דומין‬:‫ אמר רבי יוסי‬R. Yose said: To whom are Michael and
‫ לסניגור וקטיגור עומדין בדין' זה מדבר וזה‬Samael compared? To an advocate and
before a court. One speaks
‫ מדבר' גמר זה דבריו וזה דבריו' ידע אותו‬prosecutor
and the other speaks. When one finishes
‫ הסניגור שנצח' התחיל משבח את הדיין‬what he has to say, and the other
‫ שיוציא איפופסין' בקש אותו קטיגור להוסיף‬finishes what he has to say, if the
‫החרש ונשמע מן‬w ‫ דבר' אמר לו הסניגור‬advocate knows that he has prevailed,
‫ כך מיכאל וסמאל עומדים לפני‬/w‫ הדיין‬he begins to praise the judge in the hope
he will give his verdict [in favor of
‫ השכינה והשטן מקטרג ומיכאל מלמד זכותן‬that
the defendant]. Then, if the prosecutor
‫ של ישראל' והשטן בא לדבר ומיכאל‬wishes to say more, the advocate tells
‫ט( אשמעה‬:‫ פה‬w‫ משתקו' למה? שנאמר )תה‬him, “Be quiet and let's hear the judge.”
/"‫ כי ידבר שלום אל עמו‬w‫ מה ידבר האל ה‬So do Michael and Samael stand before
the Presence, Satan making accusations
and Michael pointing to Israel’s merits.
When Satan wishes to say more, Michael
silences him as in (Ps. 85:9), “Let me
hear what God will say: for [God] will
speak shalom for [God's] people”
D. "Satan": The Evil Urge and Angelic Disruptor
Gen. 3:1
‫ַ ת ַה ָשּׂ ֶדה ֲא ֶשׁר ָע ָשׂה‬H‫ם ִמכֹּל ַח‬U‫ ְו ַהנָּ ָחשׁ ָהיָ ה ָער‬The serpent was more cunning than any
‫י־א ַמר‬
ָ ‫ל־ה ִא ָשּׁה ַאף ִכּ‬
ָ ‫אמר ֶא‬
ֶ ֹH‫הים ַו‬O
ִ ‫ ֱא‬w‫ ה‬beast of the field which YHVH God had
made. He said to the woman: Did God
:‫ן‬Dָ ‫ ִמכֹּל ֵעץ ַה‬U‫ֹאכל‬
ְ ‫א ת‬O ‫הים‬O
ִ ‫ ֱא‬say not to eat of every tree in the garden?
Sforno Gen. 3:1
‫ והנחש הוא שטן הוא יצר הרע רב החזק עם‬The snake – Satan, the evil urge (yetzer
‫ כי אמנם יקרא הדבר‬/‫ מעוט היותו נראה‬ha'ra), seen as very strong even in its
It is common to name things by
‫ בשם איזה דומה לו כמו שנקרא המלך אריה‬subtlety.
other examples of it, like a king is called
‫ כאמרו עלה אריה מסכבו ויקרא האויבים‬lion as in (Jer. 4:7), "a lion rose from his
‫ המזיקים נחשים צפעונים אשר אין להם‬thicket" [alluding to Nebuchadnezzar];
‫ לחש כאמרו הנני משלח בכם נחשים‬and enemies are called (Jer. 8:17) "adders
‫ ועל זה הדרך קרא בזה המקום‬/w‫ צפעונים וכו‬that cannot be charmed," etc. Similarly,
called the evil urge that impels one
/‫ את היצר הרע המחטיא נחש‬God
to sin "the snake."
- 89 -
Midrash Tanchuma, Noach
(Trans., Sefer Ha'Aggadah 29:134)
When Noah began planting [his vineyard after the Flood], Satan came,
stationed himself before him, and asked, “What are you planting?” Noah answered,
“A vineyard.” Satan asked, “What is its nature?” Noah said, “Its fruit, whether fresh
or dried, is sweet, and from it one makes wine, which gladdens a man’s heart.”
Satan asked, “Will you agree to let both of us plant it together?” Noah said, “Very
What did Satan do? He brought an ewe lamb and slaughtered it over a vine.
After that, he brought a lion, which he likewise slaughtered. Then a monkey, which
also he slaughtered over it. Finally a pig, which he again slaughtered over that vine.
And with the blood that dripped from them, he watered the vineyard.
The charade was Satan’s way of saying that when a man drinks one cup of
wine, he acts like an ewe lamb – humble and meek. When he drinks two, he
immediately believes himself to be as strong as a lion and proceeds to brag mightily,
saying, “Who is like me?” (ed. – the opposite of ‫ מי כמוך‬/ Who is like You?).
When he drinks three or four cups, he immediately becomes like a monkey,
hopping about giggling, and uttering obscenities in public, without realizing what
he is doing. Finally, when he becomes blind drunk, he is like a pig, wallowing in
mire and coming rest among refuse.
All the above befell Noah at Satan's behest.
- 90 -
Nusach HaTefilah: Ma'ariv l'Chol, Hashkiveinu
U‫ ַמלְ ֵכּנ‬U‫ם ְו ַה ֲע ִמ ֵידנ‬I‫ לְ ָשׁל‬U‫הינ‬O
ֵ ‫ ֱא‬w‫ ה‬U‫ַה ְשׁ ִכּ ֵיבנ‬
U‫ ְו ַת ְרּנֵ נ‬W‫מ‬I‫ל‬
ֶ ‫ ֻס ַכּת ְשׁ‬U‫שׂ ָעלֵ ינ‬I‫פר‬U
ְ ‫ִ ים‬H‫לְ ַח‬
'W‫ לְ ַמ ַען ְשׁ ֶמ‬U‫שׁ ֵיענ‬I‫ה‬
ִ ‫' ְו‬W‫בה ִמלְ ָפנֶ י‬I‫ט‬
ָ ‫ ֵע ָצה‬Cְ
'‫יֵ ב' ֶד ֶבר ְו ֶח ֶרב‬I‫ א‬U‫' ְו ָה ֵסר ֵמ ָעלֵ ינ‬U‫ ַע ֵדנ‬Cַ ‫ְו ָה ֵגן‬
/‫ן‬I‫ְו ָר ָעב ְויָ ג‬
Lay us down in peace, YHVH our God,
and stand us up to life, our Sovereign.
Shelter us with Your sukkah of peace and
guide us with Your good counsel, and
save us for Your Name's sake. Shield us
from enemy, plague and sword, famine
and anguish.
W‫ב ֵצל ְכּנָ ֶפי‬Uְ 'U‫מ ַא ֲח ֵרנ‬U
ֵ U‫ְו ָה ֵסר ָשׂ ָטן ִמלְ ָפנֵ ינ‬
‫ ָא ָתּה' ִכּי ֵאל‬U‫מ ִצּילֵ נ‬U
ַ U‫מ ֵרנ‬I‫שׁ‬
ְ ‫ ִכּי ֵאל‬U‫ַתּ ְס ִתּ ֵירנ‬
ֵ U‫אתנ‬
ֵ ‫ר ֵצ‬I‫שׁמ‬U
ְ '‫ם ָא ָתּה‬U‫ן ְו ַרח‬U‫ ַחנּ‬Q ֶ‫ֶמל‬
/‫לָ ם‬I‫ם ֵמ ַע ָתּה ְו ַעד ע‬I‫לְ ָשׁל‬U ‫ִ ים‬H‫לְ ַח‬
Remove Satan from before and behind
us, and hide us in the shade of Your
wing. For You are our guardian and
rescuer; for You are a sovereign God of
grace and mercy. And guard our going
out and returning, for peace and life,
ֶ ‫ ֻס ַכּת ְשׁ‬U‫פרֹשׂ ָעלֵ ינ‬U
ְ from now until forever.
:‫ יִ ְשׂ ָר ֵאל לָ ַעד‬I‫מר ַעמּ‬I‫שׁ‬
ֵ 'w‫ ַא ָתּה ה‬QU‫ר‬Cָ
Shelter us with Your sukkah of peace.
Blessed are You, YHVH, guardian of
Your people Israel forever.
- 91 -
Angels of Death and Destruction: Selected Materials
A. The "Destroyer" in Tanakh
Ex. 12:12-13, 23
ִ ‫ֶ ה ְו ִה ֵכּ‬Z‫לַּ יְ לָ ה ַה‬Cַ ‫ץ־מ ְצ ַריִ ם‬
ִ ‫ יב ְו ָע ַב ְר ִתּי ְב ֶא ֶר‬12. [God spoke to Moses saying:] I will
‫ ֵה ָמה‬C‫ד־‬
ְ ‫ ֶא ֶרץ ִמ ְצ ַריִ ם ֵמ ָא ָדם ְו ַע‬Cְ ‫ר‬I‫כ‬C‫ל־‬
ְ ‫ ָכ‬pass in the Land of Egypt on this night,
and I will strike all the firstborn of
:w‫הי ִמ ְצ ַריִ ם ֶא ֱע ֶשׂה ְשׁ ָפ ִטים ֲאנִ י ה‬O
ֵ ‫ל־א‬
ֱ ‫ב ָכ‬Uְ Egypt, from man to beast, and on all the
gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I
‫ ִתּים ֲא ֶשׁר ַא ֶתּם‬Cָ ‫ם לָ ֶכם לְ אֹת ַעל ַה‬Sָ ‫ יג ְו ָהיָ ה ַה‬am YHVH.
‫א־‬O‫פ ַס ְח ִתּי ֲעלֵ ֶכם ְו‬U
ָ ‫ם‬Sָ ‫ת־ה‬
ַ ‫יתי ֶא‬
ִ ‫ ָשׁם ְו ָר ִא‬13. The blood will be for you a sign on
:‫ ֶא ֶרץ ִמ ְצ ָריִ ם‬Cְ ‫ ַהכּ ִֹתי‬Cְ ‫ יִ ְהיֶ ה ָב ֶכם נֶ ֶגף לְ ַמ ְשׁ ִחית‬the houses where you are; and when I
see the blood, I will pass over you, and
the plague will not be on you to destroy
when I strike the land of Egypt.
‫ם‬Sָ ‫ת־ה‬
ַ ‫ת־מ ְצ ַריִ ם ְו ָר ָאה ֶא‬
ִ ‫ֹף ֶא‬D ְ‫ לִ נ‬w‫כג ְו ָע ַבר ה‬
‫ ַעל־‬w‫פ ַסח ה‬U
ָ ‫זֹת‬U‫ף ְו ַעל ְשׁ ֵתּי ַה ְמּז‬I‫ל־ה ַמּ ְשׁק‬
ַ ‫ַע‬
23. [Moses said to the Elders of Israel]:
ֶ ‫ ֵתּ‬C‫ל־‬
ָ ‫א יִ ֵתּן ַה ַמּ ְשׁ ִחית לָ בֹא ֶא‬O‫ ַה ֶפּ ַתח ְו‬YHVH will pass through to strike the
:‫ֹף‬D ְ‫ לִ נ‬Egyptians; and when [God] sees the
blood on the lintel and on the two side
posts, YHVH will pass over the door,
and will not let the destroyer come into
your houses to plague [you].
2 Sam. 24:14–16
‫ד ַצר־לִ י ְמאֹד נִ ְפּלָ ה־נָּ א‬D‫ל־‬
ָ ‫ ִוד ֶא‬Sָ ‫אמר‬
ֶ ֹH‫ יד ַו‬14. David said to Gad, I am in great
:‫ל־אפֹּלָ ה‬
ֶ ‫ד־א ָדם ַא‬
ָ ַ‫בי‬Uְ ‫ים ַר ֲח ָמיו‬Cִ ‫י־ר‬
ַ ‫ ִכּ‬w‫ ְביַ ד ה‬distress: let us fall into the hand of God,
whose mercies are great, and let me not
fall into the hand of man.
ֵ ‫ ֶֹקר ְו ַע‬C‫יִ ְשׂ ָר ֵאל ֵמ ַה‬Cְ ‫ ֶבר‬Sֶ w‫ִ ֵתּן ה‬H‫טו ַו‬
15. God sent pestilence on Israel from
‫ ֵאר ֶשׁ ַבע‬C‫ד־‬
ְ ‫ן ְו ַע‬Sָ ‫ן־ה ָעם ִמ‬
ָ ‫ָ ָמת ִמ‬H‫עד ַו‬I‫מ‬
:‫ ִשׁ ְב ִעים ֶאלֶ ף ִאישׁ‬morning to the appointed time; and
there died seventy thousand of the
nation from Dan to Beersheba.
‫ִ נָּ ֶחם‬H‫ ַו‬V‫שׁלַ ם לְ ַשׁ ֲח ָת‬U‫ר‬
ָ ְ‫ י‬Q‫ ַה ַמּלְ ָא‬I‫ִ ְשׁלַ ח יָ ד‬H‫טז ַו‬
‫ ָעם‬Cָ ‫ ַה ַמּ ְשׁ ִחית‬Q‫אמר לַ ַמּלְ ָא‬
ֶ ֹH‫ל־ה ָר ָעה ַו‬
ָ ‫ ֶא‬w‫ ה‬16. When the angel stretched out his
////W‫ ַרב ַע ָתּה ֶה ֶרף יָ ֶד‬hand on Jerusalem to destroy it, God
repented of the evil, and said to the
angel who destroyed the people,
"Enough: now stay your hand...."
- 92 -
2 Kings 19:31-36
‫ן‬IH‫יטה ֵמ ַהר ִצ‬
ָ ֵ‫פל‬U
ְ ‫שׁלַ ם ֵתּ ֵצא ְשׁ ֵא ִרית‬U‫יר‬
ָ ‫ ִכּי ִמ‬For from Jerusalem will go forth a
w‫ֹה־א ַמר ה‬
ָ ‫ לָ ֵכן כּ‬:‫ֹאת‬Z‫ת ַתּ ֲע ֶשׂה־‬I‫ ְצ ָבא‬w‫ ִקנְ ַאת ה‬remnant [along with] they who escape
from Mount Zion; the zeal of the Lord of
‫א־‬O‫ֹאת ְו‬Z‫ל־ה ִעיר ַה‬
ָ ‫א יָ בֹא ֶא‬O ‫ר‬U‫ ַאשּׁ‬Q ֶ‫ל־מל‬
ֶ ‫ ֶא‬Hosts will do this. So thus said YHVH
Qֹ‫א־יִ ְשׁפּ‬O‫ ֶמנָּ ה ָמ ֵגן ְו‬Sְ ‫א־יְ ַק‬O‫רה ָשׁם ֵחץ ְו‬I‫י‬
ֶ concerning the king of Assyria: He will
‫ב ְו ֶאל־‬U‫ יָ שׁ‬VCָ ‫ ֲא ֶשׁר־יָ בֹא‬Q‫ ֶר‬Sֶ Cַ :‫יה סֹלְ לָ ה‬
ָ ֶ‫ ָעל‬not come to this city, or shoot an arrow
‫ל־ה ִעיר‬
ָ ‫תי ֶא‬I‫נּ‬
ִ ‫ ְו ַג‬:w‫א יָ בֹא נְ ֻאם־ה‬O ‫ֹאת‬Z‫ ָה ִעיר ַה‬there, or come before it with a shield, or
up a mound against it. By the way
‫ ַויְ ִהי‬:‫י‬Sִ ‫ ִוד ַע ְב‬Sָ ‫לְ ַמ ַען‬U ‫ לְ ַמ ֲענִ י‬V‫שׁ ָיע‬I‫ה‬
ִ ְ‫ֹאת ל‬Z‫ ַה‬cast
he came, by the same he will return, and
‫ר‬U‫ ַמ ֲחנֵ ה ַאשּׁ‬Cְ Q ַH‫ ַו‬w‫ ה‬Q‫ֵ ֵצא ַמלְ ַא‬H‫א ַו‬U‫לַּ יְ לָ ה ַהה‬Cַ will not come into this city, said YHVH.
‫ ֶֹקר‬C‫ ַב‬U‫ַ ְשׁ ִכּימ‬H‫נִ ים ַו ֲח ִמ ָשּׁה ָאלֶ ף ַו‬I‫ ֵמ ָאה ְשׁמ‬For I will defend this city, to save it for
‫ָ ָשׁב‬H‫ ַו‬Q ֶ‫ֵ ל‬H‫ִ ַסּע ַו‬H‫ ַו‬:‫ ְו ִהנֵּ ה ֻכלָּ ם ְפּ ָג ִרים ֵמ ִתים‬My own sake and My servant David’s
/‫נִ ינְ ֵוה‬Cְ ‫ֵ ֶשׁב‬H‫ר ַו‬U‫־אשּׁ‬Q
ַ ֶ‫ ַסנְ ֵח ִריב ֶמל‬sake. And it came to pass that night, that
God's angel went out, and struck in the
Assyrian camp one hundred and eighty
five thousand; and when they arose in
the morning, all were dead corpses.
Sennacherib king of Assyria departed,
went, returned and dwelled in Nineveh.
B. The "Angel of Death" in Tanakh
Prov. 16:13-14
:‫י־צ ֶדק ְוד ֵֹבר יְ ָשׁ ִרים יֶ ֱא ָהב‬
ֶ ‫ן ְמלָ ִכים ִשׂ ְפ ֵת‬I‫ יג ְרצ‬13. Righteous lips are the kings' delight:
they love him who speaks right.
:‫י־מ ֶות ְו ִאישׁ ָח ָכם יְ ַכ ְפּ ֶרנָּ ה‬
ָ ‫ ַמלְ ֲא ֵכ‬Q ֶ‫ת־מל‬
ֶ ‫ יד ֲח ַמ‬14. A king's wrath is like the angel of
death, but a wise man will pacify it.
C. The "Angel of Death" in Midrash
It is said regarding the Angel of Death that he is full of eyes. When a sick
person is about to die, he stands above his head with his sword drawn and a drop of
poison hanging from its tip. When the sick person sees him he trembles and opens
his mouth; [the Angel of Death] then drops the poison into his mouth.
– B.T. Avodah Zara 20b
The Angel of Death sometimes appears as a brilliant flashing light
accompanied by a sweet smell. Sometimes beautiful and glorious, at other times it
has the appearance of a goat, ram, or ugly beast. It has been called the Prince of
Darkness and at times has the name of Belial, an angel of hatred whose dominion is
darkness. Death has a number of angel names. When death is related to wild
animals, the name of death is Meshabber (angel of shattering). In relation to domestic
animals death is called Hemah (angel of fever); and in relation to children, death is
called Mash’khit (angel of slaughtering). Death also has the name of Af (angel of
anger), and death over kings is known as Kazful (angel of destruction).
– Cooper, Invoking Angels, 78
- 93 -
While seated at the bedside of R. Nachman, Rava saw him lapsing into the
sleep of death. Yet R. Nachman managed to say to Rava, “Tell the Angel of Death
not to torment me.” Rava replied, “But are you not important enough [to tell him
yourself]? R. Nachman: “Who is sufficiently important, esteemed or vigorous
enough [on his deathbed to make such a request]? Then Rava implored R.
Nachman, “Show yourself to me [in a dream].” When he did show himself [after he
died], Rava asked him, “Did you suffer any pain?” and he replied, “As little as
taking a hair from milk. Still, if the Holy One were to say to me, ‘Go back to that
world,’ I would not consent, the fear of death being so great.”
– Sefer Ha'Aggadah 581:62
(from B.T. Moed Katan 28a)
As soon as Israel accepted the Torah, the Holy One invested them with some
of the splendor of [God's] own majesty. What precisely did [God] invest them with?
Crowns, according to R. Yochanan; weapons, according to R. Simeon ben Yochai, on
which God’s Explicit Name was engraved: as long as these weapons were in their
hands, the Angel of Death had no power over them.
– Sefer Ha'Aggadah 81:48
(from Ex. Rabbah 51:8)
Two Cushites stood in the presence of King Solomon—Elihoreph and Ahijah
sons of Shisha, who were [Solomon’s] scribes. One day, observing that the Angel of
Death looked distressed, Solomon asked [the Angel of Death], “Why are you
distressed?” The Angel of Death replied, “Because the two Cushites seated here are
about to be summoned by me.” So [to thwart the Angel of Death] Solomon had
spirits take charge of the two and convey them to the city of Luz (a city where
people live forever). But as soon as they reached its wall, they died. The following
day, Solomon observed that the Angel of Death was cheerful. When Solomon asked
him, “Why are you so cheerful?” he replied, “You sent them to the very place where
they were to be summoned by me.” At that, Solomon spoke up, saying, “A man’s
feet are responsible for him. They lead him to the place where he is about to be
– Sefer Ha'Aggadah 583:73
(from B.T. Sukkah 53a)
R. Chisda was sitting in the school [of Rav] studying, so that the Angel of
Death was unable to come near him, for his mouth did not cease reciting the words
of the lore he was at. But when he proceeded to sit down on a cedar bench in the
school, [the Angel of Death saw to it that] it split under under him, so that R. Chisda
was silent for a moment. In that moment, the Angel of Death prevailed over him.
– Sefer Ha'Aggadah 309:622
(from B.T. Makkot 10a)
R. Simeon ben Lakish said: Satan, the impulse to evil, and the Angel of Death
– all three are the same thing.
– Sefer Ha'Aggadah 537:15
(from B.T. Bava Batra 16a)
- 94 -
Pinchas of Koretz on the Angel of Friendship
Pinchas Shapiro of Koretz (1726-1790) was one of the Ba'al Shem Tov's
students and one of the pillars of the Hasidic dynasties. A devoted scholar of
both Talmud and Zoharic mysticism, Pinchas was one of the mekubalim of not
only his own generation but of the centuries following the Besht. Of him, the
Besht reportedly said that "A soul such as that of R. Pinchas comes down to
this world only once every 500 years." While R. Pinchas did not publish any
books, his own students published many writings and teachings in his name.
Thanks to R. Elliot Ginsburg for leading us to this beautiful text.
Likkutei Amrei Pinchas: P. Bechukotai 29
‫הנה אדם יש לו אור למעלה' וכששני בני‬
‫ האורות‬w‫אדם נפגשים ביחד מתחברין ב‬
'‫ויוצא מביניהם אור אחד' ומזה נקרא הולדה‬
‫ב חודש‬ww‫אבל המלאך הזה אינו מתקיים רק י‬
‫וכשחוזרין ונפגשים אלו השני בני האדם תוך‬
////‫ב חודש‬ww‫י‬
Each person has a supernal light. When
two people meet, their two lights link
together and a single light emerges from
between them – and thus an [angel] is
born. However, this angel can survive
only 12 months unless these two friends
return and meet within 12 months....
‫ב חדשים‬ww‫טעם על שרואה חבירו אחר י‬
‫מברך מחיי המתים' דכשאינם נגפשים אלא‬
'‫ב חדשים אז המלאך כבר בטל‬ww‫אחר י‬
‫ רק שפועלין בהפגשתן‬/‫ובחינת מיתה יתקרי‬
‫ב חדשים ליתן קצת הארה‬ww‫יחד לאחר י‬
'‫ורשימו בזה המלאך להחיותו מבחינת מיתה‬
‫ולזה מברכין מחיה המתים' דקאי על זה‬
The reason that [halachically] one who
sees a friend after 12 months blesses
God for "raising the dead" is that when
[friends] don't meet for 12 months, the
angel [born between them] has since
become [diminished, as if of] a quality of
death. But by action of meeting after 12
months, a bit of the light and residue of
this angel remains alive amidst its
"death," and this is what we bless when
we [bless God for] "raising the dead,"
referring to this angel.
- 95 -
Compendium of Personal Narratives
Below is a sampling of first person angel testimonies, touching on the categories of
angels who guide (announce), destroy, save, heal and transform.
Alexander, E., The Map of Heaven: How Science, Religion and Ordinary
People Are Proving the Afterlife. Simon & Schuster, New York, NY (2014), pp.
Dr. Alexander is an academic neurosurgeon who has practiced at Harvard Medical
School among other prestigious places. An NDE (near-death experience) is a term referring
to someone who was pronounced clinically dead but returned to life. There is a wide body of
literature on this subject, documenting similar other worldly experiences in the realm of the
Light, and psycho-spiritual changes upon returning to this world. Although Dr. Eben does
not identify the bacterial meningitis as an “angel of destruction” it could be read that way,
based on our prior studies of angels as forces of nature.
I’m a doctor who had an NDE – a solid member of the “dogmatic science”
side of the room, who had an experience that sent him over to the other side. Not
the “dogmatic religion” side but a third side of the room, if you will: a side that
believes science and religion both have things to teach us, but that neither has, or
ever will, have all the answers. This side of the room believes that we are on the
edge of something genuinely new: a marriage of spirituality and science that will
change the way we understand and experience ourselves forever.
In Proof of Heaven, I described how the sudden onset of a very rare strain of
bacterial meningitis put me in a hospital, and a deep coma, for seven days. During
that time, I underwent an experience that I am still in the process of absorbing and
comprehending. I journeyed through a series of supra-physical realms, each one
more extraordinary than the last.
In the first, I was immersed in a primitive, primordial state of consciousness
that felt, while I was in it, something like being buried in earth. It was, however, not
ordinary earth, for all around me I sensed – and sometimes heard and saw – other
forms, other entities. It was part horrific, part comforting…. Eventually, a being of
light – a circular entity that gave off a beautiful, heavenly music that I called the
- 96 -
Spinning Melody – came slowly down from above, throwing off marvelous
filaments of living silver and golden light. The light opened up like a rip in the
fabric of that coarse realm, and I felt myself going through the rip, like a portal, up
into a staggeringly beautiful valley full of lush and fertile greenery, where waterfalls
flowed into crystal pools. I found myself as a speck of awareness on a butterfly wing
among pulsing swarms of millions of other butterflies. I witnessed stunning blueblack velvety skies filled with swooping orbs of golden light, which I later called
angelic choirs, leaving sparkling trails against billowing, colorful clouds. Those
choirs produced hymns and anthems far beyond anything I had ever encountered
on earth. There was also a vast array of larger universes that took the form of what I
came to call an “over-sphere,” that was there to help in imparting the lessons I was
to learn. The angelic choirs provided yet another portal to higher realms.
I ascended until I reached the Core, that deepest sanctum sanctorum of the
Divine – infinite inky blackness, filled to overflowing with indescribable divine
unconditional love. There I encountered the infinitely powerful, all-knowing deity
whom I later called Om, because of the sound I sensed so prominently in that realm.
I learned lessons of a depth and beauty entirely beyond my capacity to explain.
Throughout my time in the Core, there was always the strong sense of there being
three of us (the Divine, the brilliant orb, and pure conscious awareness).
* * *
Skilling, Johanna, “Marc Chagall: Painter of Angels,” in The Big Book of
Angels, eds. Rodale and Beliefnet. Inc., 2002), p. 318.
Becoming an artist was an unlikely goal for a boy growing up in rural Russia,
and it was not an idea that Marc’s parents supported. Marc and his father fought
frequently about his future. One day, after a particularly furious argument, Marc
ran away form home to the imperial capital of St. Petersburg. He wasn’t yet twenty
- 97 -
years old. Far away from home, living in a small, furnished room, Marc faced many
challenges. As a Jew, he was forbidden to live in St. Petersburg. Without a permit to
live in the city, he was continually forced to evade the authorities. Marc was jailed
once but still managed to study at two of St. Petersburg’s great art schools.
At that time, an amazing vision had a cataclysmic effect on his life and art.
One night, drifting into sleep in his small room, Chagall thought he heard the rustle
of wings. He opened his eyes and immediately felt pins and needles of pain in his
forehead. The room was filled with an unearthly, brilliant blue light. An angel
hovered above him. As Chagall watched, the angel slowly floated up through the
ceiling; the light and the beautiful blue air vanished with him. After this vision,
Chagall began a lifetime of work to portray the wonder of the angel and the color of
the beautiful blue air.
* * *
Wiener, S., "Saved by an Unknown Force" (first narrated about 15 years ago)
I have a dear friend, a well-grounded man whose profession requires strong
logical abilities. One year he decided to visit the town in Germany where his
ancestors had resided, and through asking many questions of the town’s current
residents, found the exact home where they had lived.
It was an old stone house, with a basement where his family plied their
Kosher butcher trade and smoked meats. Leading to the basement was a set of wellworn stone stairs, heavily covered with soot. As he began to descend the stone steps
he slipped, and felt himself rapidly sliding downward. He remembers a tremendous
moment of fear-- surely he would crack his head on the stone steps or cement floor,
or at least be badly bruised. When he landed on his two feet, to his astonishment, he
was totally unharmed. Nothing hurt. Moreover, there was not a spot of soot on his
- 98 -
pants or shirt. Surely this must have been an angel that carried him, he concluded.
He has told me this story several times since, always with a sense of awe.
* * *
Myss, Caroline, Invisible Acts of Power: Channeling Grace in Your Everyday
Life, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY (2004), pp. 223-4. (A narrative from
"Christopher" about an angelic intervention in a serious accident.)
“By my mid-forties I was drifting more and more into a numbness of mind
and spirit. The only way I could connect with life was through that adrenaline rush
racing motorcycles and balancing on that fine line between life and death. Now this
is a very seductive high –a mistress one pays dearly for. I lived from high to high
not seeing the beauty in the ordinary or feeling a sense of gratitude for just being
alive. All this changed one beautiful moonlit night on a lonely country road. The
moon was so bright that I was awestruck. I was traveling at double the posted
speed limit on a motorcycle that felt as if it were a mere extension of my thoughts.
Man and machine ere one and adrenaline flooded my senses. Through this trance I
caught the reflection of two eyes – a deer’s – glowing in the bushes. Time started to
slow down; it was as if some power were taking over. I knew this was my destiny
on that beautiful night. The deer responded as if on cue and started charging across
the road. I slammed on the brakes and we collided at eighty miles per hour.
“The sound was horrific. The flight into midair was wrenching and the
motorcycle cartwheeled. Then we all lay silent. The deer was dead, the motorcycle
was a wreck, but I was still alive. I couldn’t breather let alone move and I was in the
middle of the road. As I lay there a voice – that inner guiding voice – kept affirming,
‘You will be fine.’ It was dark, and I was dressed black leather, impossible for an
oncoming car to see. I thought, ‘Did I survive the crash only to be hit by a car?’ I
heard a car approaching. Then I heard the door slam and the sound of purposeful
- 99 -
footsteps coming toward me. It felt like grace descending as she spoke, her voice
calm but authoritative. Her presence was so reassuring. I will never forget the
feeling of her compassion. This beautiful spirit from out of the night orchestrated
my rescue and subsequent transportation by helicopter to a local trauma unit. While
in her presence, I felt the outpouring of love and security, and as I was taken from
her side, the night became truly cold and painful.
I have never really believed in angels, but I met one that night. Though I
never saw her face, I know her love. Months later I tried to find her. I searched the
police reports and I found no mention of her. It’s as if I was the only one who knew
that she had been there at the scene. This was an angel who came to comfort me in
my time of need, who taught me to trust in another, and who demonstrated the
marvelous ways Spirit works.
“My life took on a new meaning and purpose. I sold the motorcycle and I am
grateful to the deer and the part she played in my awakening. My perspective
toward life truly shifted. Spirit works to awaken us and it seems that if we don’t
attend to the subtle messages, the messages increase in volume and severity. On the
very day of the crash, I had been warned to slow down by a rabbit crossing my path.
I remember how close I was to crashing then and how strange it was to see an
animal act in this fashion. Now I know that this as a sign to slow down and pay
more attention. I am grateful for the crash and I will never call it an accident
because of the profound gift it provided. Years have passed and I remain grateful to
be able to breathe and walk and to share my love with others.”
* * *
- 100 -
Jacobs, Louis, Book of Jewish Mystical Testimonies, Schocken Books: New York,
NY (1977), pp. 169-170 (Excerpts from a translated letter by Jekuthiel Gordon to Rabbi
Mordecai Yoffe, published by S. Ginsburg in Rabbi Moshe Hayyim Luzzatto u’Venei
Doro (1937), pp. 18-20).
I come regarding things of the Torah to inform my Lord of the choice gift the
Holy Blessed One has granted us from [God's] treasure store. There is here a young
man, tender in years, no older than the age of twenty-three. He is a holy man, my
master and teacher, the holy lamp, the man of God, his honor Rabbi Moses Hayyim
Luzzatto. For these past two and a half years a maggid has been revealed to him, a
holy and tremendous angel who reveals wondrous mysteries to him….
He is very modest, telling nothing of this even to his own father and
obviously not to anyone else. It was by the counsel of the Lord that I discovered it
by accident – here is not the place to describe how. For the past month I have been
ministering to him, drawing water from his well, happy the eye that has seen all this
and happy the ear that has heard of it. He is a spark of Akiva ben Joseph. Eight
months have passed since the time that the holy and tremendous angel was first
revealed to him. He delivered to him numerous mysteries and imparted the
methods by means of which he could summon to him the members of the Heavenly
Academy. With the approval of the Holy One, blessed be He, and His Shekhinah, he
ordered him to compose a Book of the Zohar, called in Heaven, the Second Zohar, in
order that a great tikkun known to us should be carried out.
This is what happens. The angel speaks out of his mouth but we, his disciples,
hear nothing. The angel begin to reveal to him great mysteries. Then my master
orders Elijah to come to him and he comes to impart mysteries of his own.
Sometimes, Metatron, the great prince, also comes to him….
* * *
- 101 -
Anderson, Joan Wester, “Angels by His Side (Padre Pio), in The Big Book of
Angels, eds. Rodale and Beliefnet. Inc. (2002), pp. 183-4
Padre Pio was a monk born in Italy in 1887 and declared a saint in 2002. He devoted
his life to building homes for the sick, the handicapped, and the elderly, but was especially
known for his relationship with his guardian angel whom he met as a boy. I have read many
stories of similar miraculous cures attributed to the last Lubavitch Rebbe, Menachem Mendel
Schneerson z”l, as well as his ability to send the exact blessing needed in advance of hearing
of a problem. However, angels are not mentioned. – SHW
At times, according to witnesses, Padre Pio was able to read and speak
languages he didn’t know. When asked how he could do it, he said that his
guardian angel translated for him. On occasion, a number of his fellow monks heard
voices singing in heavenly harmony but couldn’t discover the source of the music.
Padre Pio explained that the voices were angels, escorting souls into heaven.
Padre Pio believed that people could send their angels to others to help or
intercede. He encouraged his vast network of friends to send their angels to him if
they could not come themselves. “Your angel can take a message from you to me,”
he would say, “and I will assist you as much as I can.” On one occasion, Cecil, an
English friend of the Padre, was hurt in a car crash. A friend went to the post office
to send a telegram to Padre Pio, requesting prayers for the accident victim. When the
friend presented the telegram at the desk, the man gave him back a telegram from
Padre Pio assuring him of his prayers for Cecil.
Later, after Cecil had recovered, he and his friend went to see Padre Pio.
“How did you know of the accident?” both asked. “We got your telegram before we
had sent ours.”
“Do you think angels go as slowly as planes?” the monk replied, smiling.
* * *
- 102 -
Grain, T., "Prayer for Healing," in Harper & O’Connor (eds.), 365 Days of
Angel Prayers, Spiritual Living LLC, at. 41.
Prayer for Healing
I invite in the highest vibration of light of the angels
I ask Archangel Raphael to shower me with his gentle healing rays
on my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies.
I ask for healing and trust that you will take care
of my well-being and lead me to wellness.
I thank you for guiding me to the people who can help me,
I thank you for the healing already given and
for the blessings already in my life.
I accept your healing now, and so it is, and so be it.
- 103 -