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Home » Vayishlach

Vayishlach: Our Angels

Submitted by on December 9, 2008 – 5:37 pmNo Comment | 2,723 views

Sending Angels

Jacob sent a message to his brother Esau. (1) When messages are sent we usually focus on the message, not the messenger, but this essay is actually about the messenger.

The Talmud records a debate about the nature of Jacob’s messengers. One sage held that Jacob sent human messengers to do his bidding. The others held that Jacob actually sent angels. (2)

We marvel at Jacob’s familiarity with angels and his authority over them. How many people do you know who can send angels to run their errands? But in truth, Jacob is not all that unique. We do it too. Our sages taught that every word of prayer summons an angel who collects it, cleanses it (3) and presents it to G-d.

Knowing that every word of our prayer is examined by an angel for grammatical correctness and for proper concentration serves to enhance our mindfulness during prayer. It inspires us to be alert to the words of our prayer and to pray with complete devotion.

Newborn Angels

Angels are not only summoned by our prayers, but actually born by them. Our sages taught that every human deed creates an angel. Good deeds create angels that advocate on our behalf in heaven. Bad deeds create angels that prosecute us in heaven. (4) The Baal Shem Tov took this one step further and taught that the words we speak also create angels. Our words of prayer not only summon angels; they create angels. In other words, the angels are not only the carriers of our words; they are our words.

It follows that these angels reflect the nature of the words from which they are spawned. Angels born of devout and exuberant prayer are vibrant and robust. Angels created by rote prayer are lackluster and lethargic. The condition of these angels automatically broadcasts the nature of our prayers. If the angels are lackluster, the heavenly sphere knows that we prayed by rote. If they are robust, the heavens sphere knows that we prayed with devotion. (5)

Accompaniment

The angels created by our deeds accompany us our angels - innerstreamthrough life and, by their very presence, broadcast our deeds. Our advocating angels broadcast our good deeds. Our prosecuting angels broadcast our negative deeds. The average person does not sense the myriads of angels that accompany every Jew, but the Tzadik is very much alert to them. When we enter a Tzadik’s presence, the Tzadik senses the myriads of angels that accompany us. (6) The Tzadik is also able to discern the advocate angels from the prosecuting ones and is immediately aware of his visitor’s spiritual status.

The story is told of a man, who spoke disparagingly of the Baal Shem Tov. The next day the Baal Shem Tov confronted him about his slander. Shocked, the man demanded, “Who informed you of my private discussions with my friends?” “An angel told me,” replied the Baal Shem Tov. “Angels wouldn’t have told you,” countered the man, “angels don’t gossip.” “This angel does,” replied the Baal Shem Tov. “This was angel created by your slander. His very presence informed me of how he was created.” (7)

Our sages exhorted us to remember that all our actions are recorded. (8) Realizing that our deeds are recorded in heaven for all to know inspires us to pray with vigor and to conduct ourselves in accordance with the standards of the Torah.

Protection

We are not the only ones who dispatch angels on missions. G-d does too.

The story is told of a little boy in Brooklyn, New York, who tripped over the front stoop of his house and fell to the floor. His mother, pregnant at the time, rushed over to ensure that he was fine. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, who walked by at that moment, took notice of the event.

Later that day the Rebbe approached the boy’s father and asked him to deliver a message. Please ask your wife to be careful in her current state, said the Rebbe, and not rush about too hastily. Reassure her that when little children stumble G-d places a pillow beneath them to cushion their fall. (9)

We have all experienced near accidents and narrowly avoided tragedies. We thought it was a matter of luck, but in truth it is the angels created by our good deeds that watch over us and protect us. They cushion our falls and guide us out of harm’s way. The little miracles that they perform are ubiquitous yet we take little notice of them. Taking notice of them can strengthen our relationship with G-d.

The mere knowledge of these miracles enhances our gratitude to G-d. Tragedies are, thank G-d, the exception; most of us are healthy most of the time. Reflecting on this fact engenders a constant awareness of G-d who sends angels to shepherd us to safety and to protect us from all manner of harm.

Footnotes

  1. Genesis 32: 4.
  2. Bereishis Rabbah 75:4.
  3. By cleansing we mean that the angel improves the word. If it was enunciated improperly the angel remolds the word so that it is presented correctly to G-d. If it was said without proper mindfulness, or worse, if it was chanted with inappropriate thoughts, the angel removes the stray thought and presents it to G-d in pristine form. If it was said in any language, but Hebrew, the angel interprets it and presents it to G-d in the Holy Tongue.
  4. Ethics of our Fathers, 4: 11. See Commentary of Rabbi Ovadiah Bartenurah and Likutei Torah Bamidbar 11a.
  5. Biurim Lepirkei Avos p. 205.
  6. Rashi comments on Genesis 27: 27 and 33 that Isaac discerned that Jacob stood before him when he blessed him because he sensed the fragrance of paradise in Jacob’s presence and the stench of purgatory in Esau’s presence. This is another way of saying that Jacob’s advocating angels broadcasted his identity whereas Esau’s prosecuting angels broadcasted his negative deeds. For why Isaac still preferred to bless Esau see Torah Ohr 20b.
  7. Pirkei Avos Series, p. 252, Mesorah Publications Limited, Brooklyn, NY, 1995.
  8. Pirkei Avos 2:1.
  9. This story was recounted by the mother many years later and was recorded by Jewish Educational Media.

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