Thursday, March 15, 2007

Angels

Posted by Rebecca


In his book, The Guide to the Perplexed, Rambam writes extensively on the role and importance of angels throughout the Tanach. Rambam posits that angels deliver their messages to man only through prophecies. Furthermore, he explains that angels appear in the form of men to the greater prophets and appear as angels to the lesser prophets. Only one angel can perform one task – two angels cannot perform one task and one angel cannot perform two tasks.

In reference to Hashem’s choice of sending angels in the form of men to Abraham and angels in the form of angels to Lot, Nechama Leibowitz writes that Lot was less great than Abraham because he was unable to maintain hospitable ways. Lot tried to maintain Abraham’s way of life, even risking his own life, but his attempts were doomed to failure because he lived in Sodom.

So, my questions for this post are as follows: Why does G-d speak to man through angels? What is their overall purpose? Why can’t G-d speak more directly to man? Why must angels appear in a different form than they exist, and why is it greater to see them in the form of men? Which prophets merited seeing angels in the form of men, what made them great enough to merit this type of prophecy? Who merits prophecy with G-d alone?

15 Comments:

Blogger Debbie said...

I think the topic of angels is HUGE, so I am going to try and discuss just one part. "Why does God use angels?"
I think angels, are very simply an extension of God. As said in the blog: one angel, one task. Because God created humans, and humans are complex...God needs complex and different ways to work with us. Having angels is a way for him to do this.

Secondly, angels can appear as men to those who are "holy"--subjective-- because they need very little in the way of divine intervention. Angels, are one step lower (but in a complementary way).

March 19, 2007 8:04 PM  
Blogger tali said...

Ah, Rebecca this is hard. Well, at least I get to be first. So I've always thought angels were a bit wierd, but that's mostly because my idea of an angel comes from some version of Cupid mixed with a one-legged flying-thing hopping around.
I think the reason why angels can take different form, as they do for Avraham, and perhaps for Bilaam and his donkey, is to suit their surroundings. If I'm recalling correctly, the Lot story has the angels in his home, and that human strangers were not particularly welcome. Lot needed the extra spiritual push because of his location, which we identify as his major flaw. Lot chose to live in a place where it would have been impossible to carry on life as a hospitable, spiritual, and moral human being. It's one thing to have no choice-it's another to make that place your home.
I think God can speak more directly to man, such as Moshe or Shmuel, but chooses not to because it's not necessary. I mean, does the President need to send every memo in the White House? No-he has a system set up, where people function as his extensions. Sometimes they're in the form of stiff, capital W, capital H White House Officials (for formal events) but if you're lucky enough, they appear to you as a friend, in a golfing sweater and jeans. Lot had the former, while Avraham, the latter.

March 19, 2007 8:08 PM  
Blogger tali said...

And I wasn't first---Deb beat me too it

March 19, 2007 8:08 PM  
Anonymous tova said...

as we have learned, there a many different levels of nevuah. the concept of angels is a form of a level/ type of nevuah however has differnet levels within it. angels in form of men being on a higher level then angels in the form of a donkey. therefore those worhty of greater nevuah, such as avraham vs. lot, subsequently recieve a higher level prophecy by way of angels. i think the more complex question to answer is why does hashem send angels vs. himself. as we know moshe was the only one who saw hashem "panim el panim" but still why do the other neviim merit prophecy with gods voice verses those who get prophecy only through angels. angels seem, so to speak, on a lower level then hearing gods voice himself.
nevuah within itself is a very high level oppurtunity, and nevuah with hashem is even more highleveled and rare. therefore i think hashem on a "regular" basis (i.e. normally) would rather send nevuah through an angel rather then to go himself. he would only go himself if it is necessary.
member when we learnt how sometimes nevuah comes in a mashal, sometimes where the mamshal is presented without the reason and sometimes with the reason. i think this can be put in the context of angels. for example if hashem only wanted to send a mashal, then an angel can do the job, however if it is a more complex nevuah where he wanted to outright meaning of it, then it may be needed for hashem to "appear" himself

March 19, 2007 9:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i belive that God and angels are not comparable. angels are God's messengers, and a prophet who see's God but not angels or vise versa is not "lower" than a prophet who see's both (neither is a prophet who see's God greater than a prohpet who see's only angles) GOd and angels serve differnet purposes. God tlaks to man in a more abstract manner, He made the brit ben habitarim wiht avraham, which stated on the scondition that bnie yisrael follow me I (Hashem) wiull protect them. we see later on, during Tkufat Ha'niviim, the same kind of conneciton between God and prophet, the condition that i a nation follows God, God will not destroy the nation. with angels on the other hand , the "topic" is a lot more tangible. its is not an abstract condiiton, rather it is a physical thing. the angels were used to lead avraham to Sdom and save Lot. the angels also otld sarah that she would be having a child. later, an angel comes to yosef to show him were his brother's are. all these times the the angels appear they discuss something tangible, and often lead the prophet ot a specific location. that brings me to my last piont.


Tamar

March 19, 2007 9:53 PM  
Anonymous Suz said...

angels help hashem send messages. it is true that they can only do one task, but ithink they can do the task any number of times. example, possibly, would be angel raphael. he heals people, yes? so it's not that he healed one person and then disappears, but its that he continuously heals people. perhaps angels help hashem communicate with those deemed unworth of direct communication, or nevuah. hagar saw an angel inher lifetime. he told her to go to her son. but then, for other tasks requiring human interaction, hashem uses elijah. hes a person, and can come and go at will and is not limited to only one task. hashem needs angles to talk with us but is not limited to them.

~suz

March 20, 2007 1:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe that the overall reason behind God sending of the Angels is that he was us to strive and become a greater person and therefore be able to receive prophecy as one who is more prestigious does, through direct intervention with God. But I do truly think that there is no way to compare the prophecy messenger whether it be god or an angel. There is clearly a different behind each of the messengers. The angels give something more substantial to the prophet possibly they are not on the same level, like we see Yirmiyahu who is able to interpert the prophetic analogies with out gods help.This all goes back to the role of the navi which we learnt at the begining. According to most commentaries the Navi has to be somewhat of a good person otherwise no nevuah. Therefore bringing me back to my original point, i think that though any good person is just as good as the next good person, certain people are additionally gifted and have the zchoot to receive directly not from the intermediary of an angel.

shabbat shalom iris

March 22, 2007 8:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good question Rebbecca. It is a little strange at first when i started thinking aboiut it, but the more i thoguht the more it made sense. If Hashem was to go directly to someone, then the would be too scared to speak directly to Hashem. Therfore he sends angels, in forms of our kind, in order to speak in terms that we can understadn and comprehend. The angels is an intermidery between us and Hashem. Us as Human beings cant take the holinness of an angel if it comes directly to you in that form. It makes a lot more sesne that Hashem made it in a way that we could speak throguh him, through our own beings. Not everyone can be on the level to speak to Hashem and i dont think we can question who gets to speak to Hashem and who doesent bc thats for Hashem to decide and for us to grapple with. Furthermore, the angels, by being sent to us, represent us in more then jsut being transformed into our beings. As Jews, we are messengers, jsut liek the angels are. We, the Jewish People, are sent to make the world and Am Isreal better as awhole. They represent us therefore when we look at them, we see ourselves.That isnt something we can get by looking at Hashem.
Thanks
Shiraz

March 22, 2007 9:09 PM  
Anonymous Shira M said...

ok so I think angels is a very interestng topic, but a very broad one. I think god speaks to man through angels becasue it is something more tangible. Hashem is on a completely different level then human beings and angels are in between that. Having an angel come in a form of a human being shows that they are more tangible and are a connection between us and Hashem because we need something tangible to connect. Also, Hashem portrays messages in different ways. Through neviim, through angels, through dreams and this is just one form that really gets the point accross. I think it is greater to see angels in the form of a man possibly becasue lets take Avraham for example. Since they came as men, it shows more of Avrahams character that he gave them good hospitality. If the angels came as angels then of course Avraham would treat them well. But since they came as regular men, and Avraham still treated them with hospitality, it shows how great of a man he is. So Hashem sends angels in the form of men when he the person he is sending them to is a great man too. I do not think we know why Hashem chooses different people to hear his message through a prohecy or through an angel. He alone knows and it is not something that we can figure out, it is just His ways.

March 22, 2007 9:32 PM  
Anonymous Lisa Amy said...

alright, so i think that God sends angels because first of all we know that Hashem is too great so peopel to see (moshe/back of god idea) or to be heard (bnei israel/har sinai/ aseret hadibrot idea). Also going along with the shiras- a confrontation by god would be a little intimidationg dont you think!?! i do!! thus hashem has to send an intermediary. i think that lesser prophets get angels in the form of angels because they are less advanced and spiritual. Therfore, it would be easier for them to get a message where they clearly see who and what is giving it to them so they would not be confused or mistaken, and so it is easier for them to believe it. Higher prophets gained the honor by hahem to be given a more mature message- a message where it is not necessary for them to recive it form a fairy tale vision- if they recieve a message from an angel in a human form, i thnk god is saying - i respect you enough to give you something that you can talk to (whereas i think the angel form is more like just handing the lesser neviim a message.). thanx :)

March 22, 2007 10:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that it is necessary for Hashem to send angles because Hashem is like a king, and therefore a king does not speak directly to the peasants, but has messengers in order to preserve the King's honor. By having Hashem speak directly to people Hashem personafies himself in a way that is inappropriate because Hashem is not another party one can speak to. Additonally, i believe that by sending angles Hashem maintains the "test of faith", because even non Jews, such as bilam, have seen angles, and therefore if Hashem soelely appreared in prophecies it would be clear who's religion is the most valid. However Hashem wanted to grant us freedom of choice to choose the most credible religion by granting even non Jews equal "status" in prophecies by sending angles. If one sees an angle, a devine being, in the form of a man, it is that much greater to appreciate the angle because it represents man in perfection; for it has man's image, howevre lacks his faults. The sole person to have actually beheld God was Moshe, and Moshe, as we all know, is on a totally different degree; because he had prophecies involving mitzvot ledorot, while other neviim had messages pertaining to their generation.
Arella

March 22, 2007 11:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this reminds me of a story, my brother was in israel and he was talking to this guy named guru gill, and gil was like hey i wrote this book, its $20 its really good, and my brother really wanted it but didnt have enough $ to pay. so as he walked away, a guy stopped him and said, i jsut read this book and it was amazing so im gonna pay for your book since it was so inspiring. to me, this guy seemed like an angel because he happened to be at this place at this exact moment, and by buying my brother this book, he inspired my brother to do more mizvot, like an angel sent by hashem, os yes i do bleive that there are angels nowerdays, but arent veiwed as such
-esti

March 23, 2007 1:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Throughut the Torah, angels have appeared. Three angels and appeared before Avraham and all of those angels had a differnent mission. In addition Yaakov fought an angel and an angel moved Avraham's hand when he was about to slaughter his son in Akedat Yitzchak. They also merited getting Nevuah alone, however for certain cases Hashem thought probably that it was better for an angel to appear before the prophets. hashem probably thought that it was better for the angels to appear in a differnt form so the prophets could relate to them better.

Amanda

March 23, 2007 1:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i have always learnt that angels were on a lower status than humans, the order being animals, angels than humans. this is because angels have no fee will and must act as messenger under hashem's commands. humans on the other hand are supposed to follow hashems commandements but are not forced to. i think that the reason why hashem uses angels to communicate with people is because they are servants that g-d uses to send us messages. just like a king sends his servants to speak to other noblemen across his empire, so too hashem uses his angels to communicate with his people. only certain people, who were on an extremly high madrega merited to speak to hashem directly, such as moshe rabbeinu. is that to say that avraham avinu did not deserve to speak to g-d directly? i dont really know how to answer that, but i guess that his relationship with hashem was different from moshe's and hashem.
aviva

March 25, 2007 8:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As has already been said a number of times, angels are Hashem's messengers. Depending on the circumstance and the Jewish Nation's spiritual affiliation/level/madregah, Hashem sends prophets, angels, or perhaps shoftim, or even regular everyday religious leaders such as great Rabbis. I think the idea of angels appearing in a different form than they exist is merely biblicaly circumstantial, I don't think it is greater to see them in the form of men, and I don't think that the idea of meriting prophecy can religiously be applied to regular people today.
Rachael

March 29, 2007 12:46 AM  

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