Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Angels -- Part II

Posted by Suzanne

Heavenly figures clothed in white. Golden harps, halos, and sandals. Wings. Clouds. These are the typical images conjured at the word “angel.” But what is an angel, really?

The book of Ezekiel writes that the heavens opened up to him and he beheld “angels with four faces and four wings (1:6) Ezekiel writes in verse 10 that these creatures had the faces of a man, a lion, an eagle and an ox, to correspond to the king of the animals, as the tractate Chagigah writes on page 13b, quoting the book of Exodus chapter 15:1, that the “king of wild animals is the lion, the king of domesticated animals os the ox, the king of birds is the eagle and man above them with HaShem above them all.” A different verse substitutes out the ox for a cherub, which has the face of a child. They are formed of both fire and water, or, four heavenly elements: mercy, strength, beauty, and dominion, to parallel the earthly elements of water fire earth and air. One source in Bereshit Rabbah states the size of an angel is equal to a third of the world.

The Encyclopedia Judaica has a number of interesting articles regarding angels. It writes that at every pronouncement from the mouth of HaShem an angel is created and their only purpose is to sing praises to Him. However it is also written that each nation and even king, has it’s own “guardian angel” which prays for a nation in roder to avert the Divine wrath.

A parable is relayed that at the time of the Exodus HaShem gathered all his angels to him to discuss His problems with Egypt. When the angel Gabriel produced a piece of wall on orders from Michael that the Jews had had to build in Egypt and it contained an Israelite child, HaShem punished first the guardian angel of Egypt then the Egyptians themselves. While this story itself poses numerous questions, it also shows that angels can command one another and that HaShem consults the angels. During the third century the expression of a heavenly council came about and even went so far as to state that HaShem consulted this council for every action He took and that wherever the words “And God” appear in the Torah one should assume He consulted His council.

Additionally, this is just something that’s come to attention from personal observation, but there are different words to denote different angels. Example: seraph and cherub. These are English words yet unmistakable come from a Hebrew origin. When one looks them up, it says the first and second of the orders of angels, respectively.

Finally, it is frequently cited in class that an angel can have one job only and when the job is completed so too is the angel’s purpose for existence completed. However, according to tractate Baba Metzia, it would be more appropriate to say one can only carry out one mission at a time and then afterwards can attempt another.

All of this is fine and dandy, but what do you suppose is the purpose of an angel? To only sing praises or to watch over nations? To advise God, the one who supposedly does no wrong or act merely as His emissary? What is an “order of angel?” Do they take the appearance of people or some awesome heavenly host? There are many conflicting sources and any answer to any question only poses more questions. Of course, you could not “buy into” these theories, but assuming you did, what do you think?


Blogger tali said...

Ok, so you know those cartoons with the devil and the angel hanging out on your shoulders, and the angel is like "do this...it's the right thing to do" and the devil is like "do this...it's the fun thing to do!" So basically, I don't think angels are much different than that. I think angles are one-dimensional messengers that don't really have gray zones. They are sent by God to do some things, but I feel like they're also the peanut gallery (e.g. Pesach, splitting of sea celebration of drowning of Egyptians). I don't think they're fairy godmothers Cinderella style or Angel in the Outfields type helpful. I think they're more like what you see in Hercules (the Disney movie) or Lion King, as a Hermes or a Zazuu person, who just do things, with a running commentary, that can be either right or wrong depending on the context. However, they are unable to change or even see the consequences of their actions. This is similar to the idea that we discussed in 9th grade Gemara about the Satan, who also supposedly has no memory and lives in the present, and thats why we blow the shofar. He too is unable to change his view or do anything but wreak evil.

April 22, 2007 1:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that, althoguh this might seem very juvinile, i think that the purpose of angels is to protect us. There is the idea that there is always an angel right next to you,everyday, protecting you and on shabbat you have two angels, protecting you. So in this sense, angels are rly our guardians, our constant reminder that Hashem is standing right next to you. Also, they are here in our world, although we dont see them,still doing Hashems work. I belive that angels are one thing that have stayed with us for all of time, and are always protecting us. Relaying back to more current events, this past week we celebrated yom yerushalim. I strongly belive that in that war, there were angels protecting the soliders and our nation. There is no other way to describe what happened.Angels are our protecters,our images of Hashem, coming down to earth and always being right beside us earthly beings.

May 27, 2007 10:30 AM  
Anonymous Shira M. said...

I agree with Shira and I think that the concept of angels is to protect us, but also, as said in the blog, to "council" Hashem. i don't think the angels actually gave advice to Hashem because of course Hashem knows all but they do have some importance to Hashem. As we learnt in class today angels are in between man and god. However the space between Hashem and angels is vast, and we are just a step farther away from that. However, through our davening we have a direct connection to Hashem. Angles are important because they guide and protect us. They are sometimes disguised as people (like with Avraham) and they came to his tent because Avraham wanted to perform hachnasat Orchim. Of course we do not know the specific jobs of Angels but from different stories about them they see to be very helpfel and potective.

May 29, 2007 9:49 PM  
Anonymous tova said...

we started discussin thing in class.....but the main point of angels is as in intermediary between humans and god. yes there are many different levels of angels amogst eacother.....but the general catagory of angels stands between man and god = natural and supernatural. if hashem wants to present himself to somone (who is not necessarily a prophet) he many times uses angels. and sometimes angels in form of people in order to disguise the fact that thye are angels. for example with avraham wen the malachim came to him in his tent. hahsem used these angels as an intermediary. so yes, asngels do sing praise, and yes they do watch over us....but they are also used as a way for hashem to intertwine himself amongst humna beings. they are like "hashems little helpers".
also another point- the same way we learn how nevuah can come in different ways for different reasons, angels can also come in different forms for different reasons...i,e, the different levels of angels or wether they are disguised or not.

June 01, 2007 1:38 AM  
Anonymous tova said...

additionally, yes angels are to protect us....but that is gods way of showing us that he is there. saince hashem himself is supernatural and we can not coomprehend his presence....angels are the middle level between human and god. something slightly more tangible for the human mind

June 01, 2007 1:40 AM  

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