Sunday, January 27, 2008

Class: Angels, Part II - Praying to Malachim

This morning I taught the second part of my two-part class on Angels; here's the source sheet, along with some bibliographic references for those who are interested.

We discussed the long history of addressing angels, and even beseeching their assistance, in Judaism - from Yaakov's request for an angelic blessing, to Rabbi Yochanan's apparent request for angelic assistance in Sanhedrin 44b, to Hitkabdu Mechubadai to Machnisei Rachamim to Barchuni l'Shalom. Then we looked at three reasons why this is a problem - the question of why angelic intercession would be needed, the concern for idolatry, and the concern for mystical danger in mixing with angels.

We talked about the historical elements of the issue of angelic intercession, and we concluded by looking at three different ways to handle angel-seeking liturgy: (1) Delete/Edit, (2) Accept that angels do have some power, and we may seek their help within that sphere, and (3) Modify our understanding of these prayers.

Here is the source sheet:
1. Talmud, Berachot 60b
One who enters the bathroom says: “Be honored, honored ones, sacred ones, servants of Above. Give honor to the Gd of Israel! Leave me until I go and do my desire, and then I will return to you.

2. Machnisei Rachamim
Angels of mercy, bring our plea for compassion before the Presence of the Lord of mercy. … Intercede for us and amplify supplication and entreaty before the King, Almighty, Who is exalted and uplifted.

3. Shoshan Sodot 412
Remember, always, to see at every molad and tekufah under which star they fell, and from the star you will know which angel is appointed thereupon, and from the angel you will know which emanation, and the name which emerges therefrom… And you will first be mashbia the star of the tekufah with its sacred angels, and then the star of the month and its angels…

4. Shalom Aleichem, third verse
Bless me for peace, angels of peace, angels of Above, from the King of kings of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.

5. Psalms 91:11, 121:8
For He will instruct His angels for you, to guard you upon all of your ways.
HaShem will guard your departure and arrival, from now and forever.

6. Exodus 23:20
Behold, I send an angel before you, to guard you upon the way and to bring you to the land I have prepared.

7. Talmud, Shabbat 119b
Rabbi Yosi bar Yehudah said: Two ministering angels escort a person on Friday from the synagogue to his home, one of them good and one of them bad.
When they come to his home and find the lamp lit and the table set and the bed arranged, the good angel says, ‘May it be the Will that next Shabbat will be like this.’ And the bad angel is forced to answer ‘Amen.’
If not, the bad angel says, ‘May it be the Will that next Shabbat will be like this.’ And the good angel is forced to answer ‘Amen.’

8. Midrash Tanchuma (Warsaw edition), Vayyakhel 1
Rabbi Meir said: For every mitzvah a person performs, he is given an angel to guard him. If he performs one mitzvah, he is given one angel. If he performs many mitzvot, he is given many angels. It is written, ‘For He will instruct His angels for you, to guard you upon all of your ways.’

9. Talmud, Shabbat 12b
Rabbi Yochanan said: One who prays in Aramaic will not be helped by the ministering angels, for the ministering angels do not know Aramaic.

10. Genesis 32:27
And he said, ‘Send me away, for the morning has come.’
And he said, ‘No, unless you bless me.’

11. Talmud, Sanhedrin 44b
Rabbi Yochanan said: One should always ask for mercy that all should strengthen him, and that he should have no foes above.

12. Talmud Yerushalmi, Berachot 9:12
Rabbi Yudin said: A human being has a patron. If he encounters trouble, he does not approach the patron suddenly, but rather he stands at the door of the patron’s home and calls the patron’s servant or family member and says… But Gd is not so. If a person encounters trouble, he should not cry out to Michael or Gavriel, but rather to Me he should cry out, and I will answer him immediately.

13. Maimonides, Commentary to Mishnah, Introduction to the 10th chapter in Sanhedrin
…That it is suitable to worship Gd, to exalt Him, and to publicize His greatness. We do not do this to anything beneath Him, among the angels and stars and spheres…and we do not make them intermediaries through which to reach Him…

14. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry 2:1
The essential instruction regarding idolatry is that we should not worship one of the creatures, no angel or sphere or star or any of the four foundations or anything created therefrom. Even if the worshipper knows that HaShem is Gd, and he worships this creation as Enosh and his generation did at first, this is still idolatry.

15. R’ Yehudah haChasid, Sefer Chasidim 205
It is not good for a person to pray other than to Gd. One who goes out on the road should not be mashbia angels to guard him on the road, but rather he should pray to Gd for all of his needs…

16. Rama, Code of Jewish Law Yoreh Deah 179:16
Regarding hashba’ah, in which one is mashbia them with names, some permit this altogether, but most who involve themselves with this do not leave it in peace. Therefore, one who would guard his life should distance himself from them.

17. Genesis 19:21
And the angel said to Lot: Behold, I have shown favor to you even in this, not to overturn the city, as you spoke.

18. R’ Shemuel Yaakov Weinberg, Fundamentals and Faith, pg. 59-60
It is a form of idolatry to attribute power or free will to any intermediary. Therefore, believing that one must beg angels to bring his prayers to Gd is idolatry. For this reason, the Maharal and R' Chaim of Volozhin (Keter Rosh #93) forbade the singing of "Barchuni leshalom," since it implies that one is asking the angels to bless him.
Those who do sing this popular prayer on the Sabbath should envision a situation in which the angels will have to bless him. The Talmud (Shabbat 119b) relates that, returning home after the Sabbath services Friday evening, one is accompanied by two angels. If, upon entering one's home, the angels find the table set for the Sabbath meal, they are forced to bless the home with the blessing that this joy and preparation should occur the following week as well. It is for this situation, where the angels must bless him, that one should pray.

19. The First Gerrer Rebbe, Sfat Emet to Rosh haShanah 32bWith every mitzvah the Jewish people perform, an angel is created. In truth, Rosh haShanah and Yom Kippur are holidays, so that there is joy in the hearts of the Jews, but they cannot bring that desire into action, to say Hallel. However: From this great longing, angels are also created.

And here is a partial bibliography:

Chasam Sofer Orach Chaim 166
Yehudah Yaaleh 1: Orach Chaim 21 - I loved what he had to say here.
Igros Moshe Orach Chaim 5:43
Divrei Yatziv Yoreh Deah 191
Tzitz Eliezer 14:48

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