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9/10 December: Shabbat Vayetze

rabbipaulsmlShabbat comes in 3.37 pm: goes out 4.46 pm

The topic of angels in Judaism seems like a strange one.  However, they ARE mentioned in the Torah (and even later in the talmud).   Evidently, we have angels in our lives — divine and human — who help us at critical times.   In this week’s parsha the Torah describes how angels that help us at one stage of life or in one arena are not necessarily the same as at other times.

Jacob flees from his brother Esau to Charan.  On the way, he stops for the night and dreams of a ladder between heaven and earth with angels moving on it.  In the dream, God renews the covenant that had been made previously with Jacob’s ancestors Isaac and Abraham.  The Torah introduces the dream with these words: “Jacob had a dream; a ladder was set on the ground and its top reached to the sky, and angels of God were going up and down on it” (Gen. 28:12).  

The Torah’s description of the angels’ direction (up then down) caught the attention of commentators.  It would have made more sense for the angels to first descend from heaven to meet Jacob, and then ascend.  Rashi explains that when Jacob reached the border of Israel there was a changing of the guard.  “Those angels who accompanied him in the Land of Israel were not permitted to leave the Land; they ascended to Heaven, and the angels that were to serve outside the Land descended to accompany him.”

It is either an outdated idea that angels are geographically bound (just as gods were believed to be) or it is a wise lesson for today — the “angels” that are helpful in one area (read: family members, friends, advisors) may not be helpful in others.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Paul Arberman



December 8, 2016