Fundamentals of the Jewish Faith
Chapter Six: Divine Providence (Part 4)
While G-d Himself allows for and vetoes our interactions with Him, He
nonetheless uses agents to carry through on things. And these agents are
termed His “angels”. They don’t always do what has to be done, though. For
as we’re taught in the Passover Haggadah, there are times when G-d
Himself, rather than “an angel … or a seraph” must do what is to be done.
But so many of us have such skewed ideas about angels that we’d do well to
delve into the subject before expanding on Ramchal’s ideas here.
The Hebrew term for angel, malach, is derived from the word for “send”,
because angels are the supernatural beings that G-d sends forth to carry
out His orders. But the term malach is used to depict not only angels but
messengers as well. So for example Jacob is said to meet “angels of G-d” --
termed malachei Elokim -- in Genesis 32:1, while two verses later he’s
said to have sent messengers, malachim, to Esau.
For the most part, angels aren’t named in the Torah (though see Daniel
8:16, 9:21, and 12:1). But the names of certain lofty and prevailing
angels were revealed to us elsewhere. So we learn of Michael the angel of
mercy; Gabriel the angel of justice; Raphael the angel of healing; Uriel
the angel of illumination; and of others.
So while angels are indeed extraordinarily dominant in the playing out of
things, and serve a high function, and thus we might be tempted to be in
awe of them, they’re not at all G-d nor do they substitute for His will or
intentions whatsoever. And so it has always been forbidden us to worship
Thus while we’re taught that it’s angels who bring our prayers before G-
d’s presence, we’re not at all to pray for their intervention, since G-d
alone listens to our prayers. And in fact some great rabbis have
disapproved of passages in which angels are evoked for that reason (like
Shalom Aleichem, which we sing at the Shabbos table), but others defended
those prayers on the grounds that we’re only asking the angels to be our
In any event Ramchal offers a number of other insights. He reveals
elsewhere that an angel appears to each soul before birth to teach it
Torah in preparation for life, but it then has us forget what we’d learned
(for the most part) so that we could earn merit studying it (Derech Eitz
Chaim). That would explain the real sense of “déjà vu” that many Torah
scholars experience in their studies throughout the years. And angels also
come into play in the background of everyday and certain other
extraordinary events in our lives.
He also makes the point that each angel has a particular and unique task
to fulfill. So when they carry through on G-d’s demands when it comes to
our interactions with Him, they either strive to include what has to be
done here into their purview, or they opt out altogether. In any event,
they always work with things in accordance with the Divine merit system
cited before (see Ch. 14), and play no role in our free choices.
Rabbi Yaakov Feldman has translated and commented upon "The Gates of Repentance", "The Path of the Just", and "The Duties of the Heart" (Jason
Aronson Publishers). His works are available in bookstores and in various
locations on the Web.