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What Are Angels?

Sunday, 4 August, 2019 - 6:06 am

 

Question of the Week:

 

Why does G-d need angels? Can't He do things himself? And can we pray to them?

 

Answer:

 

I'll answer you with a metaphor. The metaphor is a metaphor about a metaphor. 

 

A preschool teacher wants to teach her little students the shape of planet earth. So she tells them, "The earth is spherical." They don't know what she is talking about. So she says, "The earth is round." They return blank stares. So she takes out a bouncy ball from the toy box and says, "The earth is a big ball." Now they get it. 

 

You can't communicate an abstract concept to young students using abstract terms. You need to express the idea in terms that the students will relate to. The best way is with a metaphor, a parable, an illustration of the concept in more tangible and relatable ways. 'Spherical' or even 'round' means nothing to a toddler. But he knows exactly what a ball is. 

 

That's the power of a metaphor. It conveys a concept that would otherwise be beyond the mind of the listener in a way that is totally relatable to them. And by doing so, an abstract idea becomes concrete and clear. 

 

The metaphor has to have two components. It has to accurately depict the subject being taught by the teacher, but in language and imagery that can be understood by the student. The ball is round, just like earth, but it is readily found in a toy box, just like the kids. 

 

An angel is like a metaphor. 

 

G-d is infinite. We are finite. Our limited world can not handle infinity. So G-d created a medium through which His light can reach us. The angels serve this purpose. They are on the one hand spiritual beings, so they are able to handle divine light, but at the same time they are limited and finite beings, so they can convey the divine light down into this world. 

 

Angels play a vital role. But they have no power of their own. They are just the metaphors delivering the message. Praying to them would be a waste of time. Don't mistake the metaphor for the message. If that kid thinks that his bouncy ball is actually a planet, he has missed the point, and if you think an angel has power over you, you have too. Only G-d can answer our prayers. Angels are just bouncy balls. Metaphorically speaking. 

 

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Moss

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