What an Angel!

By Rabbi Zvi Teichman

Posted on 09/06/18

Parshas HaShavua Divrei Torah sponsored by
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You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem, your G-d; the heads of your tribes, your elders, and your officers - all the men of Israel: your small children, your women, and your proselyte who is the midst of your camp, from the hewer of your wood to the drawer of your water (Devarim 29, 9-11)

Although the verse is describing Moshe’s last day on earth where he gathers the entire nation to initiate them into a covenant with G-d, the Zohar says that ‘today’ also alludes to Rosh Hashana, when we all stand before G-d as well, in judgment.

The Midrash in analyzing the description of all of us ‘standing’, reveals that in a sense we are being likened to Seraphim - angels, who are depicted by the prophet as ones whostood above for him.’

What is the significance in our being portrayed such? Isn’t man greater than an angel by his ability to choose, as opposed to angels who instinctively follow their directives?

Throughout the special tefillos we recite during the period of selichos and the Days of Awe we occasionally appeal to the angels to entreat G-d on our behalf.

There was a great controversy, dating back many centuries that addressed the appropriateness of petitioning celestial beings. Yet despite that we traditionally add these prayers.

It has been suggested, by the renowned disciple of Nevarodok, Rav Chaim Zeitchik, that perhaps these angels we summon aren’t standard angels that we are seeking assistance from. Rather as the Talmud teaches, whenever we perform a good deed a defending angel of mercy is created that represents us before the Almighty, we figuratively turn to these angels who are evidence of the many good choices we have made to display our essence and worthiness before G-d.

Although there are many varied levels of devotion between the leaders of the tribes and the lowly water carrier, however when it comes to our relative challenges, each one based on the circumstances unique to each one of us, and the choices we ultimately make, we all stand on equal ground.

Where the choice of those who operate on a higher level is evident in the obvious accomplishments of their actions, in the realm of those lesser servants who struggle mightily to rise above their personal challenges, and often continue to stumble time and again, it is not as visibly apparent. But those angels we procure every time we overcome temptation and challenge, however incremental it may appear, are on par and perhaps even greater than those produced by those who struggle possibly less.

This vital lesson appears specifically in the section where we undertook a covenant of Arvus, responsibility one for another.

The Torah goes on to describe an individual who separates himself from the community declaring, “I will walk as as my heart sees fit”, selecting to go it alone. (העמק דבר)

To this defiant one G-d asserts that He will not יאבה סלוח לו, desire to forgive him.

The beloved late Klausenberger Rebbe, was fond of interpreting that this person who desires to isolate himself is not necessarily referring to a sinner, but rather to one who sees himself as ‘holier than thou’, seeking to separate himself to preserve his piety. To him the Torah declares, G-d is not interested in forgiving you.

Why does the Torah emphasize G-d not ‘desiring’ to forgive him? Wouldn’t it be more correct to state simply, ‘He will not forgive him’?

Every day we bless the חנון המרבה לסלוח, the gracious One, Who pardons abundantly.

Is G-d only abundant in his dispensing of forgiveness and not in his granting of health, financial security, support and many gifts he showers upon us?

The holy Baal HaTanya teaches in his Igeres HaTeshuva, that G-d’s abundance here refers to His eagerness to always pardon us even though we continually fail. Whereas in the society of man, we tire easily of the one who repeatedly offends despite his alleged lapses of regret, G-d is eternally hopeful and accepting of our efforts to change even though we return time and again to those exact offenses.

Perhaps the Torah is telling us that one who is cynical towards others and unwilling to accept responsibility for others by displaying understanding and generosity towards them, which in the end is the elixir for creating healthy bonds and influencing others positively, becomes alienated from G-d as well.

We must emulate the ‘One Who pardons abundantly’ in our own empathy and encouragement of others in order to be privileged to receive G-d’s benevolence.

G-d will always forgive one who repents fully, but He will not be ‘desirous’ of pardoning the one who fails to emulate His kindness.

Angels have neither jealousy nor enmity among them. We too must remove the taint of selfishness if we are to beseech our angels of mercy to entreat G-d on our behalf and merit His abundant forgiveness.

ויעשו כולם אגודה אחת לעשות רצונך בלבב שלם, Let them all become a single society, to do Your will wholeheartedly.  

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