FAQs

Angels

How could angels oppose G-d’s creation of man?

The Midrash teaches that an exchange took place between G-d and a group of angels before the creation of Adam, the first man. Read more »

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Why was Esau’s angel assigned to the Roman Empire?

The individuals who were major players in the stories recounted in the Book of Genesis are not just isolated persons whose influence ended with their deaths. They represent fundamental spiritual thrusts that continue throughout history. Read more »

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Are there different types of angels? Which type do the angels of the seventy nations belong to?

The subject of angelology is beyond the scope of the content of our Ask Noah website, but here is a very brief reply.

There are many types and levels of spiritual (i.e. non-physical) beings. More in-depth explanations of these beings can be found in Chassidic teachings. Two general divisions can be made. First, there are those that are on a higher spiritual level than the physical boundaries of space and time as we know them. In Hebrew, these are called “malakim” (singular “malak”). Of these, the lowest order are the “Ofanim” (singular “Ofan”), which are described in Ezekiel 1:16-18 as being like “wheels within wheels,” with “rims full of eyes.” Spiritually higher than those are the “Hayos,” described there as having four faces (1:6). Higher than those are the “Serafim” (singular “Seraf “) which appear in prophetic visions with a human-like form and six wings (Isaiah 6:2). (Of course the physical terms in these descriptions are really analogies for spiritual powers.) The angel of Esau belongs to the order of melakim.

There are also lower, semi-spiritual beings which exist within the physical boundaries of space and time as we know them. The “Sarim,” which are the “patron” or “guardian” angels of the seventy nations, belong to this category.

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How did the Sages know the names of particular angels?

There have been special individuals in history who reached the level of perfect righteousness (to the extent that it is possible for a human to be perfect). When a person reaches a certain high level of spiritual perfection, he or she is rewarded by G-d with a spirit of prophecy, so that his or her awareness is no longer limited to the physical world, but the heavenly realms and/or the heavenly beings are also revealed, which may be with open sight, prophet vision or intellectual insight. Examples are the righteous heroes and heroines of the Torah, the Hebrew Prophets, and select Sages over the course of history. There were also Gentiles who reached this level. For example we see in Genesis that when Hagar was sent away, she was met by several angels. (Gen. 16:7-13) Why was she not afraid? Because she was used to seeing angels in the home of Abraham and Sarah. There are many many other examples of prophets who personally encountered angels (Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, etc.) So ultimately, the knowledge which the Sages had of angelology was based on the personal prophetic experiences and insights of special individuals.

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How could the angel of Esau bless Jacob?

And he (the angel) said, “Let me go, for dawn is breaking,” but he (Jacob) said, “I will not let you go unless you have blessed me.”

According to the Midrash, Genesis 32:25-31 describes how Jacob wrestled with the guardian angel of Esau and prevailed over him. The “blessing” that the angel gave was that he was forced to admit and confirm that Jacob was the rightful recipient of the blessing that his father Isaac had originally wished to give to Esau. Jacob had gotten that blessing by tricking his father (Genesis ch. 27). This “trickery” by Jacob and his mother Rebecca was necessary in order to circumvent Esau, who had tricked his father with false displays of righteousness. On a deeper level, it accomplished an undoing of the trickery of the serpent in the Garden of Eden,which brought evil into the world.

Note that Isaac thought that because Jacob was already completely connected to holiness, he did not need the blessing. Isaac thought that the blessing should instead be used to help Esau overcome his desire for evil ways and turn with repentence to holiness. Isaac did not realize that his deceptive son Esau was too immersed in evil to be saved at that time.

However, as Jacob prophesied when he took leave of Esau many years later (Gen. 33:14), the Edomites who descended from Esau (referred to there as the inhabitants of Mount Seir) will be refined in the future when the Messiah is revealed. This is the essence of the prophecy of the Book of Ovadiah, which concludes with the verse, “And saviors shall ascend Mount Zion to judge the mountain of Esau, and the kingdom shall be G-d’s.”

For further teachings on this subject, see our web page ELEVATING CREATION.

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What does the name of the location of “P’niel ” mean, where Jacob wrestled with the angel of Esau?

This name, which Jacob gave to the place where he struggled with the angel, appears in Gen. 32:31 and 32:32. In the original Hebrew, it is spelled slightly differently in the two verses. In the first verse, the word means “my face [is toward] G-d,” in which Jacob was referring to himself. In the second verse, the word means “turn to G-d” [i.e., in repentance], which was Jacob’s message to the future generations.

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Esau was unrefined but had potential to be refined. Did his angel have two natures?

It is well known that each angel has its own name, which reflects its general nature. However, in several places in the Hebrew Bible, an angel appears to an individual to deliver a Divine message, but the angel refuses to reveal its name, saying that its name is hidden. Read more »

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How did the countries of Edom get so much power, and do the angels of other nations accept this?

When G-d elevates a nation to be the greatest power in this physical world, it is accomplished through His elevation of the “guardian angel” of that nation, above all the other angels of the nations. The other guardian angels have no choice or say in this, since it is decreed by G-d.

In the approximately 3500 years since the family of Jacob entered Egypt (Genesis, chapter 46), G-d has decreed several periods of exile upon the Jewish people, in which they were dominated by another nation. In each past case, after a predetermined time G-d released them from the exile they were in (see the Book of Daniel, 8:20-24).

When the Jews must be exiled by another nation, G-d first makes that nation into a great empire. The empires into which they were exiled throughout history were the following:

the Egyptian Empire
the Babylonian Empire
the Persian Empire
the Greek Empire
the Roman Empire (Edom)

The Jews will be released from this final exile (Edom) when the Messiah is revealed in the very near future.

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Do the angels and people of the nations have to act according to the 7 Laws of Noah?

The Seven Laws of Noah are commandments from G-d for the people of the Gentile nations to follow. Angels don’t have any inclination to rebel against the will of G-d, and they don’t have a set of commandments that they have to follow. For example, they don’t own property, so they have no desire to steal. They aren’t born from a father and mother, so they don’t have parents to honor; etc. G-d’s commandments all have to do with how human beings should think, speak and act within the physical world. The nations of the world need to legally support these commandments, since it should not just be up to the whim of individuals as to whether they will decide to follow these commandments or not. That is covered by the Noahide commandment to establish courts of law, in order to promote the observance of the other six commandments.

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Why don’t angels have a free will?

Seraph AngelIn all of creation, only humans have been given the capacity for freedom of will, and this gives them the unique capacity to better themselves spiritually. It also gives them the unique capacity to lower themselves spiritually, G-d forbid.

Let us consider the animals. Some animals are very intelligent and have a (limited) ability to reason. Some even have a form of language to communicate. But their actions are overwhelmingly governed by the nature and instincts that are implanted in them by G-d, and that are unique to each species. Some animals can be trained by humans. An animal’s habits can be altered by repeated rewards and punishments, but they do not inherently recognize any behavior as morally good or evil, so as to make a choice on that basis. Each animal species occupies a certain niche in the natural world, and it does not elevate itself to fill a higher niche, or lower itself to fill a lower niche.

The angels are the creations that inhabit the spiritual realms. Whereas in the physical realm a creature’s form is defined by its physical body, the forms of the angels are defined by their spiritual attributes – their emotions and intellect. The emotions and intellects of the various angels greatly exceed that of physical humans, because the angels do not have physical limitations. And likewise their ability to perceive and experience G-dliness greatly exceeds that of physical humans. However, G-d creates each angel with a defined and unchanging form – a certain level of intellect, a certain level of love for G-d, and a certain level of fear of G-d. They also have a G-d given “spirit” which enlivens their form, since the life force of every creation comes from G-d.

Each general “species” of angel is created to perform a certain general task: to receive the G-dly influence sent “down” from the angels on the “higher” level, to filter and screen this influence, and to transmit a certain amount of this influence “down” to the angels that are on the level “below.” The angels have no free will to increase or decrease this flow of G-dly influence by their own choice. That is only by the plan and decision G-d. On the other hand, they can’t be considered “robots,” just as physical animals are not robots.

Sometimes G-d will send an angel on a mission in the physical world. As long as the angel is on that mission, the mission becomes the life-force for that angel. Thus the angel does not have free will as to whether or not it will perform its mission.

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How can there be so-called evil angels if their mission is from G-d?

In the spiritual realms that G-d created, there is a side of “holiness,” which means a revelation of G-dliness, and there is a side of “unholiness,” which means a concealment of G-dliness. The relative amount of holiness and unholiness in each spiritual level defines that level. The “highest” realms have much more holiness than unholiness. The “lowest” realms have much more unholiness than holiness. Our physical world is almost entirely unholiness, with just a bit of holiness. This progressive hiding of G-dliness, culminating in this physical world, allows humans to believe that they are independent entities that exist separate and apart from G-d, Who they can’t physically perceive. Read more »

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What does the angel or spirit of Amalek represent?

The first Chassidic discourse by the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe (after the passing of his father the 5th Rebbe in 1920 in Rostov, during the Russian Revolution) was on the verse “Amalek is the first among the nations, and in the end he shall be destroyed” [the prophecy of Bilaam in Numbers 24:20]. The Rebbe explained that Amelek is the spiritual source and root of the spiritual evil of the Seven evil nations – the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Girgshites, Jebusites and Rephaim [Gen. 15:20-21]. But Amalek itself, the toughest of all evil forces, is separate from those seven, because it contains no element of good that can be salvaged by means of the divine service of humans. The “rectification” of the evil of Amalek is its utter eradication and destruction. However, G-d “has set a limit to darkness” [Job 28:3]. The time allotted for this evil is set, and when it expires, the evil is is utterly destroyed and annihilated, leaving no trace, because it does not possess any intrinsic form of true existence; it is a non-entity, even though it is extremely tenacious. Only with the help of Torah and faith in G-d can a person recognize this force which resides within himself as evil, and take the necessary steps to dispel it from his mind and heart. This is difficult, because it includes the force of conceit that causes him to believe that his own intellectual innovations are correct, and/or that the way of Torah is wrong, G-d forbid.

Amalek is the supreme force of evil, above all the other evil forces. One of the first and most important tasks that the Messiah will accomplish once he is revealed to the world (speedily and in our days!) will be to destroy the spiritual force of Amalek. This will automatically remove the strength from all the other evil forces, so that the Messianic Era can begin.

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“Sons of G-d” angels (Job 1) and Rosh HaShanah

Question: Who are the “sons of G-d” in the verse Job 1:6?

Answer:

The verse Job (Iyov) 1:6 says, “Now the day came about, and the sons of G-d came to stand beside the L-rd, and the Adversary ["Sotahn" in Hebrew], too, came among them.”

In this context, the “sons of G-d” means angels. Rashi explains that this verse is describing a Heavenly event that took place on the New Year’s Day in the Hebrew calendar, Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah is G-d’s appointed day of universal judgment for the entire year, on which all the creations in all the worlds are judged by G-d. It is the anniversary of the day that Adam and Hava (Eve) were created.

When a person observes one of his Divine commandments or does a good deed in general, this is brought up before G-d’s Heavenly court in the person’s defense on Rosh Hashanah, in the merit of the good that was done. When a person violates one of his Divine commandments or does something bad in general and has not yet repented to G-d, this is brought up for the person’s prosecution on Rosh Hashanah, accusing the person for the bad that was done. The leader of the angels that accuse people for their sins is the angel Sotahn (“Satan”).

Furthermore, even the angels in the Heavenly worlds and the animals, birds, etc. in this world are judged by G-d for their degree of culpability. This sounds mysterious to us, because those creations do not have free will as we understand it. However, it is understood somewhat by the fact that only G-d is perfect, and in some way even those creations that lack free will are also judged with regard to their imperfections.

This is illustrated by the following story in the Jerusalem Talmud (Shevi’it 9:1 25b):

[The great sage] Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai … saw a hunter catching birds. When Rabbi Shimon heard a voice from Heaven say, “Dimus, dimus!” (“Pardoned, pardoned!”), that bird escaped. But when he heard the voice say, “Spekula!” (“Sentenced!”), that [other] bird was caught and trapped. He said, “A bird is not caught except with the will of Heaven, [so] all the more so for a human being.”

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Did the angels in Gen. 6:2 sin by taking beautiful women?

Angels are created with intellect (wisdom, understanding and knowledge) that is much greater and on a much higher level than humans. Because they have intellect, they are able to question that which is beyond their intellect – which is the hidden ways of G-d. The Midrash relates several episodes in which groups of angels questioned G-d (i.e. He WANTED them to question Him, and He allowed this). In each case G-d revealed the error behind their questions, and showed to them an aspect of His Inner Will that was previously hidden from them. This of course resolved that particular question for all time to follow, so it can never be honestly raised again as a question on the justice or truth of G-d’s ways. Read more »

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