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Apr 05 2017

My Grandson, The Angel

Every grandparent thinks that their grandchild is an angel. My new grandson, Michael David, who is 10 days and 30 minutes old, actually IS an angel.  Or, at least, he is named for one!  People are sometimes surprised to learn that there ARE angels in Jewish tradition.  The Torah speaks of “malachim”- messengers- and you can probably think of a number of stories where they appear.  Michael is named for Tim’s beloved father who died when Tim was only 21- may his memory be for blessing.

Tradition tells us that it was the angel Michael, who informed Abraham that his nephew Lot has been taken captive.  It was the angel Michael who protected Sarah when she was taken into the harem of Avimelech.  It was the angel Michael who stayed Abraham’s hand when he was about to sacrifice Isaac, who prevented Lavan from harming Jacob, who wrestled with the patriarch[1], and it was Michael who told Abraham of the impending birth of his longed for son, Isaac.  What an angel!

In Jewish literature, Michael is actually the commander-in-chief of the entire angelic host.  He is one of the archangels! A leader!  Michael is one of only two messengers named in the Tanach, in the Hebrew Bible.  The other is the angel Gabriel.  Both are mentioned in the Book of Daniel.  Gabriel, as his name implies, gibbor- strong- is associated with the sense of justice, and is often tasked with administering punishment on God’s behalf.  Michael translates at “Me-cha-el,”- who is like God, or, God-like.  Okay, I’ll say that my grandson is an angel, I won’t go so far as to say that he is a demi-god himself!  The angel Michael plays the role as an emissary of God’s kindness and compassion.

Michael is depicted as standing to the right of God’s holy throne.  Note that the mezuzah is placed on the right side of the doorpost, and there is a custom to hold the Kiddush cup in our right hands.  Various rituals in the Torah call for anointing the right earlobe, thumb, and toe.  Eliezer places his hand on Abraham’s right thigh when he swears and oath, and traditional Jews will put on their right shoe before their left, and light a candle on the right side prior to the left.  Standing at the right hand of God is a key position.

Rabbi David Cooper suggests that when we think about Michael, we might reflect on times when we felt unusually open-hearted, on moments of exceptional generosity, sharing, caring, and being available to others.[2] Me-cha-el- who is like God?  One who expresses these God-like qualities.

Michael is the one who collects our prayers and brings them to God.  We, as Jews, don’t believe in intermediaries in our relationship with the Holy One; Michael is simply the Divine postman!  Michael can be tough when he needs to be.  The Book of Enoch, a pseudepigraphal- that is extra-Biblical text- describes Michael as one of those who will participate in bringing punishment to the angels of corruption and destruction.[3]

Writing in the definitive work, A Gathering of Angels, Rabbi Morris Margolies teaches that rebellious angels leave God’s Presence and descend to earth to tempt us to do evil.  We can counter these negative forces by “harnessing the angelic forces for good that are always there for those who choose them.”[4]  In other words, we are surrounded by angels and opportunities for good, opportunities to engage those qualities of kindness and compassion which Michael represents.

Kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, goes further, suggesting that with every good that we perform, we populate the universe with good angels- a powerful motivation and beautiful image of the potential impact of our every action.

May Michael be blessed with all of these qualities of his angelic namesake-  first of all, may he emulate all of the Godly qualities of caring, kindness, and compassion, may he grow to be a leader in our community and may he muster the strength to stand for justice when necessary.

Michael’s middle name, David, honors the memory of Sarah’s father and my beloved husband, zecher tzaddik livracha.  I know that the angel David is watching over his beautiful grandson with love and pride.

May we all be reminded of the angels we create every moment. May we be blessed with awareness of the angels who surround us on all sides. May God bless every one of us with the strength and wisdom to choose the good, and, indeed, the holy path.

[1] other sources suggest that that was Gabriel

[2] Cooper, Rabbi David, “The Archangel Michael,” https://www.rabbidavidcooper.com/cooper-print-index/2010/11/8/2193-the-archangel-michael.html

 

[3] Margolies, Morris B., A Gathering of Angels, NY:  Ballantine Books, 1994, p. 84

[4] ibid., p. 85

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