The Angels and Us
Updated: Jul 17, 2020
By Shalvi Waldman M.Sc.
Reprinted with permission from Chabad.org
There are angels in the world who tell us that we're not good enough – and they are right! As perfect beings, angels hold up perfection as their standard of measurement, but their measurements have been getting us humans into trouble from the very beginning.
When G‑d decided to create the world, in His humility He asked the angels what they thought. The answer was, of course, "No! Don't do it! They will tell lies, they will break the rules, they will make mistakes, and it's not worth it!"
G-d never expected perfectionG‑d, however, decided that despite the risk, it was a worthwhile investment- and Adam and Eve were created. His explanation to the angels was that we would be kind to each other.
When it was time to give the Torah, the angels didn't want Him to entrust it to us.Moses was in heaven for forty days and forty nights learning the Torah and preparing to bring it down to the Jewish people. The angels came to G‑d and said, "What's this lowly mortal doing up here?"
"He's come to receive the Torah and bring it down to the Jewish people."
"What?! You've got to be kidding! You are giving the greatest supernal celestial delight to a bunch of lowly human beings?! They will surely profane it! They are not deserving!"
G‑d told Moses, "Answer them."
So Moses asked them, "What does the Torah say?"
"Well, it says to honor your father and mother."
"Do you have a father and mother that you must honor? What else does it say?"
"Not to covet."
"Do angels have possessions that you need to be warned not to covet? What else?"
"Not to commit adultery…"
Moses was able to convince them that the Torah, full of laws about money, food, and relationships, clearly belonged among us and not them, but they still wanted to burn Moses up with their fiery breath. G‑d told Moses to hold on to His holy throne, and by doing so, Moses was saved and was able to deliver the Torah.
It's made for us. Any spiritually sensitive individual realizes that keeping the Torah in its entirety is a near-impossible task. The angels were right. We mess it up. We make mistakes. However, that's nothing new to G‑d. He knew from the get-go exactly who he was dealing with. He made us!
How many times have you intended to help out a friend, do something special in honor of Shabbat, give your kids a better Jewish education, work on having a better relationship with your parents, etc., but when you thought it through, it seemed too hard, impossible to do perfectly/ completely/ consistently- so you forgot about it altogether?
It is almost as if we can hear the angels making their arguments against us. What they're saying is probably true. But there is a deeper truth- the truth of the truth is that even if you do one good deed one time, you have created spiritual progress that will last for all of eternity. You are bringing nachas, joy, to your Creator and holiness into your own life. The effort that you invested will never be lost.
This is something that angels don't understand. How can we get credit for what seem to them to be small successes? But they don't have to deal with the kind of stresses that humans deal with on a daily basis.
Once, G‑d decided to show them. Three angels came to visit Abraham after he was circumcised, to tell him that he was going to have a son. Abraham made them a meal to remember: veal tongues in mustard with fresh bread and the works. G‑d gave them the ability to eat just this once. For a moment those angels enjoyed sinking their teeth into a succulent meal, and they were so immersed in the pleasure of it that they lost touch with their spiritual reality a little. Ever have that happen? Of course! Food and all of the other physical pleasures can bring us closer to G‑d, but they can also make us forget ourselves and our Creator. At that moment the angels understood what it means to be human and to have to deal with the challenges that we deal with. It took them a hundred and something years to recover from the spiritual fall of that one meal and to return to heaven. It wasn't until three generations later, in the days of Jacob, Abraham's grandson, that those angels where able to go back up to heaven (this is one of the meanings of Jacob's dream of the ladder with the angels going up and down- it is said that Jacob was witnessing the return of those three angels to Heaven.)
Even Moses had to deal with doubts caused by the angels' grumblings. The Midrash teaches us that when G‑d first appeared to Moses at the 'burning bush' and asked him to go to redeem the Jewish people, Moses said no. They spent a week arguing about it. Sounds like chutzpa, but Moses really had a point. He said that he knew that although he would be able to bring the Jewish People out of Egypt to receive the Torah and go into the Land of Israel, he would not be able to purify them spiritually enough for them to attain complete redemption. He knew that they would sin after he died and be sent into an exile similar to the one they were already in. So why bother?
Sound familiar? But G‑d wanted him to go anyway. That's what we have to do as well. What Moses was saying was true, but the truth of the truth is that we must go anyway. Do the will of G‑d in this moment and don't think too much.
The truth of the truth is that this Shavuot we are going to receive the Torah. Before the holiday is over, whether we wanted to or not, most of us, in some way, will probably have violated it. G‑d still knows what He's doing when He gives it to us. You see, it's made for people who might want to steal, covet, or run amuck following their own self-will. It's made for us! We're the ones who need it, and G‑d loves us so much that He gives it to us – knowing that we're going to make mistakes, but also knowing that we will be kind to each other. Maybe a small part of that kindness is to stand by our friends' side in their moment of weakness and remind them that it's okay to be human – G‑d made us that way.