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Angels 1: the True Story

by Rabbi Adin (Steinsaltz) Even-Yisrael

The Thirteen Petalled Rose

  

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The living creatures of the world of Yetzirah are, in a general way, called "angels". They function on that plane as we function in the world of Asiyah. The world of Yetzirah may be said to be, in its essence, a world of feeling. It is a world whose main substance, or type of experience, is emotion of one kind or another, and in which such emotions are the elements that determine its patterns. The living beings in it are conscious manifestations of particular impulses - impulses to perform one or another act or respond in one or another way - or of the power to carry through an incentive, to realize, to fulfill the tendency of an inclination or an inspiration. 

An angel is a spiritual reality with its own unique content, qualities and character. What distinguishes one angel from another is not the physical quality of spatial distance but rather a disparity with respect to the fundamental purpose of such an essence. The substantial quality of an angel may be an impulse or a drive, i.e. an inclination to love, fear, or pity.

To express a larger totality of being, we may refer to "a camp of angels". In the general camp of "love", for example, there are many subdivisions, virtually innumerable shades and gradations of tender feeling. No two loves are alike in emotion, just as no two ideas are alike. Thus, any general and inclusive drive or impulse is a whole camp and is not consistently the same at every level. Whereas among human beings emotions change and vary either as persons change or according to the circumstances of time and place, an angel is totally the manifestation of a single emotional essence.

What distinguishes one angel from another is not the physical quality of spatial distance but rather a disparity with respect to the fundamental purpose of such an essence
The word for angel in Hebrew,"malach", means also "messenger". As its name in Hebrew signifies, the nature of the angel is to be an envoy to a degree, thereby constituting a permanent contact between worlds. An angel's missions transpire in two directions: it may serve as an emissary of G-d toward the earthly, to other angels and to worlds and creatures below the world of Yetzirah, and/or it may also serve as the one who carries heavenwards from below, from our world to the higher worlds.

The real difference between man and angel is not the fact that man has a body, because the essential comparison is between the human soul and the angel. The soul of man is most complex and includes a whole world of different existential elements of all kinds, while the angel is a being of single essence and therefore in a sense one dimensional. In addition, man, because of his multi-faceted nature and capacity to contain contradictions (including his gift of an inner power of soul) has the capacity to distinguish between good and evil. It is this ability which makes it possible for him to rise to great heights, and by the same token creates the possibility for his failure and backsliding, neither of which is true for the angel.

From the point of view of its essence, the angel is eternally the same. It is static, an unchanging existence, whether temporary or eternal, fixed within the rigid limits of quality given at its very creation. 
 
Among the many thousands of angels to be found in the various worlds are those that have existed from the very beginning of time, for they are an unfaltering part of the Eternal Being and the fixed order of the universe. These angels in a sense constitute the channels of plenty through which the divine grace rises and descends in the worlds.


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Philosophy » Creation
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