Vayera: I'm no angel.

I’m no angel!

In so stating, I’m not commenting upon the negative aspects of my character and behavior, although, unfortunately, I could be.  Rather, I’m referring to how Judaism views angels, why neither you nor I am such, and what that might mean for us.    

First, a little long-ago biography.  Once upon a time, I was a young man on a mission to succeed. Hired right of out of college into the intensive training program of a leading national insurance company, I worked hard all day, then studied nights and weekends for several years to earn advanced industry credentials.  Transferred to the Home Office while still relatively “wet behind the ears,” I was given supervisory responsibility over field employees with decades of experience.  

In my spare time, I listened to motivational tapes and devoured “How to Succeed” books.  I internalized maxims like: “Success is never certain; failure is never final;” “If you have no set direction, you’ll surely arrive there;” and “Even a dead fish can float downstream!”  I wrote a business plan to begin my own insurance company (to be named “Apex”) and actually took a few steps toward organizing it.  According to a journal I kept (for the Presidential Library?), I intended to make my first $1 million within a few years, $5 million within a few more.   

For various reasons, some of my choosing and some not, my life went in other directions.  Sometimes I’m wistful about not having followed through on that original plan.  But there’s no telling now whether it (or subsequent plans, also changed) might have worked out; I might now be rich and retired, or bankrupt, or miserable, or dead. I have far more than my share of blessings, Thank G-d, and have been fortunate to be able to set and pursue other goals, accomplishing some of them.  I’m still and always “on a mission to succeed,” though I define success much differently.  

Now, back to angels.  This week’s Torah portion, Va’yera, begins (Gen 18:1) with the Lord appearing to Abraham as he sits at the entrance of his tent.  Three “men” appear, one of whom announces that childless Sarah will soon have a son.  We are then told that the men left and that “The two angels arrived in Sodom.”  (Gen 19:1) Two? What happened to the third angel? 

According to Jewish tradition, angels have a single G-d given purpose.  (One of my teachers, Rabbi Stan Levy, taught that behind each blade of grass is an angel urging it to “Grow, grow!”)  When one angel announced Sarah’s impending pregnancy, its/his purpose was fulfilled and he/it returned to G-d.  The two remaining angels proceeded to fulfill their missions of destroying Sodom (and Gomorrah) and rescuing Lot. 

We humans aren’t angels.  We can “multi-task.”  We have free will to act (albeit, with consequences).  We can change our mind – and we often don’t know which mission(s) G-d has created us to fulfill.  Did I miss my mission/purpose in life by not starting the Apex Insurance Company?  Did I fulfill it by pursuing other goals?  Perhaps I have as yet failed to recognize my true mission/purpose … and perhaps an angel will yet appear and reveal it to me. 

Torah teaches us that life, generally, and our life, specifically, has meaning.  We were not created to “float downstream.”  Nor to just watch the days and years pass.  LIfe is not about this weekend's football game (go Bruins!), or enjoying retirement.  Life is about pursuing a mission.  

What’s yours?  What is the purpose of your life?  If you know, are you working toward fulfilling it?  If you don’t know, what are you doing to discover it?  

We traditionally welcome each Shabbat by singing “Shalom Aleychem, Malachei HaShareit” – “Peace Upon You, Ministering Angels, Messengers of the Most High.”  Then, we ask them to bless us, and we wish them a peaceful departure.  

This and every Shabbat, may angels disclose/remind us of our purpose.  And may they then crouch behind us and urge us to “Grow, grow!” in fulfilling it.

Shabbat shalom.  

Related Images

  • Vayera: I'm no angel.



There are currently no comments, be the first to post one.

Comment Form

Only registered users may post comments.

A bird that you set free may be caught again, but a word that escapes your lips will not return.
Jewish Proverb