Friday, November 15, 2013

VaYishlach 5633 First Ma'amar

... כי שרית עם א-להים ועם אנשים ותוכל/… for you have struggled with [angels of] God and with men and have prevailed.”  The ability to influence the world around us, both physical and spiritual, through our actions is a quality that Ya’akov Avinu passed down to his progeny.  Our actions have ramifications in all the spiritual realms.[1]  And the spiritual realms directly influence the physical world.  We find this concept in a Zohar in our parsha. 

The Zohar quotes a pasuk from Tehillim (91:11), “כי מלאכיו יצוה לך לשמרך בכל דרכך/He will command His angels concerning you, to protect you in all your ways.”  The Zohar says that the angels in the pasuk are referring to a person’s positive and negative inclination.  We generally think of our inclinations as a part of us – our desire to do good and our lusts to gratify ourselves.  We don’t personify them in the form of angels.  Why does the Zohar view our inclinations as angels?

To answer this question we need to understand what an angel is.  The Sfas Emes explains that our desires do not begin as a part of us and our makeup.  Rather, God sends them into us for a specific purpose.  They have a life of their own, as it were.  These desires are called angels.  In Hebrew the word for angel is, מלאך/mal’achMal’ach means messenger.  The desires that God implants in us are His messengers.  When we act because of a desire we have, God’s messenger is the spiritual force that underpins the action.

Sometimes the spiritual force underlying our actions is clear to us and to others.  At other times it is not clear at all.  Sometimes God is more revealed and sometimes less revealed.  Chazal use a metaphor of angels of chutz la’aretz/outside of Israel and angels of Israel to describe this clarity or the lack of it.  Angels of chutz la’aretz represent God’s influence in a concealed way whereas the angels of Israel represent His revelation.
A person sends a messenger when the mission that needs to be accomplished is far from him.  Likewise God sends us messengers/angels because we are far from Him.  He sends us messengers in the form of the mitzvos that we do and their spiritual underpinnings.  He sends us messengers in the form of desires to do good and bad.  The messengers/desires that He sends us help us to accomplish His will.

This is the meaning of the pasuk we brought earlier according to the Zohar.  The angels are His messengers.  They are the inclinations that He sends us and we have the ability to clarify and reveal those messengers, the spiritual and motive force within our actions.  When we accomplish this the messenger has fulfilled its purpose and returns to the One who sent it.  

[1] For a detailed discussion of this concept see Nefesh HaChaim 1:3,4

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