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Actual Angels

Actual Angels

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They say that “you can’t dance at two weddings at once.” But according to a teaching of the Maggid of Mezeritch, the leading disciple of the saintly Baal Shem Tov, you can.

The Torah reading of Vayishlach begins, “And Jacob sent angels before him to Esau his brother” (Genesis 32:4). A frightened Jacob struggles to reach conciliation with his wild brother Esau, who is determined to punish Jacob for sneaking away with the Patriarchal blessings.

Commenting on the words, “And Jacob sent angels,” Rashi states, “Actual angels.” Says the Maggid of Mezeritch, “Only the ‘actual’ aspect of the angels did Jacob send to Esau, but the spiritual component of the angels remained at all times with Jacob.”

Just a minute—something seems not quite right here. It would seem that Jacob’s goal in sending the angels was to have them wield their immense spiritual powers to neutralize the animosity of his brother Esau. So why would the Maggid propose that in sending the angels, Jacob withheld these very spiritual powers, dispatching a more ordinary version of the angels instead?

But the Maggid’s words can be understood in another, more magical way.

The angels bring all of themselves along for the journey to Esau. They are fully equipped, actually as well as spiritually, to face this formidable challenge. Yet, while struggling to realize their mission, they never fail to realize that hanging out with Esau is not where they are meant to be. They race to wrap up their mission and rejoin the righteous Jacob. Thus, while the angels are with Esau in actuality, they remain spiritually linked with the one who sent them.

And it is this unyielding bond that yields the angels their success. Only by remaining firmly connected with their source, the virtuous Jacob, can the angels be sure of success in their effort to refine Esau. Were this bond ever to be severed, the angels would face the risk of falling in with the very entity they arrived to elevate.


So goes the story of our lives.

We too, are on a mission. Our souls have been dispatched from a lofty port, to be clothed in a coarse body and a crude world. At the same time, we have been imbued with the tools required to master, refine and elevate our surroundings.

It is imperative that in facing this challenge, we master the art of dancing simultaneously at two weddings. While sending forth the messenger-angel in our soul to conquer, we must hang firmly onto our very own “Jacob,” the pristine source of our divine soul, which can never be tainted or tarnished.

Dovi Scheiner is the editor of Kosher Spirit magazine, a publication affiliated with the OK Kosher Certification.
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Alexandra New York, NY December 6, 2011

Actual messengers The literal meaning of Malachim is messengers, right? When Rashi writes “malachim mamash”, does he not mean “actual messengers”, that is, actual human messengers? Reply

seha tucson, az via chabadoftucson.com March 31, 2009

actual angels This was so beautifully written. Easy to understand and obsorb. Reply

Alessandra December 14, 2008

Thank you so much, here I found the answers I was looking for! Reply

abe via chabadofbelair.org November 25, 2004

awesome stuff Reply

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