Angels and Demons in Jewish tradition…

Was bestselling novelist Dan Brown correct in his depiction of ‘Angels and Demons’ according to Jewish tradition? Do such beings really exist?

In this week’s Parasha of Vayeira, we read how Abraham is confronted by three men who approached his tent in the heat of the day. The commentators comment how these three men were really angels. Why three? Because they each had a specific mission to accomplish. Apparently, angels don’t know how to multitask! One angel was sent to heal Abraham following his circumcision. Another was to give Sarah the news that she was to have a son. The third was to destroy the city of Sodom.

So who or what are these angels? Are angels – and conversely – demons, winged creatures that are separate to G-d? Are they part of G-d? Are they human souls that have been assigned a different mission following death? What do we believe?

According to Jewish tradition, an angel is a spiritual being and does not have any physical characteristics. They are conduits for the flow of Divine energy. The angelic descriptions provided by the prophets – such as wings, arms etc. – are anthropomorphic, referring to their spiritual abilities and tasks.

The Hebrew word for angel is “malach,” which means messenger, for the angels are G‑d’s messengers to perform various missions. Every angel is “programmed” to perform certain tasks; such as Michael who is dispatched on missions which are expressions of G‑d’s kindness; Gavriel, who executes G‑d’s severe judgments; and Rafael, whose responsibility it is to heal.

Yet there is another type of angel. The ones created through the deeds of man. In the words of our Sages: “He who fulfils one mitzvah, acquires for himself one angel-advocate; he who commits one transgression, acquires against himself one angel-accuser.” These are formed from the (intellectual and emotional) energy which one invests in the performance of a mitzvah, the study of Torah, or in prayer—or, conversely, energy applied in the execution of a sin.

In summary, angels are dispatched by G-d to achieve certain things and they can also be created by us in response to our deeds. So let’s all ensure that we only create positive flows of energy or angels, and in doing so may our world become a more peaceful and blessed place.
Wishing you Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Yossi and Chana Raizel Friedman