Angels come up quite often in our lives. The Talmud 1 speaks of two angels that accompany us every Friday Evening, hence we sing: Shalom Aleichem, peace upon you, o ministering angels.
Ethics of the fathers 2 teachers that each mitzvah we do creates “an angel” that is always there to protect us and advocate on our behalf 3.
And at every Passover Seder table the young open the door to let in Elijah. No doubt he could let himself in through the keyhole or window?
This week the Torah 4 describes a fascinating tale about an angel that brings a message of a blessing.
The recount goes as follows.
Angel: Where is Sara your wife?
Abraham: She is in her tent.
Angel: I have come to deliver a message, that this time next year Sara, your wife, will have a son.
Sara, was listening at the entrance of her tent. Now Abraham and Sara were old. Sara laughed to herself and looks at herself.
Sara: Now that I am withered shall my skin become smooth? Shall my womb carry a child 5?
Then God (joins) and says to Abraham: Why did Sara laugh? And say “Will I give birth, though I am old?” “Hayipale MeHashem Davar? Is there anything too wondrous for God?”
Hearing Gods accusation Sara denies it.
Sara: “I did not laugh, for she was afraid”.
God 6 said: No, you did laugh.
The sages discuss the many nuances that are going on here. I would like to focus on one.
The challenge that Sara laughed, and the denial; and why does God join in?
Nachmondies 7 wonders, Sara simply overhears a conversation. She has not seen who the bearer of the news is? Or that it is the voice of angels, who look like men. Why should she believe this?
Social Psychologists 8 write of those that prefer their needy condition to the available alternatives, in other words it is not always simple to accept blessings that are given to us. “It is more blessed to give then receive”.
As unnatural as it may sound for a 90 year old to become a mother, it is equally as difficult to accept the gift with open arms.
Hidden in this story, then is an important message.
The story of an Angel that brings a message, the gift of life. The angels do not know the feelings of the recipient 9. That she laughs inside. Perhaps unsure how to accept the blessing or sceptical if it can be realised?
Was her laugh from utter surprise and disbelief? Is it a hidden joy and excitement 10? Is it easier to deny oneself the positive thought?
The angels do their job in giving the gift of the blessing. But God the source of all good the giver of all gifts, of life itself, the knower of all thought and feelings can respond: you did laugh, and it is OK. Don’t forget that laugh 11. The happiness is beautiful, the positive feelings is exactly how it should be.
Perhaps Elijah can make his way through the keyhole. But the important thing is the act of opening the door. The ability to open up so the blessings can come in.
Hayipale mehashem davar? Nothing is too wondrous for our loving and giving G-d.
1. Shabbat, 119b
2. Chapter 4, Mishna 11
3. Zohar Vol 3, 307b; Sota 3b
4. Genesis 18, 1-15
5. Rashi 18, 12
6. According to midrash rabba, 48, 20; Yerushalmi sota 7;1. (Others disagree, suggesting it was Abraham or the Angel).
7. Ramban, 18,15
8. Social Psychology 2nd Ed, 1986, K.J. Gergen, M.M. Gergen (pp 217-219)
9. Sechel tov Toras Shlomo Vol 3.1 Page 762
10. See Ohr Hachayim
11. The Hirsch Chumash, Vol 1 Page 415