Ask The Rabbi

Guardian Angels

The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Topic: Angels, Guardian

Adam Auton from London wrote:

Dear Rabbi:

What does Judaism say about guardian angels?

Jane Hewitt wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

Could you please give me a literal definition of the word angel as it was written & meant in ancient Hebrew? Does it mean the same thing in Hebrew as it does in English? It seems that the Old Testament angels were like us in appearance. Could you give me a Jewish definition of angel? Thank you very much for any help.


Dear Adam Auton and Jane Hewitt,

The Hebrew word for "angel" is "malach." The word "malach" is related to the word "melacha," which means "task." Hence, a malach is an agent or vehicle which accomplishes a task. The English word "angel" comes from the Greek word "angelos" meaning "messenger" or "agent."

Therefore, a "malach" can be a wind, a person, or a purely spiritual force. The angels such as those who spoke to Abraham and Jacob were purely spiritual forces which appeared in human form.

Our Sages state that when you perform a commandment you create an angel that accompanies you. Maimonides explains that this refers to the spiritual and intellectual concepts that influence the person as a result of performing the commandments.

According to Maimonides, the degree of Divine Providence you experience is directly proportional to your attachment to God, and therefore the commandments which create that attachment are the true "guardian angels" of a person.

Sources:

  • Tehillim 104, Commentary by Rabbi Avraham Chaim Feuer
  • Zohar, Raiya Mehemna Parashat Shelach & Tractate Avodah Zarah 17a
  • Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Mezuzah, 6:13
  • Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed, Section 3


 
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