By Dr. Bernie Kastner
Every morning and afternoon, those who pray with a minyan have an opportunity to literally act like an angel. In the Kedushah section of the Shemoneh Esreih, we are instructed to lift our heels three times when reciting “Kadosh Kadosh Kadosh,” and on each subsequent phrase to lift our heels once. Angels stand on what appears to be one leg (Ezekiel 1:7), so by lifting our heels we are copying them.
Surprisingly, angels have a lower status than a human soul. Whereas a soul is made of a spark from G‑d, an angel is a new, albeit very holy, creation. Humans have free choice; angels are generally programmed to be a one-dimensional messenger for a specific task. Overall, angels have the responsibility to transport our prayers and words of Torah study and place them before the throne of the Al-mighty. Pirkei Avot (4:11) teaches that for each mitzvah that we perform, we create our own angel advocate; concomitantly, for every sin we commit, we create an angel accuser. Angels generally fall under one of ten ranks, each representing its level of understanding of Hashem’s ways.
We refer to babies or elderly holy men as having an angelic face. In the financial world, angel is a term used to describe someone who contributes the funds to underwrite a project. The High Holy Days prayer book contains vivid descriptions of angelic praises and song. Someone who just performed an act of kindness will be referred to as an angel. It is this last thought that I would like to emphasize here. The spiritual world of the afterlife is nebulous to most of us. It is hard to grasp what it really feels like, despite many rituals performed here that give a feeling of the spiritual experience. As a result, we resign ourselves to doing what we can in this physical world and leave the spiritual world for after 120.
The wonderfully pure angelic images depicted by the Western world, decked out with wings and halos, are nice to behold, but it does not necessarily have to be so distant. Right now we can act and be angel-like. It can be expressed through love, consideration for others, devoting more one-on-one time with our children, taking more initiative, and caring. The recent storm that devastated many parts of the East Coast of the U.S. served as an opportunity to demonstrate the many heartwarming acts of chesed that neighbors performed for one another. Certainly the events do not have to be as dramatic as what tri-state citizens continue to endure in the aftermath of the big storm. Opportunities present themselves each moment of each day—some stand out in a more obvious fashion than others. So look for those opportunities now. Why wait for the afterlife? v
Dr. Bernie Kastner is a psychotherapist in private practice with offices in Jerusalem. He is also the author of “Understanding the Afterlife in This Life” and “Masa El Haor.” His upcoming book on the afterlife, “HaOlam She’acharei,” is scheduled to be released soon. Feel free to visit his website at drbkastner.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.