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Beit Midrash Series Parashat Hashavua

A Working Malach - part I

Rabbi Yossef CarmelKislev 4 5780
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Yaakov’s journey to and from Charan was accompanied by meaningful meetings with malachim (angels).

In the beginning of our parasha, it says that Yaakov was pogei’ah in a holy place, where he had his famous dream about angels on a ladder (Bereishit 28:10-12). Our parasha ends with Yaakov being pogei’ah with malachim of Hashem and calling the meeting place Machanayim because it was an encampment of godly beings (ibid. 32:2-3). We have discussed in the past that angels accompanied Yaakov wherever he went.

We have also mentioned the machloket on whether angels are wondrous creatures or whether they are just emissaries of Hashem’s "natural world." Depending on our approach to the matter, we will explain differently what pegi’ah is. One opinion in Chazal (see Berachot 26b) is that pegi’ah is prayer, and Yaakov’s first pegi’ah is connected to his institution of Ma’ariv (the evening prayer). The other opinion says that it means to meet up with something, a language that Chazal often use (see for example Kalla Rabbati 5:9).

We want to offer an explanation of the word malach according to the approach that we are to view malachim as natural parts of the world. Malach means someone who carries out a task of a variety of types. One of the overarching themes of Parashat Vayeitzei is that while it seems as if Yaakov was a dedicated worker for Lavan, in fact the same things that he did made him a "servant of Hashem," i.e., a malach.

Yaakov teaches us important lessons as a role model for life. He recognized the good he received and worked with integrity and dedication for the person who provided his livelihood. Service of Hashem is predicated on the idea that when we do work in this world, it is as malachim of Hashem. As long as working for Lavan did not conflict with serving Hashem, Yaakov did so with great dedication and toil. As soon as Hashem told him that it was time to leave Lavan and return home (see Bereishit 31:4), Yaakov included his wives in the vision of malachim that he saw (ibid. 11) and returned home. Along the way, he returned to Beit El, where he had seen the malachim, and resumed his own mission as a human malach.

The last words of the parasha provide an indication that our approach is true. Yaakov met angels in Machanayim. These were the same angels that he saw on the ladder. Yaakov deserved this because he spent his days and nights as a malach, making sure that whatever jobs he did, it was an act of serving Hashem. (Next week we will see what David did in Machanayim.)

May we succeed, so that the work we do in this world in a proper manner will make us worthy of being called malachim.
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