The Angels’ Point of View

Two ministering angels accompany a man on Shabbat eve as he comes home from the synagogue—one good angel and one bad.  And when he returns to the house and finds the lamp lit, the table arranged and the bed made into a couch, the good angel says:  May it be God’s will that there be another Shabbat just like this one.  And the bad angel is compelled to answer:  Amen.  If things are not so arranged, then the bad angel says:  May it be God’s will that there be another Shabbat just like this one, and the good angel is compelled to answer:  Amen.

In anticipation of real guests, we clean, cook and straighten.  Guests invite us to see our homes through their eyes.  We are in their debt for the preparations that we make in their honor.

The Talmudic storyteller invites us to enter a world in which—one evening each week—angels are real guests whose heavenly point of view influences how we look at our homes.

How is this Shabbat eve different from all other nights?  On this night, we look at our homes with an eye towards what our angel-guests will see.  All other nights follow and anticipate the work-a-day.  On this night, our home receives a royal delegation, a hint of divine presence that brings “above” and “beyond” inside—on this Shabbat evening.

One angel is good, the other bad.  Nonetheless, they do not cause.  They only confirm.  The angels reflect upon habitation and habit.  As the house is right now, so is it likely to be next week.

The rhythm of the week is very strong.  In the one or two room ancient Jewish home, it was not every evening that expensive oil would light the way into the night.  The prepared, uncluttered table was not commonplace, nor would the bed be transformed as a matter of course into a couch.

But guests change the rhythm.

The angel guests of the story are uninvited.  But the more we tell the story, the more the story tells us how we wish our home to be seen.  Before long, we welcome the angels who help us towards a heavenly regard for our homes on Shabbat eve.

Over the centuries, we have learned to sing our guests a song of welcome in which we greet them, ask for their blessings, and wish them bon voyage—until the next week:

Peace to you, ministering angels, messengers of the High One,
sent from the king who is the king of all kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.

Enter in peace, angels of peace, messengers of the Most High,
sent from the king who is the king of all kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.

Bless me with peace, angels of peace, messengers of the Most High,
sent from the king who is the king of all kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.

Go in peace, angels of peace, messengers of the Most High,
sent from the king who is the king of all kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.

(Click here for Talmudic story and song of welcome in Hebrew and English)

This entry was posted in Angels, Shabbat, Talmud. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Angels’ Point of View

  1. Donald Goldstein says:

    I found this story a little confusing. To our family Shabbat is largely about preparation for sacred time. By the time our human and angelic guests show up it is time to bask in the peacefulnesss and rest provided by time of Shabbat. It really doesn’t matter how fine the wine is, or how elaborate the food, or how splendid the challah. Shabbat is in the preparation–the smell of the food cooking, the essence of fresh baked challah, the knock on the door of the first guest. The wine tastes better, the food tastes better, the prayers are more uplifting. But, most of all are the shared moments, when you child or grandchild first says Motzi, when we sing, no matter how out of key, our special songs, perhaps a new one from Hebrew school or some far off community. Our home becomes a little temple, with a menorah, the smell of spices, the invokation of the Name and finally the giving of thanks for bread and fellowship. There are no bad angels, there are only the lack of memories and idolatry of failing to prepare, After all, when we are each called before the Throne of Glory, don’t we want its occupant to recognize us as long-time companions and not total strangers?

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