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Malachim

I don't know why I'm here. Well, of course I know in the sense that this is supposed to be a dvar torah about Bereshit.

But that doesn't begin to touch on any of the real reasons why I might be here. If our lives - if my life - is an act of creation, then it seems as though I manage to create a lot of darkness. At least that's what I seem to be wandering around in most of the time. So which of us knows what her real purpose in life is?

There is a midrash that malachim (angels) do. The Hebrew for angel - malach - means "messenger." The midrash says that each malach comes into existence to give one message and then ceases to exist.

Joseph is said to have met a malach when his father sent him out to find his brothers. Joseph was wandering around in Shechem, unable to find them, when "a man found him . . . straying in a field." The man asked him what he as looking for, and Joseph said he was looking for his brothers. The man then said, "I heard them say, 'Let's go to Dothan.'" So Joseph went to Dothan, found his brothers and walked into misery and torment and glory and history. His name is on the lips of someone around the world every day thousands of years later.

What if there had been no encounter with "the man"?

Joseph would have wandered around some more, gone home to tell his father he couldn't find his brothers. They would have calmed down by the time they got home and decided not to kill him. Perhaps a few years later, when the famine came, Joseph would have starved to death along with all his family.

No Egypt. No Jews. No history. No Pesach. No us.

But what a price a malach pays for acting with purpose and knowing it acts with purpose. One purpose, one message, and that's it. But we who so often live long lives without purpose seem to be almost the opposite of a malach.

But our tradition holds more.

There are the lamed vavnikim, the thirty-six, the tzaddikim, the righteous ones. There must be thirty-six tzaddikim at all times for the world to continue to exist. They are so fully good their existence outweighs the evil of others and is enough to save the world. If but one were lost, evil would so overbalance good that the world could not continue.

These saintly ones are supposed to live, quietly mending the world, subtly improving the lives of those with whom they come in contact -- and to be so humble they don't even realize they are tzaddikim.

But they are not saccharine saints. Sometimes their task is to impose hardships in order to save a person from a terrible fate. Just as God had to destroy the world by flood to save it. They are not malachim. They are human like us. But more than simply human like us.

Or perhaps we can act as tzaddikim - repairing the world - and never knowing it, in small ways, for just seconds at a time, sowing a little light, for a moment creating light and not only dark.

The next thoughts I have are personal ones and hard ones. We all want happiness, long for it, pray for it. But sometimes we are denied it, maybe for periods so long it feels like a lifetime. Long enough we can feel angry with a God who will not answer prayer. Long enough to understand the feeling: Out of the depths I cried to you.

So much in life makes us want to cry out against any God who would allow this to exist.

So what are our choices if beg for happiness - but the answer the universe seems to throw back at us is: No.

Perhaps this is the time to consider that this may be our chance to walk briefly in the path of the tzaddikim, struggling to stay on the right path, having faith - that in doing this we are creating light. Having faith and joy that we take up the challenge to be engaged in repairing the world - even though we may not have the eyes to see it. Even though this light that may never shine on us.

After Jacob had an encounter with the divine, he said: "And God was in this place - and I, I did not know."

How can this be? Moses had to hide his eyes when God passed by or be blinded. If God's presence is so overwhelming, how could Jacob have missed God's presence? Perhaps we are more like Jacob than Moses - and the reality of God's presence is hard to sense. Perhaps that is why we are asked to say: Shviti adonai knegdi tamid - I place God before me always.

Perhaps, with time, if we sow light to mend this broken world, we will come to see that we can stand in a place where God always is.

Topics: Divrei Torah
Type: Dvar Torah