Angels Vs. Humans



When you think of angels, you might picture people wearing white robes with wings and halos. You’d be right to think that this image is decidedly not Jewish. However, there’s actually a rich Jewish tradition supporting the belief in angels–spiritual beings that perform various functions when God directs them to do so.

Surprisingly, in some ancient Jewish writings, angels are also described as arguing with God, voicing feisty objection to God’s actions (playing “devil’s advocate,” if you will). In one source in the Talmud (Shabbat 88b), the angels protest God’s plan to give the Torah to the Jewish people. They think that this gift should remain in their own spiritual realm.

But Moses argues with the angels: “Did you go down to Egypt? Were you slaves to Pharaoh? Why, then, should the Torah be yours?”

According to Moses’ argument (which, as we know, wins at the end of the day), spiritual perfection doesn’t make someone a candidate for receiving God’s gifts. On the contrary, it’s the power of uniquely human experiences–like slavery and suffering; hope and redemption–that makes God so fascinated with flesh-and-blood people, and not with flawless angels.

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