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    An angel, not a man – Vayyera

    Everyone expects a sidra commentary on Vayyera to focus on the Akedah, the Binding of Isaac. This year, our theme only tangentially touches on that subject.

    Abraham & the angels, by Gustave Dore

    Instead we will look at the idea of angels, not simply because they figure in the Akedah story but because they play a number of roles in these chapters of the Torah.

    Isn’t it interesting that when three angels visit Abraham he thinks they are mortal men (Gen 18:2)?

    They walk towards him as human beings do. They do not float through the air and wave their wings though some people think that this is how angels must act.

    They have human form since God can choose whatever way He wishes in using His agents and instrumentalities.

    But if we look at the story from Abraham’s point of view we learn something fascinating about the patriarch himself. He sees men, but the men are really angels.

    (There is a well-known Jewish joke about the woman whose husband brings her a huge diamond and she says, “He’s an angel, not a man!”)

    As far as Abraham is concerned, he knows that human beings are not angelic, but he recognises that some humans rise above their humanness. Some don’t, and they turn out to be lower than angels, lower than Menschen, unworthy of the dignity imparted by the Creator to all His creatures.

    Yet our sages tell us to judge every fellow creature charitably (Avot 1:6).

    Good advice. Before criticising a person one should look for their good points.

    Maybe the man or woman in front of us is an angel after all.

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