Angels in the Open Field: Vayetze 2018

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Do you consider someone to be your “guardian angel”? Do you think you play that role in someone else’s life? What are the characteristics and qualities of such a person?

As Jacob grows from a young adult to a patriarch, he periodically senses Divine protection:

The Pitch: “Jacob went on his way, and messengers of God encountered him. When he saw them, Jacob said, ‘This is God’s camp.’ So he named that place Mahanaim.” – Genesis 32:2-3

Swing #1: “There is a marked narrative symmetry between Jacob’s departure from Canaan, when he had his dream of angels at Bethel, and his return, when again he encounters a company of angels. That symmetry will be unsettled when later in the chapter he finds himself in fateful conflict with a single divine being.” – Robert Alter, The Five Books of Moses: A Translation With Commentary

Swing #2: “The presence of divine messengers does not obviate the need for human messengers. This juxtaposition suggests that, in situations of danger and interpersonal difficulty, the coalition of divine presence and human initiative and planning is important. God’s presence does not control so much that what human beings think, do, and say in such moments is irrelevant. The same time, the struggle with the ‘messenger’ [God in subsequent verses] makes clear that God may enter anew into human plans.” – The New Interpreter’s Bible

Swing #3: “God sent His angels to him to keep him safe while on his journey.” – Radak

Late-Inning Questions: Why do you think God sends Jacob angels more than the other patriarchs? Is it because Jacob’s life journey is more perilous than that of his father or grandfather? Or is it because God is less confident that Jacob can succeed on his own? Do we all need, to paraphrase the George Gershwin song, someone to watch over us?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: We are so proud of our annual Hanukkah tradition known as the “Night of Giving”, taking place this year on Sunday, December 2nd, at 6:00PM. Join us at Publix in West Ashley, Mount Pleasant, or Summerville to light the first Hanukkah candles of the holiday, and then purchase a bag of non-perishable groceries to give to the Kosher Food Pantry. It’s a great way to celebrate by giving back.

The Big Inning at the End: One of the advantages of having a Major League team named the Angels is the multitude of punny possibilities there are; for instance, I continue to be amused each High Holidays when we read the line about human beings as “little less than angels.” I guess that, this year, we’re all Texas Rangers – since the Rangers were the only team in the American League West with a worse record than the Los Angeles Angels this year.

Shabbat Shalom!