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Monday, 16 November 2015

Do we have guardian angels?

Daf Yomi Sotah 21

A fellow is walking along the street and he hears a voice. “Stop, or you will be injured!” He stops and sure enough a brick comes hurtling down from the top of a construction site nearby.   He walks a little further, is about to cross the street, and the voice booms again, “Stop, or you will be run over.”  He halts in his tracks and sure enough, a car comes speeding around the corner; had he crossed, that would have been the end of him.

The fellow looks up and says, “Who are you?”
The voice replies, “I am your guardian angel.”
“Oh yeah?” responds the fellow, “Where were you before I got married?”

The following did Rabbi Menachem son of Yossi expound: “For the mitzvah is a lamp and Torah is light.”  The verse identifies mitzvos with a lamp and Torah with light; mitzvos are compared to a lamp to tell you that just as a lamp only protects temporarily, so the fulfilment of a mitzvah only protects temporarily; Torah is compared to light to tell you that just as light protects permanently, so Torah protects permanently; and it states: “When you walk it shall lead you . . .” “When you walk it shall lead you” means in this world; “when you sleep it shall watch over you” means in death; and “when you awake it shall talk with you” means in the Messianic era.   
It may be compared to a man who is walking in the middle of the night and darkness, and is afraid of thorns, pits, thistles, wild beasts and robbers, and also does not know which path he is taking.  If a lighted torch is prepared for him, he is saved from the thorns, pits and thistles; but he is still afraid of wild beasts and robbers, and does not know which path he is taking. When dawn breaks, he is saved from the danger of wild beasts and robbers, but still does not know which path he is taking. When, however, he reaches the crossroads, he is saved from everything.
Rashi explains: Mitzvos provide a torch in the darkness, but only protect the person from specific dangers.  Torah is like the light of day which protects a person from sin and pain.  One still does not know which path he is taking, since throughout one’s lifetime, he runs the risk of the yetzer hara (bad inclination) overpowering him and removing him from Torah study.  Only once he reaches the crossroads of death can he know that he is out of danger.

Do we believe that a human being may be guided by a guardian angel?  In Pirkei Avot, Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov teaches that each of us has not just one guardian angel, but many!  Every time you do a mitzvah, you create an angel that protects you from harm.  Here the Talmud teaches us that, your guardian angel is so powerful that it is like a torch that lights up the night!

Nevertheless, as powerful as mitzvah angels are, they can only provide so much protection.  True, they light up the night; but the night is still a dangerous time to travel.  The ultimate protection from danger is provided by the Torah.

Torah study is like a shield, a force-field that surrounds you making you impenetrable!  You don’t need to hold on to a torch, you are surrounded by light all around you.  Certain dangers only lurk at night; during the day they simply disappear!

Why is Torah so powerful?  Because Torah gives you the tools to navigate life.  While everyone else is groping in the darkness of uncertainty, when you learn Torah and live by its principles, everything becomes crystal clear.  You know where you are going.  You know the purpose and meaning of life.  There is never a dull moment – a moment that you do not know what you should be doing – every spare second is directed towards gaining greater spiritual wisdom.

You can never go wrong when you are constantly immersed in Torah.   Life is as bright as day.  The only challenge is to maintain that level of certainty until you reach the crossroads between this world and the next.  As our Sages teach us, this world is but a hallway where we are to prepare ourselves for the palace in the World to Come!

This world is a dangerous place, physically and spiritually.  At times, it seems so dark and uncertain.  May you surround yourself with the force-field of Torah and forever perceive life as bright as the midday sun!