The Torah portion this week, “Mishpatim” (Exodus 21f) begins the long legal narrative of Torah. As the Israelites are beginning their journey, we are introduced to a long recitation of laws, designed to bind the society together. The list is long and inclusive, everything from social interaction, to economics and includes the beginning texts for Kashrut (23:19) and abortion.(21:22)
There is semester of content here and so many sermons and articles have been authored on the portion’s content.
Let me skip to a verse not often commented on. Exodus 23:20: “I am sending an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have made ready.” This verse struck me as something very dear this past week as I was asked to speak at the funeral of a life long friend who died very suddenly. As I looked at the verse and just let it speak to me, it occurred to me that in many ways, as we get older and lose friends, that their soul may indeed become part of our own consciousness. I know that this may be impossible to prove. However, look back on your own life and the people who have had the most impact on it. Many may have died.They may have been (or are) parents, teachers, close friends with whom you have shared so much of life. All of a sudden they are no longer physically here. Yet, something of them remains and that something, often in moments of need or concern, becomes present in our own souls. Is that what an angel is now?
Judaism has a rich history of angelology. We often repress it in these days, but it is there. Perhaps the souls and spirits of friends and parents who helped shape our lives before death, find their way into our souls and serve as “angels” now, guiding us and reminding us of the paths we should take and the choices we should make. Maybe these are truly our guardian angels? In any event, I would like to think that this may be so.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.