An Angel is Created out of each Good Deed we Perform
Rabbi Daniela Szuster
This week’s parashah begins by saying: “Jacob sent messengers ahead to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom” (Bereshit 32:4). Since Jacob left the house of Laban with all his family, and he returned to the land of Canaan, he sent messengers to his brother Esau.
In the Hebrew text it is written “מלאכים” which usually is translated as “messengers” but also means “angels”. What did Jacob really send to Esau?
Rashi, based on the Midrash Rabbah 75:4, states that Jacob sent angels and not human messengers. On the other hand, Ibn Ezra argues that Jacob sent messengers who were his servants.
We have many examples in the Torah where the word מלאכים/ מלאך appear. For example, an angel of God instructs Hagar to return to Sarah’s service (Bereshit 16:7-12), it is an angel who assures Hagar that her son Ishmael will survive (Ide. 21:17-18), and an angel calls out to Abraham and prevents him from harming Isaac (22:11-12).
Commentaries struggle to understand this concept. Some believe that they are human messengers and others think that they are celestial messengers.
I found a different explanation in the Zohar, the central masterpiece of Jewish Mysticism, which I want to share with you in this message. There it is written “If you perform Mitzvot, you will find that out of each mitzvah, a beneficent angel is created” (Zohar, Book of Ruth).
According to this source, the good angels are created out of our good deeds and the evil angels are produced by our sins.
You can find a similar idea in the Mishnah, Pirkei Avot:
“Rabbi Eliezer ben Jacob said: he who performs one commandment acquires for himself one advocate, and he who commits one transgression acquires for himself one accuser.” (4:13)
The Gaon of Vilna understands that the advocate is the good angel created by the performance of a mitzvah, and the accuser is the evil angel resulting from a sinful act.
I find insightful the idea of thinking that when we perform a good deed it is like we are creating an angel and that angel has a positive effect upon others in our environment.
Jacob’s “angels” were the product of his many good deeds: his obedience and respect to Laban, his acts of charity, his prayers to God, etc. The angels he created out of his good deeds are the ones he sent to appease his brother Esau.
We should remember that we have the power to create angels who are messengers of good purposes/missions in this world. We have potential angels within us; it is just the matter to perform good deeds.