Feeding the Angels

The elderly woman was loudly bemoaning her fate, saying that her trouble-filled life was hardly worth living, when Harav Mordechai Slonim, zy”a, passed by.

Filled with pity for the poor woman, he asked her, “If you were offered the wealth of Baron Rothschild in exchange for desecrating a single Shabbos, would you agree?”

The woman recoiled. “Chas v’shalom,” she said. “Of course not!”

“Then you are wealthier than Baron Rothschild,” he said firmly.

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One of the favorite tricks of the yetzer hara is to blind us to the value of our good deeds and distract us from what we are capable of achieving.

The truth is that while we humans are indeed frail mortal creatures, every word we utter and every mitzvah we perform has enormous impact in the heavenly spheres.

This week the Torah tells us that when Moshe Rabbeinu brought korbanos at the foot of Har Sinai, he took half the blood and put it in the basins, and sprinkled the other half on the Mizbei’ach. Rashi informs us that a malach came to divide the blood.

Harav Yisrael, the Chortkover Rebbe, zy”a, wonders: Was dividing up the blood such a difficult task that it required an angel?

The Rebbe asks another question on Chazal’s statement that the malachim sought to harm Moshe Rabbeinu when he ascended to Shamayim to receive the Torah. At that point Hakadosh Baruch Hu made Moshe Rabbeinu’s face resemble Avraham Avinu’s. “Aren’t you embarrassed?” He asked the malachim. “Is this not the one to whom you descended and in whose house you ate?”

Certainly Hashem would not seek to mislead anyone, so what is the symbolism here? Furthermore, why did the malach who appeared at the home of Manoach (father of Shimshon Hagibbor) refuse to eat anything, but the malachim who visited Avraham Avinu ate a full meal? The Chortkover Rebbe answers as follows.

Like humans, angels also need sustenance. But their “food” isn’t the physical kind; it is purely spiritual — Torah and mitzvos. The malachim opposed giving the Torah to Bnei Yisrael because they feared they would lose their source of sustenance. What they failed to realize was that Bnei Yisrael’s observance of the Torah would in fact be their sustenance, granting them spiritual strength.

To illustrate this, Hakadosh Baruch Hu referred to the angels’ visit to Avraham Avinu and the way they “ate” in his home.

“You yourselves saw that because Avraham Avinu performed the mitzvah of hachnasas orchim through you, you benefited by receiving spiritual sustenance,” He told them.

This taught them that when Bnei Yisrael perform the mitzvos here on earth, it is a source of “food” for the angels on High.

When Manoach offered the angel earthly food, something the malach had no use for, he declined. But when Avraham Avinu served a meal, in addition to the food itself, he had the loftiest kavanos in performing the mitzvah of hachnasas orchim — from which the malachim were able to draw nourishment.

Then, at the foot of Har Sinai, as Bnei Yisrael prepared to receive the Torah, Moshe Rabbeinu brought korbanos, also a source of sustenance for all creation. Moshe sent a message to the malachim that they had nothing to fear from the Torah being given to mortals, for they would continue to receive their “nourishment.” Therefore, an angel came to divide the blood, taking his “part” of this mitzvah.

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The Pieczesna Rebbe, Hy”d, in Esh Kodesh, written in the Warsaw Ghetto, also addresses the interaction between Moshe Rabbeinu and the malachim. Chazal tell us that after the malachim expressed their opposition to giving mortals the Torah, Moshe Rabbeinu was afraid of them. Hakadosh Baruch Hu instructed him to “grasp the Kisei Hakavod and answer them.”

The Pieczesna Rebbe explains that Moshe Rabbeinu feared the malachim because he thought that they were on a higher spiritual level than he was.

Hashem therefore told him to grasp the Kisei Hakavod, for malachim can’t rise to the sphere in which it is located. The fact that Moshe Rabbeinu was able to rise to such an exalted level was proof that a human being can rise higher than an angel and that Moshe had nothing to fear from the malachim.

A malach can’t fathom the greatness of a Yid, nor can a Yid fully grasp his own greatness. Yet the fact that our mitzvos grant sustenance to the angels can give us an inkling of the power of our deeds and words.

Every time a Yid recites a tefillah, utters a passuk of Tehillim, learns a Mishnah or gives a quarter to tzedakah, he is providing sustenance for an angel, who is looking at him with gratitude — and envy…

Indeed, every Shabbos-observing Jew is much richer than the wealthiest person in the world.