Prior to being introduced to my (future) wife, I received a strange brachah from Harav Shlomo Brevda, zt”l. I merited a close relationship with him in my younger years and had spoken with him many a time. Yet his blessing took me by surprise, as his choice of words was so atypical: “You should see the malachim guiding you.” Anyone who knew Rav Brevda recognized his resolve to distance himself from mysticism. His blessing to me was shocking, as it seemed like the antithesis of who he was and what he professed.
I was not surprised when, in more ways than one, the process of meeting my wife opened my eyes to some fascinating encounters with strangers who helped me and guided me in ways that could only be Divinely orchestrated. To me and to my wife, it became clear that we had definitely seen “malachim” in action, as well as the obvious fulfillment of Rav Brevda’s brachah.
Chassidic lore abounds with stories of the Divine messengers sent to help Yidden in need. The woodsman living in the forest, the shtetl drunkard, and a vast array of other colorful characters are all part of Hashem’s plan to bring salvation and blessing to Yidden in trouble. But angels come in different forms. While at times they may take on a physical, human appearance, there are many instances when their existence is concealed, and were it not for the Torah revealing their presence and actions, we would never have known they were there.
As a child, Moshe Rabbeinu sat on Pharaoh’s lap and removed the king’s crown. Pharaoh’s advisors sensed a bad omen and subjected the young boy to a test. A plate was brought before him with two materials — gold and burning hot coals. Should the child reach for the gold, he was obviously knowledgeable enough to choose wealth and royalty, indicating that he did indeed intend to remove Pharaoh’s crown. If, however, he reached for the coals, then he was just an innocent child with no malicious intent. Chazal tell us that Moshe reached for the gold, but an angel pushed his hands toward the coals. No one was the wiser, and we would not have known. Yet that split-second decision was the handiwork of a malach.
When Esther entered the chamber of Achashverosh without permission, the king was furious and ready to sentence her to death. A malach nudged his arm to stretch out his scepter towards her, thereby sparing her life and ultimately the lives of her people. Another instantaneous decision guided by an angel.
In the aftermath of the horrific Jersey City tragedy, Mayor Steven Fulop revealed some frightening updates. “My opinion is that as more info comes out it’ll become increasingly clear that the target was the 50 children at the yeshivah attached to that store. We will never know 100%, but the doorway to the yeshivah was three feet away, and it seems he goes in that direction first … This could have been much worse.” Surveillance footage shows the first murderer heading directly towards the door of the yeshivah. In a split-second decision, he turns right and enters the store instead.
The tragedies and losses of acheinu beis Yisrael are irreparable. But observing the killer’s sudden change of course, I believe we can see the footprints of angels.