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    Night prayers & angels – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. Why do the night prayers speak about angels?

    A. It is poetry. God’s throne is said to be surrounded by four angels. By day His praises are sung by Israel; at night when Israel is asleep it is the angels that sing.

    Rabbinic imagery said that Michael was the angel with whom Jacob wrestled, Gabriel helped Moses and Aaron enter the king’s palace and held back the waters of the Red Sea, Uriel announced the Flood and showed Noah how to build the ark, and Raphael (“the healer”) showed Noah how to extract remedies from plants, and cured Jacob’s thigh.

    The angels are not independent forces or beings capable of thinking for themselves or even disobeying God (despite Milton’s references to fallen angels, an idea which has its place in Jewish folklore too but without formative status). As their name malach indicates, they are messengers of God. The night prayers ask the angels to protect us but emphasise that “above them is God”.

    What we are asking is that God should watch over us with all the forces, energies and messengers that He has.

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