Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Mishpatim: Was the Malach Metatron or Moshe?

Towards the end of Mishpatim, we find mention of a "malach" who is sent before the people of Israel in the desert. In Shemot 23:
כ הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי שֹׁלֵחַ מַלְאָךְ, לְפָנֶיךָ, לִשְׁמָרְךָ, בַּדָּרֶךְ; וְלַהֲבִיאֲךָ, אֶל-הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר הֲכִנֹתִי. 20 Behold, I send an angel before thee, to keep thee by the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.
כא הִשָּׁמֶר מִפָּנָיו וּשְׁמַע בְּקֹלוֹ, אַל-תַּמֵּר בּוֹ: כִּי לֹא יִשָּׂא לְפִשְׁעֲכֶם, כִּי שְׁמִי בְּקִרְבּוֹ. 21 Take heed of him, and hearken unto his voice; be not rebellious against him; for he will not pardon your transgression; for My name is in him.
כב כִּי אִם-שָׁמוֹעַ תִּשְׁמַע, בְּקֹלוֹ, וְעָשִׂיתָ, כֹּל אֲשֶׁר אֲדַבֵּר--וְאָיַבְתִּי, אֶת-אֹיְבֶיךָ, וְצַרְתִּי, אֶת-צֹרְרֶיךָ. 22 But if thou shalt indeed hearken unto his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries.
כג כִּי-יֵלֵךְ מַלְאָכִי, לְפָנֶיךָ, וֶהֱבִיאֲךָ אֶל-הָאֱמֹרִי וְהַחִתִּי, וְהַפְּרִזִּי וְהַכְּנַעֲנִי הַחִוִּי וְהַיְבוּסִי; וְהִכְחַדְתִּיו. 23 For Mine angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Canaanite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite; and I will cut them off.
Who is this malach? Shadal notes a three-way dispute.
כ] הנה אנכי שולח מלאך לפניך : הקדמונים פירשו מלאך רוחני ואתרים פירשו עמוד האש והענן, ולא יובן לפי זה מאמר ושמע בקולו ; ונ"ל כדעת רלב"ג שהמלאך הוא נביא, והוא משה, ולפי שחטאו ונתעכבו במדבר, לא הביאם הוא אל הארץ ומילא יהושע את מקומו,

[כא] כי לא ישא לפשעכם : אעפ"י שהוא ענו וסבלן, אין הסליחה בידו, ואם תקניטוהו אני אענוש אתכם, כי חייבים אתם לשמוע בקולו מפני ששמי בקרבו וממני כל דבריו. שמי : אלהותי, ע"ד הנה שם ה' בא ממרחק ( ישעיה ל' כ"ז ). כי שמי בקרבו : מחובר לראש המקרא, השמר מפניו כי שמי בקרבו ( רש"י ), והוא נגד הטעמים, ולפי מה שפירשתי ייתכן גם לפי הטעמים.

[כב] אשר אדבר : כי כל דבריו דברי הם.

[כג] מלאכי : הנביא כמו למעלה, והנה לא אמר שהמלאך ישמיד האומות, אבל אמר והכחדתיו

That is, we could say that it is an "angel," as malach often means, in which case the angel has Hashem's name in him, whatever this means. Rashi says this. He writes:
Behold, I am sending an angel before you Here they were informed that they were destined to sin, and the Shechinah would say to them, “for I will not ascend in your midst” (Exod. 33: 3). -[From Exod. Rabbah 32:3]
that I have prepared to give to you. This is its simple meaning. Its midrashic interpretation is:
that I have prepared My place is already recognizable opposite it. This is one of the verses that state that the heavenly Temple is directly opposite the earthly Temple. [From Midrash Tanchuma 18]
Rashi here refers to Shemot 33:3:
א וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, לֵךְ עֲלֵה מִזֶּה--אַתָּה וְהָעָם, אֲשֶׁר הֶעֱלִיתָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם: אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּעְתִּי לְאַבְרָהָם לְיִצְחָק וּלְיַעֲקֹב לֵאמֹר, לְזַרְעֲךָ, אֶתְּנֶנָּה. 1 And the LORD spoke unto Moses: 'Depart, go up hence, thou and the people that thou hast brought up out of the land of Egypt, unto the land of which I swore unto Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying: Unto thy seed will I give it--
ב וְשָׁלַחְתִּי לְפָנֶיךָ, מַלְאָךְ; וְגֵרַשְׁתִּי, אֶת-הַכְּנַעֲנִי הָאֱמֹרִי, וְהַחִתִּי וְהַפְּרִזִּי, הַחִוִּי וְהַיְבוּסִי. 2 and I will send an angel before thee; and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite--
ג אֶל-אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב, וּדְבָשׁ: כִּי לֹא אֶעֱלֶה בְּקִרְבְּךָ, כִּי עַם-קְשֵׁה-עֹרֶף אַתָּה--פֶּן-אֲכֶלְךָ, בַּדָּרֶךְ. 3 unto a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people; lest I consume thee in the way.'
Thus, the malach is instead of Hashem Himself. Furthermore, Rashi writes:
do not rebel against him Heb. ךְתַּמֵּר, an expression of rebellion הַמְרָאָה, like “Any man who rebels (יַמְרֶה) against your orders” (Josh. 1:18).
for he will not forgive your transgression He is not accustomed to that [i.e., forgiving], for he is of the group that do not sin. And moreover, he is a messenger, and he can do only his mission. -[From Midrash Tanchuma 18]
for My Name is within him [This clause] is connected to the beginning of the verse: Beware of him because My Name is associated with him. Our Sages, however, said: This is [the angel] Metatron, whose name is like the name of his Master (Sanh. 38b). The numerical value of מֵטַטְרוֹן [314] equals that of שַׁדַּי [314]. -[From Tikunei Zohar 66b]
It seems unlikely that Tikkunei Zohar is Rashi's source, since Tikkunei Zohar is early 14th century. Rather, the borrowing would seem to be in the opposite direction. At any rate, it is clear that he considers this malach to be an angel, and specifically a special angel, Metatron (rather than the Transformer, the Decepticon named Megatron.)

Saying that an angel has God's name in him, thus granting him certain God-like status, can be quite theologically precarious.

Indeed, Elisha ben Avuya, according to Chagiga 15a, ended up concluding that there were two powers in heaven. And other sources refer to Metatron as "the Little YKVK." One example I encountered was in Bereishis Rabbasi, from Rav Moshe haDarshan, where he put forth the following (which seems echoed in other texts):

We see in Bereshit 5:
כא וַיְחִי חֲנוֹךְ, חָמֵשׁ וְשִׁשִּׁים שָׁנָה; וַיּוֹלֶד, אֶת-מְתוּשָׁלַח. 21 And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begot Methuselah.
כב וַיִּתְהַלֵּךְ חֲנוֹךְ אֶת-הָאֱלֹהִים, אַחֲרֵי הוֹלִידוֹ אֶת-מְתוּשֶׁלַח, שְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת, שָׁנָה; וַיּוֹלֶד בָּנִים, וּבָנוֹת. 22 And Enoch walked with God after he begot Methuselah three hundred years, and begot sons and daughters.
כג וַיְהִי, כָּל-יְמֵי חֲנוֹךְ, חָמֵשׁ וְשִׁשִּׁים שָׁנָה, וּשְׁלֹשׁ מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה. 23 And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years.
What happened was a sort of apotheosis. Hashem took away Chanoch's body of flesh and blood and replaced it with a body of fire. Hashem granted him thousands of ministering angels, gave him his own Kisei haKavod, and designated him YKVK haKaton.

A Chassidic Rabbi I know told me that they do not refer to Metatron by his full name, but just call him "Metat," somewhat akin to how one does not say the Divine Name.

This all seems theologically dangerous, but others who believe in this would counter that it is true. But especially dangerous, since people addressed prayers to Metatron. For example, See here.

We could interpret it otherwise. As Shadal notes, others interpret it as not referring to an angel but rather to the pillar of fire and smoke which traveled before the Benei Yisrael in the midbar. Shadal rejects this, for it states in pasuk 21 הִשָּׁמֶר מִפָּנָיו וּשְׁמַע בְּקֹלוֹ, אַל-תַּמֵּר בּוֹ -- "Take heed of him, and hearken unto his voice" which has no meaning in the context of a pillar of fire.

Rather, Shadal favors Ralbag's explanation, that this "malach" means "messenger," as it does in several other contexts in Tanach. This is no angel, but rather is Moshe Rabbenu. The meaning is then:
כ הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי שֹׁלֵחַ מַלְאָךְ, לְפָנֶיךָ, לִשְׁמָרְךָ, בַּדָּרֶךְ; וְלַהֲבִיאֲךָ, אֶל-הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר הֲכִנֹתִי. 20 Behold, I send a messenger before thee, to keep thee by the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.
This refers to Moshe. But then later, since they stayed in the midbar for longer, Moshe did not end up taking them in, but rather it was Yehoshua who took his place.

כא הִשָּׁמֶר מִפָּנָיו וּשְׁמַע בְּקֹלוֹ, אַל-תַּמֵּר בּוֹ: כִּי לֹא יִשָּׂא לְפִשְׁעֲכֶם, כִּי שְׁמִי בְּקִרְבּוֹ. 21 Take heed of him, and hearken unto his voice; be not rebellious against him; for he will not pardon your transgression; for My name is in him.

Even though Moshe is indeed quite humble, patient and forgiving, this forgiveness is not his to give -- כִּי לֹא יִשָּׂא לְפִשְׁעֲכֶם. Rather, Hashem will punish this. What about כִּי שְׁמִי בְּקִרְבּוֹ? This is the reason Moshe cannot forgive, because it is Hashem who is the source of all of his words. This works out with the trup. Meanwhile, according to Rashi, this is connected with the first part of the verse, and Shadal connects this to Yeshaya 30:27:
כז הִנֵּה שֵׁם-ה, בָּא מִמֶּרְחָק, בֹּעֵר אַפּוֹ, וְכֹבֶד מַשָּׂאָה; שְׂפָתָיו מָלְאוּ זַעַם, וּלְשׁוֹנוֹ כְּאֵשׁ אֹכָלֶת. 27 Behold, the name of the LORD cometh from far, with His anger burning, and in thick uplifting of smoke; His lips are full of indignation, and His tongue is as a devouring fire;
though noting that it is against the trup.

Then, in
כב כִּי אִם-שָׁמוֹעַ תִּשְׁמַע, בְּקֹלוֹ, וְעָשִׂיתָ, כֹּל אֲשֶׁר אֲדַבֵּר--וְאָיַבְתִּי, אֶת-אֹיְבֶיךָ, וְצַרְתִּי, אֶת-צֹרְרֶיךָ. 22 But if thou shalt indeed hearken unto his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries.
"and do all that I speak" is appropriate since all of Moshe's words are Hashem's words.

This is a nice interpretation, which avoids the theological difficulties and dangers which indeed crop up from this verse.

12 comments:

MDJ said...

You should have had pictures from Galaxy Quest, not Transformers. (Or whatever those robots are)

joshwaxman said...

I was tempted to put up pictures from the movie Dogma, but thought better of it.

:)

joshwaxman said...

But both pictures are of Megatron, the leader of the evil Transformers, the Decepticons. I can't help but think of Megatron when I see Metatron, even though they are really to be pronounced entirely differently.

MDJ said...

Yes, I came back to mention that I had the wrong Alan Rickman movie. Dogma is what I meant above. And I was told to say "Metat" only when I was in campo (Torah voda'as. Frum, but not chasidish, though I don't remember who told me, so he could have been chasidish).

yaak said...

It's known in Kabbalistic sources to refer to him as Mem-Tet.

joshwaxman said...

thanks.
would you find those kabbalistic sources theologically problematic?

yaak said...

No. We call a more destructive angel "Samech Mem". Other angels have similar abbreviations. This is not exclusive to Mem-Tet.

joshwaxman said...

Sam I've actually heard of (in the context of a source discussing Samael, and the different portions of the name.) Good point. Are these TLAs (two-letter-abbreviations) required for piety's sake?

Have you heard of Metat (Mem Tet Tet rather than Mem-Tet) as a three-letter name? As this was presented to me, it was abbreviated more because of kinship with Hashem, as above, but it is quite possible I misunderstood the intent.

yaak said...

http://he.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%9E%D7%9C%D7%90%D7%9A

על פי אחת האמונות ביהדות: אין להגות את שמות המלאכים, מחשש שאם יקראו בשמם עלולים הוא להתייצב וכשייראו שנקראו לחינם הם יפגעו באדם הקורא להם.

joshwaxman said...

thanks.
shkoyach!

Peretz said...

A sefer I have refers to Nagid Umtzaveh, Seder Hakriah Bechol yom; Chayei Adam, Klal 5 Seif 27; Zechor Leavraham letter Shin (none of which I am able to see inside at present).

Isaacson said...

regarding saying the full name of certain angels out loud see: http://judaism.stackexchange.com/a/26104/3120

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