ENCOUNTERS WITH ANGELS
One of my most significant angel encounters occurred in Jerusalem on December 31, 1990. The winters are chilly in Jerusalem and many homes do not have central heating. My wife, Shoshana, and I lived in a two story apartment with a storage heater in the downstairs living room. Most of the heat naturally flowed up the stairwell, so after a number of chilly winters in our living room, I realized that a ceiling fan needed to be installed at the top of the stairs.
The upstairs ceiling was quite high and I needed to balance with one foot on the railing of the stairs, leaning away from the ladder as I installed the toggle bolt for the fan. I wanted to be certain that the bolt would hold the heavy fan, so I tested it by hanging from it with my full weight, not considering what might happen if, in fact, the bolt did not hold me. Even to this day I remember a clear warning somewhere in the depths of my consciousness. I heard it, and ignored it. (We see in the Biblical story of Balaam how easy it is to be blind to obvious signals.)
The primary building material in the Old City is stone, marble and iron. As the bolt broke loose from the plastered ceiling, I felt myself toppling over, about to fall head-first to the bottom of the stairs. My instinct was to reach back for the rail or ladder as the weight of my body was falling in the opposite direction. In that instant, a voice distinctly cried out: “You must jump for the middle of the stairwell!”
It was counter-intuitive to jump, but within a split second I realized that it was now or never as my feet only had one last toe hold. So I jumped as instructed. I was able to land half way down the stairs on one foot instead of falling out of control the full distance, which almost certainly would have resulted in a major injury of my leg, hip, spine, neck or skull. Instead, only my heel was crushed—smashed into a few dozen pieces.
The moment I hit the floor, I knew something was broken in my foot. But at that same instant I had the most enormous wave of relief wash through me. I was alive and not crippled! From the foot up I felt fine. It could have been far more serious. I found myself in the deepest sense of gratitude, almost euphoria, for the rest of that evening, despite the trip to the hospital, the pain, and the slow response of the physicians.
In that state of mind, throughout the evening, I felt and knew clearly the surrounding and protective forces that people call angels. This was the first time I truly experienced an extraordinary, palpable sense of Presence, and I have returned to that experience many times over the years since then.
Our studies in Jerusalem often brought us in touch with realities beyond the ordinary mundane world. It is as if one put on special glasses with a certain hue, and everything is seen in that new way. With special glasses in place in the spiritual realm, the world fills up with angels of all types, shapes, sizes and energies. They are part of daily prayers, they show up in many of the biblical texts, they fill the commentaries on the texts and they can be seen in virtually every act that is performed.
When my mother died, a few years before the stairwell incident, my older brother called to tell me the news. On the flight to California from Israel, I gazed out of the window and experienced not simply clouds and sky, but myriads of angels and my mother’s spirit dancing everywhere I looked. She danced happily, finally released. This was an amazing experience and I am certain that had I not been studying biblical commentaries for years, it would have been unlikely to have that experience on the way to my mother’s funeral. Yet, seeing mom, dancing with angels, opened my heart. While I grieved the loss, I was happy for her; she was now free. This is one important way that learning to invoke angels can be of enormous value when difficult or tragic situations arise.
Living with angels on a daily basis cultivates an entirely new view. I do not experience angels in Hollywood images, in beatific forms with wings. Rather, everything takes on a special quality, everything feels connected in a fascinating way. Whatever sense calls to me: sight, sound, touch, taste or smell, each sensation has a feel to it. The puff of a breeze, the dance of a shadow, all shapes, movements, energies, each have a special quality. Moreover, when angels are invoked, there is a fascinating experience of never feeling alone, and the sense of always being in the midst of a constantly unfolding creation that is rich, awesome, brilliant and complete in each and every moment is stunning.
A couple of months after breaking my heel, I got a call from my niece that my older brother had a nearly fatal heart attack. My niece is a physician and she told me on the phone that he had about a one in ten chance of surviving. I caught the next plane out for New York, and got to Syracuse as quickly as I could. On the way, I found myself doing a traditional archangel meditation, surrounding myself with the archangels: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel. My oldest brother’s name is Ralph, and Raphael, as will be seen, is the archangel of healing.
I arrived at his bedside in the cardiac unit and saw all the tubes running in and out. He could not speak because the machines were helping him breathe, but his recognition as I entered the room and his smile was priceless. When I got there he demanded that the tube in his throat be removed, even though the risk was high. They pulled the tube while all along I was in communion with the angel Raphael.
My brother survived and continues to do well, fifteen years after the event. I do not talk to Ralph about Raphael for my brother does not want to hear about such things. His world, like many, is not inhabited by angels and even the word makes him cringe. So what? My invoking Raphael was as much for me as it was for Ralph.
I do not claim that my connection with this archangel was the cause for my brother’s survival, yet I felt that both of us were “helped.” I gained strength and conviction, and nobody knows to what extent this kind of support in healing is useful for the person who is ill. Many studies seem to show that something happens, but there is no proof. Still, to have the choice between feeling entirely helpless in the medical system, or to use my imagination to bring an unknown quality that may in fact be beneficial, I cannot help but choose to invoke and rest in the mystery.
I have found that this archangel prayer is one of the most powerful ways to cultivate a kind of intimacy with the angelic realms. Its extraordinary power has been revealed to me time and again as I assist people in my role as a rabbi in situations of great stress, especially in times of illness, serious accidents, or working with someone who is dying.
In the mid-nineties, I was contacted by a dear friend whose son had just been seriously injured in a freak accident. He had a head injury that was causing swelling of the brain and spinal cord and the outlook was not good. When we spoke, the surgeons had induced a coma to relieve the pressure in the hope that the swelling could be controlled. By phone, I taught my friend the archangel prayer and meditation, with a melody that is often associated with it, and suggested that she do it out loud with her son as often as possible. The Archangel Meditation is universal and people from all traditions can work with it comfortably. My friend is Christian.
She began immediately, talking and singing this guided meditation and prayer, despite the fact that he was in a coma. She did this for days, virtually non-stop, except to occasionally doze off. When he finally came out of the coma, he already knew the words and melody by heart of the prayer and moreover he reported visualizations of light-filled beings that he had experienced while unconscious. To this day, my friend is certain that the angels that were invoked saved her son.