SANDALPHON THE BROTHER PRINCE OF PRESENCE
Sandalphon is viewed as M’s lesser brother, yet so awesome that he too is supreme, ruling legions of angels and the highest, seventh level of the heavens. These brother angels tend to all prayers: Sandalphon weaves them into a mystical crown for the “head” of God, and M handles the response to the petitioner, the one who prays. In this teaching, we can derive that Sandalphon represents all matter and form of the universe (the yesh, or thingness aspect of Ein Sof) while M represents the essential emptiness out of which everything arises and into which everything disappears (the ayin, or nothingness aspect of Ein Sof.)
Sandalphon is in many ways the primary intermediary between heaven and earth, between form and emptiness, between source and creation. Kabbalists say that the derivation of Sandalphon’s name is composed of two parts: sandal, a stillborn embryo not yet distinguishable, and fon, the root form of the word “face,” which together the words mean “matter in the process of becoming a face/form.”
Sandalphon does not have the same power as M in that this supreme angel would never be “confused” with God, as we have seen sometimes occurs with M, however Sandalphon still causes the angels and all the hosts of other realms to tremble in awe. Sandalphon is so “large,” the description says that it would take five hundred years to traverse its entire body, which is the talmudic way of saying that Sandalphon is at least as big as our entire universe, currently estimated at approximately twenty billion light years.
This angel takes all prayers every day and, as mentioned, weaves them into a gigantic crown. It then utters a charm, a secret name of God, magically sending the crown beyond all limits of this universe, which causes all the hosts of all the realms to be so astonished that they tremble, shake, and sing out: Holy! Holy! Holy! is the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is filled with its glory!
As the crown reaches the Throne beyond all universes, the “foundation” and “wheels” of the Throne begin shaking and every part of the universe vibrates as every aspect of creation “speaks” out in a universal harmony praising creation and the life that goes with it.
From a kabbalistic perspective, this process is continuously occurring and is the source that sustains the unending motion of every bit of matter in the universe. Without this vibration, the universe as we know it would cease to exist. In modern terms, this is connected with string theory and the simple fact of physics that nothing exists at absolute zero, which is the hypothetical point at which all movement stops. We see here that prayer is viewed as a crucial element in sustaining the universe and Sandalphon is the medium through which prayer is communicated from “below” to “above.”
We should note that prayer takes many forms. Human words of prayer that we construct in our minds make up only a thin percentage of the vast array of prayer. A mother’s groans in childbirth are always a special form of prayer, a cry of grief is prayer, a loving glance is prayer. On the non-human levels, all life prays in its own way continuously. Nothing lives without prayer; everything constantly communicates with the source of life. A breath is a prayer, hunger is a prayer, the taste of nourishment is a prayer and that which nourishes prays in its own way. Even a heartbeat is a prayer. All of this comes under the purview of Sandalphon.
Sandalphon and M each assumed a human form for a period of time, M as Hanoch, and Sandalphon as Elijah (Eliyahu). Each left the human realm in a chariot of fire drawn by steeds of flame. In this sense, each is viewed as being eternal.
The main difference between Hanoch and Elijah is that Hanoch disappears completely into the heavenly realms, while Elijah often reappears in a human form and will continue to do so until he completes his task of announcing the transformation of human consciousness into messianic consciousness. In biblical language this appears in the prophesy of Malachi
who says that Elijah will appear just before a “great and terrible day,” to “turn the hearts” of parent to child and child to parent, which will mark the coming of a new Messianic age.
Whereas Sandalphon in angelic form is not widely recognized, Elijah as a prophet and as the herald of the Messiah is very well-known in Western tradition—popularized in Christianity and Islam as well as Judaism. Jewish sages concluded that Elijah remains the key angelic force for resolving disputes and is considered to be the paradigm of the greatest potential for peacemaking in the world.
There are hundreds of stories describing Elijah’s appearances on earth in various guises. His name appears dozens of times in the Bible, close to one hundred times in the Zohar, and over three hundred times in the Talmud. The number of Hasidic tales that mention Elijah runs well into thousands. Elijah is regularly invoked in Jewish prayers, is called upon at the end of every Sabbath, and once a year in Judaism is invited to the dinner table at a key moment in every Passover seder.
Elijah’s primary attributes have to do with conflict resolution and especially in helping people who are in difficulty—the poor, the homeless and the elderly. In the story of Esther, Elijah is an invisible force that trips up Haman, who is driven to destroy the Jewish population. Elijah is constantly embattled with the Dark Side. This supreme angel is perhaps best known as a fighter for political, social and economic justice. He is the Robin Hood of angels, taking from the rich and giving to the poor.
Elijah often is portrayed as a beggar in rags, a stranger in need, or a simpleton (with unusual wisdom). He often punishes those who are unjust or works miracles for those in need. He also is one to turn to for problems of infertility. He is the guardian angel for newborn children for the first thirty days, and, indeed, at every traditional Jewish circumcision, which normally takes place on the eighth day after birth, a special chair, called the Chair of Elijah, is set for holding the infant during the actual ceremony.
Elijah is also well-known for bringing the dead to life, a specific example of which is described in the Bible.
For this reason, Elijah is seen as the primary opponent of the Angel of Death.