THE ARCHANGEL GABRIEL
The angel Gabriel (pronounced Gav-ree-ayl in Hebrew) means the justice or righteousness of God. The root form of the word, g-v-r, is connected with courage and heroism, as well as a word meaning a man. Thus, Gabriel could be literally translated as a “man of God,” who courageously lives according to the universal laws. The root of Gabriel is also connected with the attribute of Gevorah on the left side of the Tree of Life. Whereas Michael is on God’s right hand, Gabriel is on God’s left hand. The left hand is the one that metes out punishment; the right hand overrules strict justice and is more merciful and thus more lenient.
Gabriel is the angel that is sent to destroy the cities of sin, Sodom and Gemorrah, and some sources say that it was Gabriel, not Michael, that annihilated Sennacherib’s camp. This view is obviously more consistent with the general description of these two archangels, however, it is important to note that there are many opinions expressed by biblical commentaries that often are in opposition with one another, depending upon the point being made. Therefore, as the trans-rational realms of souls, angels and heavenly beings are, beyond definitive description, we must be careful not to assign any limited constructs. Still, we can probe the depths of our own beings to find ways to connect with parts of ourselves that are amenable to self-empowerment, each of which can be associated with one or more angels.
It is taught that Gabriel is in charge of souls and also in charge of the moon. The moon, in Kabbalah, is considered to be the dwelling place of souls that have not yet been bound to physical bodies. Gabriel is also viewed as one of the main assistants of the Angel of Death, who will be discussed the final chapter of this book.
Biblical commentators often contradict one another in various biblical stories where an unnamed angel appears, particularly in the case of Gabriel or Michael. There is general agreement, nonetheless, that when either of these angels is experienced then the Presence of the Divine can be assumed. When these particular angels are doing their job, so to speak, they remove some veils of confusion, thus more readily revealing the Divine Presence. This can be seen in a number of episodes of the Bible.
An example would be in Genesis 18, in the famous exchange between Abraham and angels who informed him of the birth of Isaac. This same section includes an encounter between Abraham and God, plus an added interaction regarding the destruction of Sodom. In these instances, we are not certain which angel is being represented. This is how it appears in the Bible:
“It [the angel Michael or Gabriel] said [to Abraham], ‘I will return next year; and, behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.’ [When Sarah heard this] she laughed, and asked herself, ‘Even though I am old and [Abraham] is also old, will I have this joy?’”
Immediately following this, there is a shift of subject: “And the Lord asked Abraham [directly], ‘Why did Sarah laugh? Is any thing too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return to you, at this season, and Sarah shall have a son….’”
The Bible now continues: “And the Lord said [directly, to Abraham], ‘Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great and because their sin is very grave; I will go down now, and see what they have done.’ And the men [angels] turned away and went toward Sodom; but Abraham still stood before the Lord.”
The section continues with an the debate previously mentioned between Abraham and God, where Abraham attempts to negotiate on behalf of the righteous people who would be killed if the entire city were to be destroyed. God agrees not to destroy the city if fifty righteous people can be found. How about forty, Abraham asks? And God agrees not to destroy the city if forty righteous can be found. Thirty, twenty, ten; Abraham works his way down, and God agrees with him. This is where it ends; Abraham stops negotiating at ten.
One more example in which we are not certain of the angel’s is the story of Moses and the burning bush. In the oral tradition, some say this angel was Michael, some say Gabriel, some say Zagzagael, and it is almost certain that others have been identified. Interestingly, oral tradition describes these three angels as the one’s who attended Moses at the time of his death.
The Torah teaches:
“The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the middle of a bush. [Moses] looked and the bush burned with fire, but was not consumed. Moses said to himself, ‘I will stop, look and see this great sight—why the bush is not burnt.’ When the Lord saw that [Moses] had stopped and turned, God called to him out of the midst of the bush, and said, ‘Moses, Moses’. And he [Moses] said, ‘Here am I.’”
The oral tradition expresses wonder that a thorn bush was used to be the focus of this exchange and says that one reason is to teach that God’s Presence can be found in the lowliest forms of creation, including a seemingly meaningless bush in the middle of the desert.
The important point to note here is that the commentators of the oral tradition use the biblical stories as wisdom teachings, and they use the tools of biblical analysis freely to make their points. The identities of angels have characteristics associated with their names. When the angel Zagzagael is invoked, it means literally, “zagzag,” to polish or make transparent, and “El,” a name of God. So using Zagzagael as the angel suggests the idea of “making something transparent so that God can be seen.” In this way, the angel of the Burning Bush represents something like the Looking Glass of Alice, a mystical gateway for seeing into extraordinary realms.
When associated with the archangel Michael, the Burning Bush becomes a story connected with the attribute of merciful, loving-kindness. When associated with the archangel Gabriel, the Burning Bush is connected with justice and law. As the story unfolds and God speaks to Moses, any of the above points can be demonstrated. The very fact that God is revealed to Moses support Zagzagael and that the message in this passage from God to Moses to end the affliction of the people can be learned through either mercy and loving kindness or through justice and law, depending upon one’s perspective. This is a crucial point and shows that the names used to represent a face of God, or the names of various angels who represent divine attributes, are key factors in how a reading is to be understood.
The archangels Michael and Gabriel represent two poles on the Tree of Life, they are both viewed as princes—meaning they each represent clear archetypes—and there are distinct differences in the qualities of each. When we see, for example, a driver speeding recklessly and dangerously, but still surviving without being stopped by the police or causing an accident, we feel the presence of Michael. When we see someone getting a speeding ticket or worse, a terrible wreck on the side of the road, we experience the presence of Gabriel. We encounter dozens of events like this every day and the way we react reveals the angel-field of consciousness at that moment.
The reader should note that various events in life evoke clear feelings within each of us. These feelings, however subtle, are always connected with the angelic realms—that is to say, we are never separate from our own sensations, our own emotions, our own thoughts, and our own inner urge that pulls us toward raising our consciousness (our “good” inclination), or in letting go into lower levels of consciousness (our “not-good” inclination).
Thus, we can notice an open and expansive mood or a contracted, tight mood and move from one to the other dependent upon our inner focus without much of a change in what is happening around us. If we cling to these moods, our activities will be influenced by them; if we hold them lightly, with a slight detachment in a “witness,” (which is what angel consciousness invokes) our activities will not be as dependent upon our changing moods.