Torah Thinkers Forum

Do Angels Experience feelings of Jealousy?

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I heard an interesting shiur (lecture) on the way back from yeshiva today. Rabbi Shay Schachter was discussing frailty of the human condition, especially the trait of jealousy. He recounted how that trait was first experienced by Cain who was jealous that his brother Hevel's sacrifice was accepted while his wasn't and since he felt jealous, he irrationally and illogically killed Hevel (even though that wouldn't cause his sacrifice to also be accepted).

And Rabbi Schachter asked, do Angels also experience jealousy? And he answered as follows.

In this week's Torah reading, Parshat Vayeitzei, Yaacov goes to sleep and dreams of a ladder standing on the ground whose head reaches the the Heavens., and Angels are ascending and descending on it. The Talmud in Tractate Chulin Daf 91 Amud Bet states that the Angels were gong up and looking at the Holy Throne, and they saw that the picture of Yaacov was engraved on one of its pillars. Then they came back down and they saw the same face on Yaacov. And they wondered how could that be? How could a human face be on such a holy place up in Heaven?

Then the Talmud states that they got jealous and wanted to kill Yaacov just as Cain killed Hevel due to jealousy. And the next verse says 'And behold! Hashem was standing over him' (to protect him from the Angels).

How is this to be understood? The Angels are in Heaven all the time in proximity to the Almighty, so why would they be jealous? And also, Angels are created with perfection to undertake a specific task, so why would they be jealous?

Rabbi Akiva Eiger (1761-1838) points out that there is a Talmud passage that seems to indicate the exact opposite, that they have no jealousy. In Tractate Shabbat Daf 89 Amud 2, the story is told that when Moshe went up to Heaven to receive the Torah, the Angels complained that Man doesn't deserve the Torah. Hashem told Moshe to answer them. He said "What is written in the Torah? Don't steal, don't kill, don't be adulterous, etc. That doesn't apply to you. Is there jealousy among you that you need the Torah?". And right away the Angels agreed that the Torah belongs to the human race.

So here we have a citation that the Angels don't experience jealousy, while in our Torah reading it seems they do. How can this be reconciled?

I thought to myself (and immediately was happy to hear that Rabbi Schachter had heard the same answer from Rabbi Asher Weiss) that if you look carefully to what Moshe said, "Is there jealousy among you?", you can perceive the answer. Angels aren't jealous of each other. But when they look down on our world they can experience jealousy. They looked at Yaacov and saw how he had the opportunity to grow and raise himself to such lofty heights that his face was engraved on the Holy Throne, while they are created to do one purpose and can't grow or change themselves.

Later in the Torah reading we find that Rachel was jealous of her sister Leah, who had children, while Rachel was barren. How could the Holy Mother of our nation, Rachel, be jealous of her sister (especially when we learned earlier that she abetted her father's plot to let Leah get married to Yaacov because she didn't want to embarrass her sister - SDR)? Rashi answers that Rachel realized that if Leah was having children and she wasn't, it was because her sister was more righteous than she was. She wasn't jealous of the children, but of the fact that her sister had reached such levels of greatness that Hashem had blessed her with children, while Rachel  evidently still needed to work to improve her own condition.

I study in yeshiva all day with young boys and young men, ages 18-25. And many times I find that when we discuss previous lectures of our Rabbis, or issues that we learned together a few days or weeks ago, they remember much more than I do. And it causes me to feel jealous of them, although I do realize that they have the advantage of youth over me. But this type of jealousy is good, as the Talmud teaches "Jealousy of scholars increases knowledge." So to overcome my 'handicap', I just work harder, writing down the lectures afterwards while I re-listen to them on a recording, and then attempt to later distill the main points to an outline that I can review and attempt to better retain.

 

We all need to learn from the Angels and our Mother Rachel. Let's be jealous of those who have reached greater heights of knowledge, morality, and righteousness, and use this human trait in the way that it was intended for us.  

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COM_EASYBLOG_GUEST Saturday, 21 October 2017
Last updated on: 10/21/2017
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