ISSUES OF FAITH: Angels change the world

“The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing” — Albert Einstein.

OUR WORLD IS in such need of healing that it sometimes feels things are hopeless. Every story we read speaks of violence in our cities, war, climate destruction, poverty, famine, hatred of the “other” and homelessness. It is so easy to feel helpless.

What is to become of us if we cannot find ways to live together with love and respect, making sure those less fortunate are taken care of?

My thoughts go to those who never lose hope, who make sure they do what they can however they can to make this world a better place.

They don’t allow themselves to be concerned with the hugeness of the task, but put their heads down and do what they can in their own small way.

In so doing, they heal the world as a tailor mends a garment — stitch by stitch, tear by tear — never losing faith that they can repair the damage.

These are the angels in God’s world, replacing the hatred and darkness, little by little, with goodness and light. The Hebrew word for angel is malach, which means messenger, one who is sent.

Rather than the common image of white-robed beings with wings residing in heaven, angels are those who are walking among us, sent to do God’s work. Sometimes they pass through our lives, but we are unaware of the message they bring until they are gone. Only then do we realize the gift they brought to us.

Rabbi Lawrence Kushner says we all can be messengers, not always going to where we think we are going for reasons we think we are. There are times when we meet someone and feel there is a reason we met.

Kushner says, “Each lifetime is the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle … No one has within themselves all the pieces to their puzzle … Everyone carries with them at least one and probably many pieces to someone else’s puzzle … And when you present your piece which is worthless to you to another, whether you know it or not, whether they know it or not, you are a messenger from the Most High” (Kushner, Honey From the Rock).

As for heavenly angels, Jewish tradition teaches that God is surrounded by four archangels each having a specific purpose, and that we must try as best we can to fulfill those roles in our lives. Uriel, whose name comes from the Hebrew word Or, meaning light, teaches that we must bring God’s light into the world, and Raphael brings healing, the name coming from refuah to heal. From the word gevurah, meaning strength, is Gabriel, the angel which gives us the courage to face even the most daunting of difficulties. And finally Michael, whose name in Hebrew means who is like God, teaches us to strive to be Godlike in all our actions.

Rabbi Karyn Kedar teaches we should become aware that there are angels all around us, that we must “notice the flutter in the corner of our eye that we are not alone, that we are loved, that there are angels tugging at us … They tug at us to remind us that we are hearing messages from the Divine telling us to bring light, healing and strength to our world … to be like God.

“Believe that the universe speaks to you, and you will be privy to endless chatter. Believe that God leaves you secret messages to uncover and your life becomes an endless treasure hunt … Messages from God are everywhere. Listen, watch, get it on a whisper God is leading you down gentle paths” (Kedar, God Whispers).

Angels are everywhere, if only we would learn to perceive all the places from which they come. And most importantly, understand that you are one of those messengers, an angel who can use your life to help heal the world.

Kein yehi ratzon … may it be God’s will. Shalom.


Issues of Faith is a rotating column by religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. Suzanne DeBey is a lay leader of the Port Angeles Jewish community. Her email is

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