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Seeing Angels

Seeing Angels

Some things I didn't learn in medical school.


For my family, lighting the Shabbos candles is a magical time. Every week, we put our candles in the window box, gather around, and after the blessing, shut our eyes tightly while my three little children beckon the angels in with their arms and voices. "Come in Shabbos angels, we need you, we want you ..." Very slowly and carefully, as I have taught my kids, we open our eyes and look at the candles. Through squinty eyes, they flicker and appear to dance in the multiple windows of the box. "I see angels!" my kids joyfully scream and run into the dining room singing Shalom Aleichem, convinced the Shabbos angels are celebrating with them.

I love my kids' innocent enthusiasm, but I wish I were so easily convinced about the angels. While I believe in angels, souls and the afterlife, and have read extensively on the subject in both Jewish and non-Jewish texts, my training as a physician has taught me to view the world as a scientist and explain each occurrence in physical terms. The "miraculous recovery" of a patient is because a certain medicine was able to attach to the patient's specific cell receptors, penetrate the cell, incorporate into the DNA, etc. The "medicine failure" of another patient is due to their lack of a certain enzyme, their electrolytes were too high.... Usually, there are innumerable different enzymatic and biochemical explanations for everything that happens in medicine.

Usually, but not always.

A few months ago, while on call for my internal medicine group, I got a page from the ER. The ER doc got on the line. "Jackie, one of your partners' 92-year-old patients is here for what looks like a mild stroke. She has to be admitted."

I drove to the ER and walked into her cubicle. In the bed lay Mrs. Schwartz, an elderly, obviously well cared for woman who smiled feebly at me with one side of her face. She was able to squeeze my hand and follow directions with one side of her body. Her caregiver of many years was at her bedside, and handed me her living will, in which it stated that she wanted no heroic efforts to keep her alive.

I called her two sons who were both across the country and both extremely concerned. They wanted to know if they should come. I explained to them that while this seemed like a mild stroke now, occasionally strokes do progress. In this case I erred on the side of caution and told them to come. They both began making travel arrangements to come to LA.

The next day when I went to see Mrs. Schwartz, it was clear that the stroke had progressed.

The next day when I went to see Mrs. Schwartz, it was clear that the stroke had progressed. She lay in bed, with her eyes closed and head back, breathing with loud gurgling noises. We call this agonal breathing, which typically portends impending death.

"Mrs. Schwartz?" I called. No response; no eye opening, nothing. I tried a sternal rub; a fist rubbed with pressure on the sternum is thought to give a very painful stimuli. Only patients with severe brain trauma, in a deep coma, do not respond.

There was no movement. Nothing.

I called her son, Ira, on his cell phone. He was driving from Martha's Vineyard on his way to the nearest airport. I told him what happened and he said that the soonest he would be in LA was two days.

I started writing orders in the chart for comfort measures only when Mrs. Schwartz, with eyes still closed and with the bubbly breathing, suddenly motioned with her hand that she wanted to write. I was shocked. Two minutes prior, she had not responded at all to the most painful stimulation. The caregiver and I looked at each other. I gave Mrs. Schwartz a pen and held up a paper for her to write.

With wobbly but clear handwriting, she wrote, "I have to go."

"No! You can't go! Ira and David will be here in two days!"

The caregiver started weeping softly. Trembling, I stammered, "What?" Slowly, she wrote again, "I have to go."

I didn't learn anything about this in medical school. I screamed, "No! You can't go! Ira and David will be here in two days. Today is Wednesday; you have to wait until Friday. We're not ready for you to leave us."

I called Ira's cell phone again and held the receiver to Mrs. Schwartz's ear. He told her how much he loved her, but that she had to wait. The air in the room, which had taken on a tingly quality, seemed to shift. She put down her hand and basically returned to how I had found her a half hour earlier.

She did wait until Friday. I had a meeting with her sons, who told me that she had been an actress and a cabaret dancer in the ‘30's, and what a great mother she had been. A few hours later, with her family surrounding her, she died.

That night was Shabbos. We lit the candles, shut our eyes and squinted at them after the blessing. "I see angels!" my kids squealed. And that night so did I.

October 5, 2002

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Visitor Comments: 39

(39) Marsha, January 27, 2018 3:44 PM

I believe.

I believe.

(38) Barajas, July 21, 2015 6:53 PM

Angels are not images but forces, just like any other force in our world, such as gravity, pressure, radiation, and so on. Being at the level of these forces means ascending spiritually to the levels of the worlds Yetzira and Beria, and acquiring the equivalent forces of bestowal at these levels, instead of the desire to perceive, as is the case with you. You will see just how difficult this is to do when you read the article “Preface to the Book of Zohar.” My suggestion to you is to either stop fooling yourself or stop studying Kabbalah, which is nothing other than a science of self-correction.

(37) Barajas, July 21, 2015 6:49 PM

All Kabbalistic books mention Ofanim, Hayot, and Kruvim. It says in The Zohar (Beresheet, item 77, page 81): “Ofanim are angels of the World of Assiya, Hayot are angels of the World of Yetzira, and Kruvim are angels of the World of Beria.” They all represent a small Light (Vak de Hochma) in each world, and they depend on the human souls. For example, when a person corrects himself, then Kruvim face each other, as it says in the Torah.

There are also spiritual forces that are referred to as lion, ox, eagle, and man; they correspond to Sefirot Netzah, Hod, Yesod, and Malchut. In addition, Kabbalistic books sometimes refer to different levels in the spiritual worlds by the words South (Hochma), North (Bina), East (Zeir Anpin), and West (Malchut). And there are many other terms.

All of this speaks only about the state of the Light in the Kelim (desires) according to the law of equivalence between them – to the degree that the Light and Kli share the property of bestowal, which is attained through our efforts. Instead of getting lost in all these names, I advise you to start using Kabbalistic (scientific, physical) terms, such as Sefirot, Olamot, Masachim, Partzufim, Reshimot, Orot, and etc. After all, no matter how you look at it, not one word in Kabbalah speaks about our world. All the confusion only wears a person out and takes him away from the goal.

(36) Anonymous, February 22, 2013 5:28 AM

It is absolutely possible to see angles

In the Torah are many truths and knowledge of the world and creations and knowledge of kindness and secrets to acquiring perfection in levels of richeousness... Our Patriarchs and Matriarchs and many prophets have come into contact with angels - even Lot (Abraham's nephew) - they have seen them and had conversations with them. Because it is truly impossible to see angels with just vision alone - there is prophetic connection that allows us humans to see them - when there is a special purpose or message that is intended for a reason. I had requested of Hashem with all my heart, with all my soul that he send me a sign if I should continue to date a gentleman I was seeing or to break up. I felt something was just not perfect but was torn in making a decision on my own. That night in a sound that filled my bedroom I heard the word "listen" & "hear this"... I could hardly move and reluctantly opened my eyes to where the sound was coming from and to my left saw 3 Malachim (you can not see their faces,hands or feet) and a dream of someone requesting to see Parshat Noach. In the morning, and all day long I understood the message and of course terrified of my experience I knew I had to stop dating that person. It was so easy to just say goodbye - I was relieved. (Dec 1999) May 2000 - I met someone special...things were going well and 1 month later we were engaged. I was nervous about having the wedding plans so close - 6 months - I barely knew him...the family discussed November. I needed to be sure - I needed a sign.... I went to the calendar - and saw the Parsha of the week was indeed Parshat Noach! I am married to the person Hashem chose for me. I am thankful for the help I receive from above! If you would like to understand more on the subject please read books written by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan "Handbook of Jewish Thought".

(35) godwin, January 17, 2012 8:21 AM

impressive insight

seeing angel simple steps search is what i desire to know

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