Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Rambam- The Ten Types of Angels- Yisdoei Hatorah perek 2 halacha 7

The Rambam describes all the different types of angels that exist. He says,

שינוי שמות המלאכים על שם מעלתם הוא. ולפיכך נקראים חיות הקדש והם למעלה מן הכל ואופנים ואראלים וחשמלים ושרפים ומלאכים ואלהים ובני אלהים וכרובים ואישים. כל אלו עשרה השמות שנקראו בהן המלאכים על שם עשר מעלות שלהן הן, ומעלה שאין למעלה ממנה אלא מעלת האל ברוך הוא היא מעלת הצורה שנקראת חיות. לפיכך נאמר בנבואה שהן תחת כסא הכבוד. ומעלה עשירית היא מעלת הצורה שנקראת אישים והם המלאכים המדברים עם הנביאים ונראים להם במראה הנבואה. לפיכך נקראו אישים שמעלתם קרובה למעלת דעת בני אדם:

"The different names ascribed to the angels correlates to their [spiritual] height. Therefore, the highest of all angels are the Chayos Hakodesh, then Ophanim, Areilim, Chashmailim, Seraphim, Malachim, Elokim, Bnei Elokim, Kerubim, and, lastly, Ishim. All of these ten names for angels are given because of the ten levels [of holiness] they represent. The highest of all the levels, that the only level above it is G-D, is the level that has the tzura (form and purpose) of Chayos. This is why, in prophecy, they are referred to as being just beneath the throne of glory. The lowest of the ten levels is that which is represented by the tzura (form and purpose) of Ishim. These angels speak with the prophets and they are the ones seen in visions of prophecy. This is why these angels are called Ishim, because they are the closest to [being comprehended by] the knowledge of man."

The different names are very telling of how close they are to G-D. The closer the angels are to G-D, the more knowledge they have of Him.

The first level of angels immediately below G-D are the Chayos. Chayos means supporters, this is similar to the purpose of Chava. Just like woman was created in order to be a helper for man, so too G-D created Chayos to be His supporters. This is why the highest level of angels is called Chayos, because the name Chayos represents the ultimate assistant.

The second class of angels are called Ophanim. The word Ophanim refers to a plan. The plan that is referred to by these angels is the plan that is drawn out in order to prepare for a real action.

The third level of angels are the Areilim. This comes from the word Ariel, meaning divine light. This divine light is the realization of G-D's action in the spiritual world, while it has yet to be materialized in the physical world.

The fourth level of angels are the Chashmeilim. They are called this since Chashmal refers to a glittering substance. These angels are similar to a glittering substance since they reflect the divine light from the Areilim. The reflection of the light diminishes the intensity of the light.

The Fifth level of angels are the Seraphim. These angels absorb the light that is reflected from the Chashmeilim. The word saraph can mean to absorb a substance, here the angels are absorbing the remainder of the divine light in order to transfer it to the next level of angels.

The sixth level of angels are the Malachim. The Malachim refer to teachers that are able to take an idea that is completely abstract and explain it. These angels are able to start the conversion process of a completely spiritual idea and begin its transformation into the physical world.

The seventh level of angels are the Elokim. These angels are similar to the physical rulers of the world. In the bible the word Elokim is sometimes used for kings and rulers. Similar to this, the Elokim are the angels that transfer the idea from the spiritual world and physically put the original idea, that started from G-D, into the physical world.

The Eighth level of angels are the Bnei Elokim. The Elokim take the idea from the Malachim and put the idea into the physical world, but the Bnei Elokim are the angels that guide the idea in the physical world. This is in order that the idea work in the way that it was intended to work.

The ninth level of angels are known as the Kerubim. These angels are similar to children. They represent the pure idea and transformation of G-D's will before any human involvement and complication. This is the final level of angels that are disconnected from man.

The tenth and final level of angels are the Ishim. They are called this because of their connection to man. Ishim are the angels that relate the idea of G-D into the physical world in a way man can understand it. Whether it be a message to a prophet, or a physical manifestation of G-D's will, like rain, the Ishim are what cause these events to occur in the physical world.

This is how I would describe the ten different levels of angels and their purposes. The angels all relate to the existences above or below them in holiness. This starts with an idea from G-D, that is related to the Chayos directly from G-D, and it ends with the Ishim relating the idea to man.

This explanation assumes that the Rambam would agree to the Ramban, that the name of an object reflects the objects inner essence. The Ramban states this opinion in Breishis (35:18). He says that the name of a person tells much about his future because his name reflects his essence. If the Rambam would agree to this, which I have not found him to explicitly agree or disagree, then he would most likely agree to this explanation of the ten levels of angels.

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