Be an Angel

You don’t have to be an angel to have meaningful relationships. But you might learn something from the angels. The lesson? It’s all about how we focus on loving each other.

From the design of the Tabernacle, described in the Torah, we get a profound lesson on successful relationships. In the inner sanctum, the cherubs rested on the ark. These celestial beings, meticulously crafted from hammered gold, faced each other with outstretched wings. The cherubs were positioned in a never-ending welcome, one to the other. The placement of these angels revealed a pivotal truth about human connections — the importance of paying attention to each other.

The position of the cherubs within the tabernacle’s design is striking. Sitting above the ark, the angels did not direct their gaze towards God or the tablets of law. Instead, they looked at each other. This deliberate choice of paired cherubim sends a message about the indispensable role of relationships in our lives. It suggests that, in serving God, we serve best deeply connecting with others. These cherubs teach that we best express our relationship with God by engaging with one another.

Ultimately, the paired cherubs challenge the notion of individual importance. They imply that each person exists fundamentally for relationships, emphasizing that our connections with others are essential to our existence. These celestial beings, locked in mutual gaze, remind us that the quality of our relationships is paramount.

In tractate, Yoma, Rav Ketina described the scene in the Tabernacle or Temple. When the High Priest pulled back the parokhet, the decorative curtain, he revealed the golden figures locked in each other’s sights. The decorative cherubim embraced one another. Then the kohanim would explain that they represented the relationship between God and the Jewish People. That love is as significant and real as the love of a man and a woman.

Moreover, a single angel would not have sufficed. There had to be two angels facing each other. Given their focus on each other and not on Heaven, these angels demonstrated that to love God love must be shared. So if you want to love God, then love one another.

Unlike celestial beings, human relationships are not fixed. We can’t sustain just one role, and remain in one position. Our exchanges are dynamic and multifaceted. Yet, these angels teach us that we are at our best when we stay focused on the people in our lives, especially those within our sight. Just like the angels, we prioritize relationships and nurture them with our undivided attention.

There is a Shaker hymn that says it best.

If you love not each other
In daily communion,
How can you love God,
Whom you have not seen?

The Heavens are blessing,
The angels are calling,
O Zion, O Zion more love.

Rabbi Evan Krame

(with gratitude to Rabbi David Inger for teaching this Shaker hymn)