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Angels Can’t Repent (Bereshit)

We are never like angels till our passion dies. — Sir John Denham

In the beginning, God created the universe. However, according to Kabbalah, our physical universe is the last of a succession of dimensions that God created. The other dimensions are of a spiritual, ethereal nature. The process by which God created all of the dimensions was to somehow undergo a “contraction” of some aspect of Himself to make room for apparently independent, sentient, conscious entities other than Himself.

The dimensions that are “closer” to God’s less-diluted presence, the spiritual realms, feel His presence so strongly that obeying God is much less of an issue, as it would be counterintuitive to do anything against the more obvious presence of God. However, our physical realm is so far removed from God’s clear presence that it becomes quite easy to forget about God, to deny His existence and to outright do the exact opposite of what understanding His existence would prompt us to do.

The Bat Ayin on Genesis 1:1 explains that there is a correlation between spiritual proximity to God and the term we call Holiness (Kedusha). The closer one is or gets to God, the holier they become. However, there is a tradeoff of sorts. The holier one is, the more exacting God is. Thus, the angels who are ostensibly holier and closer to God have no margin of error. There is no repentance for the angels in their spiritual existence. Humans, on the other hand, are very different.

Humans, because of our spiritual distance from God, are able to sin. We are able to ignore the subtle and not so subtle indications of God’s existence. That allows us and gives us the free will to deviate from the path that God would have initially preferred we follow. However, that distance, that propensity to sin, the ability to do wrong is the very reason we can also repent.

In fact, the ability to repent is not just a benefit of being in the mortal, physical realm, but rather a feature. The built-in ability to repent signifies the underlying kindness that God avails us mortals. The spiritual realm is a more justice-oriented dimension. Lacking our physical bodies, we no longer have the opportunity to act, to do, to mend our ways. The spiritual world is the place where we receive, realize, and access the fruit of our actions in the physical world, both the good and the bad.

May we take advantage of all the opportunities in our physical world to do good, to repent for the bad and to partake in the lovingkindness that is the foundation of our material existence.

Shabbat Shalom,

Ben-Tzion

Dedication

On the marriage of Yoel and Alaina Epstein. Mazal Tov!

About the Author
Ben-Tzion Spitz is the former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay. He is the author of six books of Biblical Fiction and hundreds of articles and stories dealing with biblical themes. He is the publisher of Torah.Works, a website dedicated to the exploration of classic Jewish texts, as well as TweetYomi, which publishes daily Torah tweets on Parsha, Mishna, Daf, Rambam, Halacha, Tanya and Emuna. Ben-Tzion is a graduate of Yeshiva University and received his Master’s in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University.
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