It has been claimed that
angels with divine power have no place in Judaism, a
monotheistic religion, as the strength of such a religion
lies in the exclusivity of the divinity.
Angels can thus be no more than messengers, fulfilling God’s
commandments. Indeed, in traditional Jewish prayer there
appears to be no mention of the status
of angels in general, nor of their role as
intermediaries in prayer in particular. On the surface, the
Siddur, or prayer book, would seem to indicate that Jews do
not pray to angels or other divine agents, but solely to the
This, however, is
not the case. Extensive analysis of the various sources of
Talmudic literature reveals that there is some substance to
the polemical claims of early Christians that Jews at that
time did pray to angels.
The current paper seeks to bring together all the evidence
of Jewish prayers to angels and other intermediaries that
can be found in sources from the first centuries C.E.
actual prayers have come down to us from this time, a strong
indication that they did exist is the fact that a not
inconsiderable number are known from a later period, the
Middle Ages. We therefore begin with texts from the
Middle Ages which are still being
recited, and which clearly reveal a relationship to this
type of prayers to Angels. In an area as conservative and
traditional as prayer, it is more than reasonable to assume
that these represent the continuation of a pre-existing
of post-Talmudic prayers to angels can be found in the
Jewish service even today. One such invocation, one of the
most famous and most familiar to those who participate in
daily prayer, is a piyyut generally included in the
prayers for forgiveness (Selihot) recited before and
after Rosh Hashana. The precise date of origin of this
piyyut is difficult to establish. It is entitled
‘Usherers of Mercy’, and begins with the words:
mercy, usher in our [plea for] mercy, before the Master of
mercy, You who cause prayer to be heard, may you cause our
prayer to be heard before the Hearer of prayer, You who
cause our outcry to be heard, may you cause our outcry to be
heard, before the Hearer of outcry, You who usher in
tears, may you usher in our
tears, before the King Who finds favor through tears. Exert
yourselves and multiply supplication and petition before the
King, God, exalted and most high, etc.
In other words,
the petitioner turns to the angels, asking them to pray on
his behalf and to intervene for him so that his prayers and
outcries come before God, as if the angels were the
‘gatekeepers’ or guards of God’s palace, determining what
God should and should not hear. A similar plea is voiced in
the song recited in the Ne‘illah service,(the
concluding service of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement):
‘Angels of mercy, servants of the Supreme, accost God with
the best thoughts, perhaps he will show pity to the poor
begging people [perhaps he will show pity]’.
included in the Selihot until the present time, was
composed by Amittai, a paytan who lived in Italy
(Oria) at the end of the ninth century. It opens with the
attributes of the Lord: ‘The Lord, slow to anger and
abounding in kindness,’ and continues with the supplication:
‘Attribute of mercy, turn on our behalf and enter your pleas
before your Creator, and ask for mercy on behalf of your
for every heart is ailing and every head is sick’.
From a later period comes a prayer, familiar as well from
the prayer book, recited just before the blowing of the
shofar (while ‘seated’):
And so may it be
Thy will Lord our God and God of our fathers that all the
angels appointed to oversee the shofar and its
various sounds will ascend before Your Seat of Glory and
recommend favorably for us to atone for our sins.
It seems then that
prayers to angels are preserved to this day in the Orthodox
Jewish prayer service,
and for one reason or another, most of them seem to be recited
in proximity to the period of the Days of Awe.
Not surprisingly, such invocations aroused the rage of halachic
authorities, who sought to expunge them from the prayer-book or,
at the very least, to disguise their meaning.
As stated above,
these prayers, composed over hundreds of years during the
Middle Ages, are still being
recited while no Talmudic prayers of this kind have
survived. However, it is assumed that these late prayers
were continuing a tradition from the Mishnah and Talmud
periods or the first centuries C.E. (if not earlier). Now
we can begin to work backwards, and after having referred to
the relatively well-known prayers to angels from “recent”
times, we can confront those ancient prayers that have
escaped notice since they were somehow “rejected” during the
centuries. In spite of the general belief that there were no
prayers to angels from these early times, we shall attempt
to show, upon closer examination of the sources, various
indications of their existence.
PT Ber 9:1, 13a,
cites the following (presumably in the name of the Lord):
If a person faces
trouble, he should not cry out to the angels Michael or
Gabriel. But he should cry out to me, and I will immediately
answer him. In this regard [it says], ‘All who call upon the
name of the Lord shall be delivered’ [Joel ].
This is presumed
to be the only source in
Tannaitic literature from which we learn that
Jews had been accustomed to praying to angels,
and that the sages prohibited the practice.
However, in spite of this prohibition, prayers to angels can
still be found in Talmudic texts. In reference to the
Midrash of Canticles, for example, Tanya Rabbati,
laws of Rosh Hashana, paragraph 72, there is this quotation:
In the Midrash of
Canticles on the verse ‘I adjure you’, the community of
Israel says to the angels monitoring the gates of prayer and
the gates of tears: convey my prayer and tears to the Holy
One blessed be He and be you advocates before Him to forgive
me the wicked deeds and the unintentional sins.
passage does not appear in the various versions of the
midrash available today, it is
claimed to be authentic, and if this is the case, the text
was probably deleted by internal censorship because of its
‘problematic’ content which did not seem to suit religious
As we shall now see, despite these attempts, Talmudic
literature reveals examples of appeals to intermediaries.
II.Prayers To Angels and To Celestial and Earthly
Eleazar ben Dardoya
One of the
best-known stories in the Babylonian Talmud describes a
prayer to celestial bodies as intermediaries between man and
God. It relates the story of repentance of Eleazar ben
Dardoya, and appears in BTAZ
It was said of R. Eleazar b.
Dordia that he did not leave out any harlot in the world
without coming to her. Once, on hearing that there was a
certain harlot in one of the towns by the sea who accepted a
purse of denarii for her hire, he took a purse of
denarii and crossed seven rivers for her sake. As he was
with her, she blew forth breath and said: As this blown
breath will not return to its place, so will Eleazar b.
Dordia never be received in repentance. He thereupon went,
sat between two hills and mountains and exclaimed: O, ye
hills and mountains, plead for mercy for me! They replied:
How shall we pray for thee? We stand in need of it
ourselves... So he exclaimed: Heaven and
earth, plead ye for mercy for me... Sun and moon, plead ye
for mercy for me!… Ye stars and
constellations... Said he: The matter then depends upon me
alone! Having placed his head between his knees, he wept
aloud until his soul departed. Then a bath-kol was
heard proclaiming: ‘Rabbi Eleazar b. Dordia is destined for
the life of the world to come’.
Here is a man,
not necessarily from rabbinic circles, who, on feeling the
need to offer up a prayer of supplication, a heartfelt plea
for mercy (just before his death), turns to heaven and
and to the sun and the moon, perceiving the celestial bodies
as if they were angels mediating between him and the Lord.
Moreover, the narrator does not seem to express any
objection to this prayer, since it is clear that after
praying to the intermediaries,
Eleazar b. Dardoya
was invited into the world to come, and even granted the
title ‘Rabbi’. As we shall see below, however, not only
common people prayed to celestial bodies; the elite of
did so as well, at least according to the aggadah.
R. Yehuda Hadassi,
a famous Karaite scholar of the twelfth century and author
of Eshkol Hakofer, cites an aggadic
midrash which is not found in
Talmudic literature. As part of his criticism of the Oral
Law, he claims that when God sought to end the life of
Moses, he tried to prevent this from happening:
When Moses saw
the situation, he pleaded to the Lord to be a bird in
land... and was refused by the Lord. He
went and beseeched the Land of Israel: plead for mercy for
me from your Creator… he went and pleaded to Heaven… he went
before thestars... he went before the sun and the moon…
he went to Mt. Sinai and all the mountains... he went to the
sea, the rivers and the lakes... he went to the deserts… he
went in the footsteps of Joshua... he went and fell at the
feet of Eleazar the Priest... and likewise [he did] to Caleb
ben Jepphunne, and likewise to the princes of Thy people
story of Moses entreating intermediaries to plead for him
before God does not appear in any ancient rabbinic source
known today, it is likely that the Karaite scholar did not
invent the story, but derived it from some type of rabbinic
source. This supposition is supported by a seemingly
parallel homily preserved only in an obscure Yemenite
According to this source:
Moses raised his
voice with cries and pleas, and pleaded to the earth: plead
for mercy on my behalf before the Holy One Blessed Be He...
Moses approached Heaven and said: I implore you, plead for
mercy on my behalf before the Holy One Blessed Be
He… He went to the sun and moon
and pleaded before them to plead for mercy on him… Moses
went to Mt.Sinai
and pleaded that it plead for
mercy on him… He went to the rivers and pleaded that they
plead for mercy on him...
Thus the text in
Eshkol Hakofer is an adaptation of an ‘original’
homily preserved in Yemen
without the benefit of editing or ‘improvement’ by internal
Jewish censors.It would appear, therefore, that according to
this tradition, even Moses prayed to intermediaries,
including the heavens, the sun and the moon, Mt. Sinai(!),
rivers, some other “cosmic beings” and even to humans, such
as Joshua, Eleazar and other leaders of Israel. Clearly,
then, a Talmudic source (which was probably censored in a
later period) reflects the belief that Moses prayed to
various intermediaries, both celestial and human, to
intervene on his behalf and ask the Lord to have pity on
The issue of
appealing to intermediaries is addressed in M Hul 2:8:
If a man
slaughtered [an animal] as a sacrifice to mountains, hills,
seas, rivers, or deserts, the slaughtering is invalid.
mishnah is cited in BT Hul 40a,
where it is discussed in respect to a baraita found
more concisely in T Hul 2:18:
He who slaughters
for the sake of the sun, for the sake of the moon, for the
sake of the stars, for the sake of the planets, for the sake
of Michael, prince of the great host, and for the sake of
the small earthworm
– lo, this is deemed to be flesh deriving from the
sacrifices of corpses.
Talmud sought to comprehend the difference in the
terminology of the Mishnah and Tosefta, i.e., the “unfit
slaughter” of the Mishnah and the “sacrifices of corpses”
(=for the dead) of the Tosefta. Abbaye explains: ‘One refers
to the mountain, the other to the divinity of the mountain’.
More plausibly, however, the disparity seems to reflect
different textual versions without any real difference in
substance. Thus, uttering the name of one of those
‘intermediaries’ in connection with a ritual slaughter makes
It was, therefore, the intent of both the baraita and
the Mishnah to ban sacrificial slaughter in which the
slaughterer invokes an intermediary, either by name or by
uttering the name of the angel appointed over it.
although the sages had established that the blessing recited
at the time of the slaughter should be addressed toGod,
some Jews continued to invoke the names of angels, such as
Michael, or those of specific mountains, lakes, and the
like.Similarly, in M Hul 2:9 the sages state: ‘One
may not slaughter [in such manner that the blood runs] into
the sea, or into rivers…’ and the Talmud explains: ‘Why is
it that a person may not slaughter into the sea?…
because it might be said that he is slaughtering to the
deity of the sea?.’
We might relate
this answer back to the story of Moses appealing, for
example, to Mt.Sinai.
The appeal is not made to the inanimate object itself, but
to the angel appointed over it, not to the earth of the
but to its appointed angel. For instance, when offering a
sacrifice to the sea, a person would say: ‘god of the seas
(Poseidon, servant of the Lord) save me from this storm’.
In the same
context, we might consider another law associated with this
27a cites a baraita
dealing with the laws of circumcision, and states:
Surely it has
been taught: An Israelite may perform a circumcision on a
Cuthean but a Cuthean should not [be allowed to] circumcise
an Israelite, because he performs
the circumcision in the name of MountGerizim,
this is the opinion of R. Judah. Said R. Jose to him: Where
is it at all to be found in the Torah that circumcision must
be performed specifically for its purpose? But he may go on
performing it even though he expires in the act.
Thus, R. Jose
differs with R. Judah by saying that the lack of intent does
not nullify the circumcision (as it does in the case of
sacrifice, for example). Indeed, we learn from this that in
the second century, at least, it was the Samaritan custom to
invoke the name of Mt. Gerizim when circumcising, similar to
Moses appealing to Mt. Sinai in the Aggadah, or to the
likelihood that some Jews regularly called on Mt. Moriah in
their prayers. It is assumed that the Samaritans appealed to
the angel appointed over the mountain not only at
circumcisions, but also in the course of ritual slaughter,
as Jews were accustomed to do, a practice condemned by the
sages. This may very well explain why the sages taught in Mishnah Ber 9:2 that anyone seeing a mountain,
ocean, or something similar is required to recite a blessing
such as ‘Blessed be He Who
created the GreatSea’.
In other words, one should not invoke or be awed by the
angelic officer appointed over these natural phenomena, but
offer thanks only to God.
In general, then,
we can say that the halachic midrashim cited here appear to
reflect not only theoretical laws, but a reality in which
the rituals of certain Jews included reference to a variety
of servants and attendants of God, such as angels, seraphim,
and the like. While the sages of the Mishnah considered this
custom disgraceful and banned it, for other Jews it was
apparently common practice. Such a case is seen with the
author of Sefer Harazim who writes of purity on the
one hand, but on the other hand refers to prayers to Helios
(the sun) or to consulting with a ghost, practices already
prohibited in the Pentateuch.
In other words, the doctrine of the sages alludes to Jews
whose religious views were considered objectionable, as they
were (in the opinion of the sages) syncretistic, that is,
they implied serving God in partnership.
It is interesting
to note that certain examples of the Judeo-Christian polemic
from the fourth century onward reveal that the Jews
condemned the Christians for worshiping objects,
trees, and stones, and that certain Christians of
that era construed these items to be sacred and viewed them
more or less on the order of angels.
However, it would appear that these later views rebuked
Christians for the very type of practices that had existed
among the Jews themselves centuries before.
commonplace the appeal to angels was is
demonstrated by a baraita in BT Ber 60b (Dereh Eretz
11; Kalla Rabbati ):
On entering a
privy one should say: ‘Be
honoured, ye honoured and holy ones the minister to the Most
High. Give honour to the God of Israel. Wait for me till I
enter and do my needs, and I return to you’.
several times in the course of an ordinary day, a Jew would
turn to angels and ask them not to accompany him to theprivy. This custom, too, was later abolished
because of objections to praying to angels.
Individuals in Tannaitic Texts and
The custom of appealing to a revered holy
person, whether a sage or prophet, is well known from
The luminary would serve as an intermediary between those in
need of divine help and God by soliciting divine
intervention and praying on their behalf.
Thus, for example, the people turned to the prophet and
pleaded (Jer. 42:2): ‘Pray for us to the Lord your God.’
From the context it is clear that the Lord was their God as
well, but they were apparently too timid to appeal to him
directly. Similarly, the people begged Samuel (1 Sam.
‘Intercede for your servants with the Lord your God that we
may not die’, behavior that is explained by the verse
immediately preceding this: ‘And the people stood in awe of
the Lord and Samuel.’ Every charismatic is typically assumed
to have been granted the power to mediate between his
disciples and the divinity, and it seems obvious that a
prayer could only be effective if the individual to whom the
supplicant turned for help was someone the Lord was likely
to listen to.
A key religious
(and charismatic) figure whose concern for the people was
expressed not only in his dealings with them, but also in
his appeals to the Lord was Hanina ben Dosa.
M Ber 5:5 states:
It was related of
[R.] Hanina ben Dosa that he used to pray for the sick and
say, this one will live. They said to him: how do you know?
He replied: If my prayer comes out fluently, I know that he
(= the patient) is accepted, but if not, then I know that he
version appears in a baraita cited in BT Ber 34b:
Rabbis taught: Once the son of R. Gamaliel fell ill. He sent
two scholars to R. Hanina ben Dosa to ask him to pray for
him. When he saw them he went up to the upper chamber and
prayed for him. When he came down he said to them: Go, the
fever has left him; [by the sun]. They said to him: Are you
a prophet? He replied: I am neither a prophet nor the son of
a prophet, but I learnt this from experience. If my prayer
is fluent in my mouth, I know that he is accepted: but if
not, I know that he is rejected.
goes on to refer to another incident of interest:
occasion it happened that R. Hanina ben Dosa went to study
Torah with Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai. The son of R. Johanan
ben Zakkai fell ill. He said to him: Hanina my son, pray for
him that he may live. He put his head between his knees and
prayed for him and he lived.
figure of R. Hanina ben Dosa has already been discussed by
many scholars who study the world of the sages, and there is
no need to expand. What is relevant, however, is the fact
that some (although not all) of the Tannaim, viewed as
authorities passing down the traditions of the Torah, sought
a distinguished or saintly individual to intervene with God
in some way on behalf of the ill. Even the greatest of the
Tannaim, such as Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai, appealed to such
people. This was accepted practice not only among the
Tannaim, but among the Amoraim in Palestine
as well. This might be understood from the following: ‘R.
Phinehas b. Hama gave the following exposition: Whoever has
a sick person in his house should go to a sage who will
invoke [heavenly] mercy for him; as it is said (Prov.
16:14): “The wrath of a king is as messenger of death; but a
wise man will pacify it”.’
statement is found in BT AZ 8a: ‘[So also] said R. Hiyya b.
Ashi in the name of Rab: Even though it has been said that
one should pray for his needs only at “Who hearest prayer”,
still if [for example] one has a sick person at home, he may
offer [an extempore] prayer at the Benediction for the
In other words, a person is permitted to pray for a sick
member of his household (his wife or children), and indeed
to this day Jews are accustomed to doing so.
If this was accepted by the sages and their disciples, who
were familiar with the theological problems of such a
prayer, then it must certainly have been the norm among the
This notion of
appealing to a distinguished individual to intervene with
the Lord is also reflected in the people’s plea to Honi the
Circle Maker (Hameagel), another charismatic figure (M Taan
3:8), ‘to pray for rainfall’. We learn in BT Taan 23a that
the sages also asked Abba Hilkiah, the son of the daughter
of Honi, to pray (on their behalf) for rainfall, as it
happened with Hanan the Hidden (BT Taan 23b), and the Gemara
cites a number of similar examples in the same place.
sources in Talmudic literature provide a wide range of
instances of human intermediaries in prayer, from the legend
of Moses appealing to Joshua bin Nun, Eleazar the Priest,
and the nobles of Israel, and to the petitions to Honi
Hameagel and to other ‘distinguished figures’. These sources
clearly demonstrate what we are seeking to prove here, a
fact which is not generally recognized: Jews in the period
of the Mishnah and Talmud (like those who came before them)
prayed not only to the Lord, but also to intermediaries.
IV.Prayers to the Patriarchs and Matriarchs in
with the dead was considered to contaminate the living, in
Biblical times, as in the tannaitic period, there were some
people who took care not to be rendered impure in this way.
However, the gradual disappearance of the laws of purity and
impurity enabled the people to begin to visit graves and
solicit the help of the deceased. This practice is first
related by Rava in Babylon,
according to whom the spies went up to Hebron
to prostrate themselves on the graves of the patriarchs (BT
Similarly, one of the Palestinian Amoraim of the third
century believed in visiting cemeteries on fast days, ‘so
that the dead shall plead for mercy on us’ (BT Taan 16a).
Once the practice became widely established in popular
circles, community leaders seem to have followed in their
wake, also visiting graves and pleading with the dead to
bring their prayers before the Lord.
The custom is described in greater detail in Lamentations
Rabba (Buber) Petihta 24:
The Holy One
Blessed Be He said to Jeremiah: Today I resemble a man who
had an only son for whom he prepared the bridal canopy and
the son died under the bridal canopy. And you feel no pain
for Me or for my son. Go summon
Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses for they know how to weep.
In other words,
the prophet Jeremiah is sent by God to summon the
Patriarchs, that is, to visit their graves and ask them to
him. The preacher in Lamentations Rabba depicts
a rather dramatic scene in which the Patriarchs ‘tore their
clothes, placed their hands on their heads and shouted and
wept up to the doors of the HolyTemple’.
In contrast, the preacher in Genesis Rabba, apparently
earlier than Lamentations Rabba, speaks not of the
Patriarchs, but of the Matriarch Rachel:
‘So Rachel died
and she was buried on the way to Ephrath…’ Why did Jacob
bury Rachel on the way to Ephrath? Jacob foresaw that the
exiles would pass by there [en route to Babylon].
Therefore he buried her there, so that she should seek mercy
for them: “A voice is heard in Ramah… Rachel weeping for her
children... Thus says the Lord, ‘Keep your voice from
weeping… and there is hope for your future’…(Jer.
to Rachel’s burial place appears in Pesikta Rabbati 3, and
focuses on why she was not buried together with the
Rachel to be buried there because it was known to Him and
foreseen that a time was to come when the Temple
would be destroyed and Jacob’s children would depart into
exile. Whereupon they would go to the Patriarchs whom they
would beseech to pray for them, but the Patriarchs would not
avail the children of Israel.
Then, before the setting forth on their way, they would go
and embrace the tomb of Rachel, who would arise and beg
mercy of the Holy One, blessed be He, saying to Him: Master
of the Universe, hearken to the voice of my weeping and have
mercy upon my children, or else pay the due bill which I
Forthwith the Holy One, blessed be He, would listen to the
voice of her prayer.
midrash relates explicitly to
what is not spelled out in the earlier one. In Genesis Rabba,
Rachel pleas for mercy from the Lord without being asked to,
whereas in Pesikta Rabbati, she does so only after her sons
come and beg her to intercede for them. In addition, the
preacher was undoubtedly aware that Jews went to the Cave
to ask the Patriarchs for mercy, as he must have seen this
for himself.We can therefore deduce from Talmudic sources
that the practice of appealing to the dead Patriarchs began
in the Amoraic period, most probably emerging around their
burial places in Hebron
and Rachel’s tomb.
If we look
outside of Talmudic literaturewe first encounter prayer at patriarchal tombs
in the elegy of R. Elazar Haqalir. This is recited to this
day on the Ninth of Av: ‘Then when Jeremiah went to the
burial places of the Patriarchs and declared: Lovable bones,
why lie you still? Your children are exiled and their houses
are destroyed. What is become of the merit of the ancestors
in the land of drought’...
Apparently, then, in the sixth or seventh centuries, the
Jews in Palestine
prayed at the tombs of the patriarchs in Hebron.
although the custom is mentioned in rabbinical
sources, the prayer itself is unknown, so the poet
it. As it was composed
only for the purposes of the elegy, however, it cannot be
Not long after
the time of Haqalir, a prayer to be recited at the grave of
the prophet Samuel was, in fact, composed, and reads in
Fortunate are you
the faithful and friendly, fortunate the modest and the
pious... because of your merit God will receive [the prayer
of His people Israel],
because of your merit God will bring to end [of our
exile]... our master Samuel the prophet... [be dear] my soul
in your eyes and the souls of your servants believing in
your prophecy, who come to prostrate themselves on your
grave, to implore the great and awesome Lord your God on
behalf of the surviving remnant…
literature retains a number of references to the custom of
visiting graves. What is more, by the ninth century at the
latest, special prayers were being written for the graves of
the prophets of Israel,
and it is more than reasonable to assume that prayers meant
to be recited at the graves of the patriarchs in Hebron
already existed at that time. Hence, praying at gravesites,
a custom prohibited in Scripture and condemned in later
periods,appears to have been a norm more than a
thousand years ago, even if the halachic authorities refused
to admit it.
presented above clearly indicate that the Jews in Palestine
in the Talmud period did not pray exclusively to God, but
also to various intermediaries, includingcelestial bodies and natural phenomena,
leaders,and the saintly, both living and dead. All of
these were asked to pray to the Lord on behalf of the
supplicant. This cannot be considered only as ‘popular
religion’, since even the greatest of the Tannaim appealed
to intermediaries to intercede with the Lord. At the same
time, there are indications that the sages sought to
‘popularize’ prayer by teaching that God welcomes the
prayers of all people, not only of the sages, the pious or
the priest. ExodusRabba 21:4 states:
prayer’—R. Judah bar Shalom reported in the name of R.
Eleazar: A human being, if a poor man comes to say something
to him—he does not listen to him; if a rich man comes to say
something—he immediately listens and receives him. But the
Holy One blessed Be He is not so, but all are equal before
him—women and slaves and the poor and the rich... this is
prayer and this is prayer: all are equal before God in
this teaching, which reflects an attitude of equality among
all believers in respect to prayer (precluding the need for
intermediaries), it is clear that
the appeal to angels and other intermediaries in the Judaism
of the Talmudic period was not limited to a small circle. On
the contrary, it was accepted by all levels of society, from
the sages representing the religious norm to the broad ranks
of the populace. Only later did theologians and religious
philosophers seek to limit this practice, or at the very
least, to disguise it.
In the Thirteen Principles of Faith, according to
Maimonides, it is stated: “I believe with complete
faith that the Creator, Blessed is His Name – to him
alone is it proper to pray and it is not proper to
pray to any other”; Siddur Kol Yaacov – Ashkenaz,
New York: Art Scroll, 1990, p. 179.
The existence of the prohibition goes back to
Scripture, see: A. Rofe, Faith in Angels in
Makor 1979, p. 101 ff. (Hebrew).
For the conventional approach in research to
‘intermediaries,’ see: M. Stern, Greek and Latin
Authors on Jews and Judaism, Jerusalem: The Israel
Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1980, II, pp.
234, 265, 295.
S. Carroll, ‘A Preliminary Analysis of the
Epistle to Rehoboam’, Journal for the Study of
Pseudepigrapha, 4 (1989), pp. 91-103.
D. Goldschmidt, The
Order of Selihot (Penitential Prayers) According to
the Polish Rite,
Harav Kook, 1965, introduction pp. 11-12 (Hebrew).
For the controversy over ‘Angels of Mercy’, see: M.
Saperstein, Decoding the Rabbis, Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 1980, pp. 192 ff.
Yahalom, Poetry and Society in Jewish Galilee of
Late Antiquity, Tel-Aviv: Hakibutz Hameuchad, 1999,
p. 54 (Hebrew).
D. Goldschmidt, Mahzor for the Days
of Awe, 2, Yom Kippur,
1970, p. 764 (Hebrew). The use of the Hebrew word
hints at the post-Talmudic period as the period in
which the hymn was composed.
Goldschmidt notes that the precedent for this notion
can be found in Hekhalot Rabbati 13,2 (S. A.
Batei Midrashot, Jerusalem: Reuven Mass, l980, I, p.
88; P. Schaefer, Synopse zur
J.C.B. Mohr, 1981, p. 76, paragraph 172):
Order of Selihot, p. 208. The hymn is also recited
prayer on Yom Kippur. See: Goldschmidt, Mahzor for the Days
of Awe, 2, Yom Kippur, pp. 663-664 (Hebrew). A
similar hymn is Shlomo ben Menachem’s ‘Thirteen
Attributes’ also recited in the Selihot
service (Goldschmidt, The Order of Selihot, p. 95).
It is worth citing here the end of the“personal” prayer recited by the Cantor
service entitled ‘I am but poor of deed’
(Goldschmidt, Mahzor for the Days
of Awe, 1, Rosh Hashana, p. 147): ‘That all the
angels who are masters of prayer bring my prayer
before the Seat of Your Glory,’ etc.
Goldschmidt, Mahzor for the Days
of Awe, 1, Rosh Hashana, p.145; M.
Bar-Ilan, ‘The Fate
of Joshua Prince of Presence in Scientific(?) Research,’ Sinai,
101 (1988), pp.174-181 (Hebrew).
Additional examples: ‘Angels of the tears of the
wretched endure for hours like the scent of a
consuming fire’ (by Moshe bar Shabtai. See: D.
Goldschmidt, Mahzor for the Days
of Awe, 1, Rosh Hashana, Jerusalem: Qoren, 1970, p.
The proximity of prayers to angels to Rosh Hashana
may derive from the mystic character of Rosh Hashana
(and Yom Kippur)
Avraham ben Eliezer
Halevi, ‘Instruction on the Question of the Angels,’
9 (1856), pp. 141-148 (Hebrew).
See: Nils Johansson, Parakletoi,
Translation from: Tzee
Zahavy, The Talmud of the
vol 1, Berakhot,
The University of Chicago Press, 1989, p. 314.
as is stated inI Enoch 104,1:
‘I swear unto you that in heaven the angels will
remember you for good before the glory of the great
According to I.
Heinemann [Prayer in the Talmud: Forms and Patterns
(translated by Richard S. Sarason), Berlin – New
York: Walter de Gruyter, 1977, p. 249]: ‘It is a
well-known fact that there are no prayers from the
Talmudic period which are addressed to
intermediaries of any sort - neither to angels, nor
to saints or patriarchs’.
R. Yehiel son of R. Zedekiah (?), Tanya Rabbati,
Occurrences and the Significance of the Yoser
Ha’adam Benediction,’ HUCA,
56 (1985), Hebrew section, pp. 9-27. On this type of
internal censoring see below.
In printed editions.
I. Epstein, The Babylonian
Talmud: Seder Nezikin, IV,
Soncino Press, 1935, p. 87.
See also: M. Baer, ‘On the Atonement of Penitents in
the Literature of the Sages’, Zion,
46 (1981), pp. 159-181 (Hebrew), especially 163; M.
Bar-Ilan, Some Jewish Women
Scholars Press, 1998, pp. 138-139.
Quite a similar prayer to the sun and the moon see
in the Book of Adam and Eve 36, 2.
For the personification of celestial bodies, or more
precisely, their perception as angels, see: M.
Beit-Arié, Perek SHIRA:
Introductions and Critical Edition, Ph.D. Thesis
submitted to the
(Hebrew, unpublished), 1, p. 47.
R. Yehuda Hadassi, Eshkol Hakofer,
Goslaw 1836 (reprint:
S. Lieberman, Yemenite Midrashim, 2nd
Wahrmann Books, 1970, p. 33 (Hebrew). The Yemenite
community preserved several
midrashim in full, without subjecting them to
From a collection of homilies about Moses and
his death: A. M. Haberman, Helkat Mehokek (The
Portion of the Lawgiver),
1947, pp. 62 ff. (Hebrew); J. D. Eisenstein, Ozar Midrashim,
1969, II, pp. 368-369 (Hebrew).
R. Yehuda Hadassi’s addition of Moses turning to the
and to the ‘deserts’ is not a substantive change. It
seems to me that this Aggadic
midrash can be associated with an excerpt
from another Aggadah cited in additions to S. Z.
Avoth dR. Nathan,
Feldheim, 1967, pp. 156-157 (additions to version A,
XII, p. 50). See also: E. Glickler Chazon, ‘Moses’
Struggle for His Soul: A Prototype for the Testament
of Abraham, the Greek Apocalypse of Ezra, and the
Apocalypse of Sedrach’, The Second Century, 5
(1985-6), pp. 151-164.
Compare this tradition to that of the places where
miracles occurred to the People of Israel in the
Sites in the
Ancient Times,’ Judea
Studies, 5 (1995), pp. 229-239 (Hebrew).
I. Epstein, The
Babylonian Talmud: Seder Kodashim, II, pp. 214-215.
Michael appears together with a lowly earthworm by
way of contrast. In other words, the reference is to
anyone who prays to intermediaries of any sort, from
the greatest angel to the least of the divine
J. Neusner, The Tosefta: Translated from the Hebrew,
Fifth Division, Qodoshim,
Scholars Press, 1997, p. 73. Neusner left the Hebrew
untranslated while here the word was translated into
See: J. Faur Halevi, Studies in the Rambam's Mishne
Harav Kook, 1978, pp. 224 ff. (Hebrew).
T Ber 6:11, Lieberman edition, p. 36.
Translation from Epstein (supra, note 28), p. 220.
See: R. Patai, Hamayim
(The Water), Tel Aviv: Devir, 1936, pp. 136-137
TAZ3:13, Zuckermandel edition, p. 464.
I. Epstein (supra n. 20), p.
133. This version is , but it is likely that
an error has crept in and it should read: ‘continues
to circumcise<or continues to slaughter> until his
Harazim (Book of Secrets), M. Margaliot edition,
Achronot, 1967, pp. 12-16. See also: Rachel Elior,
‘Mysticism, Magic, and Angelology: The Perception of
Angels in Hekhalot Literature’, Jewish Studies
Quarterly, 1 (1993/94), pp. 3-53 (esp. 41-43); H.
Mack, ‘The Unique Character of the Zippori Synagogue
Mosaic and Eretz Israel Midrashim’, Cathedra,
pp. 39-56 (Hebrew).
See: N. H. Baynes, ‘The Icons before Iconoclasm’,
XLIV (1951), pp. 93-106
I. Epstein, The Babylonian
Talmud: Seder Zera‘im,
Soncino Press, 1948, p. 377.
Rabbi Joseph Karo, in Shulhan Arukh, Orah Haim, 3,
1, writes: ‘When one enters the water closet, one
says: be honored, you honored ones etc., but now it
is not said’.
M. Greenberg, ‘Prayer’, Encyclopedia Miqrait, 8
(1982), pp. 896-922 (Hebrew); M. Greenberg, Lectures
on Prayer in Scripture, Jerusalem: Akademon Press,
1981, pp. 17 ff. (Hebrew); Y. Muffs, ‘Between Law
and Mercy: The Prayer of Prophets’, A. Shapira, ed.,
Torah Nidreshet, Tel-Aviv: Am Obed 1984, pp. 39-87
(especially 74 ff. Hebrew); Patrick D. Miller, They
Cried to The Lord, Minneapolis: Fortress Press,
1994, pp. 262-280.
See: G.B.A. Zarfati, ‘Sages and Men of Deeds’,
26 (1957) pp. 126-153 (Hebrew); S. Safrai, The Land
of Israel and Its Sages in the Period of the Mishna
and the Talmud, United Kibbutz Publishers 1984, pp.
144 ff. (Hebrew); Y. Frankel, Studies in the
Spiritual World of the Legendary Tale, United
Kibbutz Publishers, 1981, pp. 23 ff. (Hebrew); G.
Vermes, Post-Biblical Jewish Studies, Leiden: Brill,
1975, pp. 178-214; S. Freyne, ‘The Charismatic’, G.
W. E. Nickelsburg and J. J. Collins (eds.), Ideal
Figures in Ancient Judaism - Profiles and Paradigms,
Ann Arbor, Michigan 1980, pp. 223-258.
Epstein (supra n. 38), p. 214.
Translation: I.Epstein (supra n. 38), pp. 215-216.
manuscript II I 7 9 contains minor discrepancies
that are insubstantial.
I. Epstein (supra n. 36), p.
BT BB 116a; translation: I. Epstein (supra n. 19),
vol II, p. 478.
I. Epstein (supra n. 19), p.
This is grounded in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 119;
see also Yoreh Deah 335. Compare BT Ber 34a: ‘R.
Jacob said in the name of R. Hisda: If one prays on
behalf of his fellow, he need not mention his name,
since it says: “Heal her now, O God, I beseech
Thee”’ [Translation: Epstein, p. 212].
For example: 2 Enoch (Slavic) 4:6: ‘And
they said to me: Man of God, pray for us to the
Lord’; ibid, 13. 105: ‘And now my son do not say our
father is with the Lord, and he will protect us and
pray to offset our sins - none can help any one who
has sinned’; II Thessalonians 3.1: ‘Finally,
brethren, pray for us’. The Christian sources in
this regard have been studied at length, see: A. R.
C. Leaney, ‘The Johannine Paraclete and the Qumran
Scrolls,’ J. H. Charlesworth, (ed.), John and the
Dead Sea Scrolls,
Crossroad, 1990, pp. 38-61.
In The Words of Gad the Seer, verses 108-109, Tamar,
the daughter of David, turns to her father (who is
not present), appealing to him to mediate between
her and God,
Bar-Ilan, ‘The Date
of The Words of Gad the Seer’, JBL,
109/3 (1990), pp. 477-493; M.
Jewish Women in Antiquity, pp. 93-94.
Jewish Women in Antiquity, pp. 114-116.
See further BT Hag 22b: ‘R. Joshua immediately went
and prostrated himself on the graves of Beth Shammai,
saying: I have sinned against you, bones of Beth
Shammai, and if this is so with your hidden
issues - then a fortiori
with your open issues’. Here, however, forgiveness
is asked of the dead, whereas in the case of the
spies a request is made to the dead to intervene
BT Taan 16a: ‘Why do people visit a cemetery? R.
Hama and R. Hanina
differ; one says: we are considered as dead before
You, and one says: so that the dead should plead for
mercy on our behalf’.
This subject has been dealt with recently in: Z.
Safrai, ‘Graves of the Righteous and Holy Places in
Jewish Tradition’, E. Schiller (ed.), Zev Vilnay’s
Jubilee Volume, II, Jerusalem: Ariel, 1987, pp.
303-313 (Hebrew); Y. Lichtenstein, From the Impurity
of the Dead to His Sanctification, doctoral
University, Ramat-Gan 1997, pp. 168-181 (Hebrew,
Lam. Rabba, Pesikta, 24, S.
Buber edition, pp. 24-25; Eicha Zuta, p. 64.
Genesis Rabbah (translated by J. Neusner),
Scholars Press, 1985, III, p. 173.
The translator added here in a footnote: ‘I.e.,
transfer my bones to Machpelah in
Pesikta Rabbati (translated by William G. Braude),
New Haven and
University Press, 1968,
I. pp. 75-76 (piska 3).
D. Goldschmidt, ed., Order of Elegies for the Ninth
of Ab: Polish Rite,
Harav Kook, 1968, p. 98 (Hebrew). The editor states
that the hymn-writer relied on Lam Rabbati, Petihta
24, a text dealt with by Z. Safrai (supra note 55).
S. Assaf, ‘Ancient Prayers on the Grave of the
1 (1948), pp. 71-73 (Hebrew).