Prayers of Jews to Angels and Other Intermediaries
during the First Centuries of the Common Era
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 Lord.
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.
Although no 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 convention.
Several examples 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:
Usherers of 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]’.
Another piyyut, included in the Selihot
until the present time, was composed by Amittai, a paytan who lived in
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.
Although this 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 teachings. As we shall now see, despite these attempts, Talmudic literature reveals examples of appeals to intermediaries.
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
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 earth, 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
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 Israel...
Although the 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 midrash. 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
Thus the text in Eshkol Hakofer is an
adaptation of an ‘original’ homily preserved in
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.
This 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.
The Babylonian 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 void
.. 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.
Clearly then, 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
In the same context, we might consider
another law associated with this issue.
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
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
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.
Just how 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’.
Presumably, then, 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.
The custom of appealing to a revered holy person, whether a sage or prophet, is well known from Scripture. 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 is rejected.
An expanded version appears in a baraita cited in BT Ber 34b:
Our 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.
The baraita goes on to refer to another incident of interest:
On another 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.
The extraordinary 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
A similar 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 sick’. 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 simple folk.
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.
Clearly, then, 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.
Since contact 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.
any appeal to the dead was prohibited, and so the woman with the familiar
spirit had good reason to be afraid to raise the ghost of Samuel (1 Sam 28). 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
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
‘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
Another reference to Rachel’s burial place appears in Pesikta Rabbati 3, and focuses on why she was not buried together with the Patriarchs:
God commanded Rachel to be buried there
because it was known to Him and foreseen that a time was to come when the
Forthwith the Holy One, blessed be He, would listen to the voice of her prayer.
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
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
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 part:
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
Thus, Talmudic 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
The sources presented above clearly indicate
that the Jews in
‘Who hears 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 prayer.
Notwithstanding 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 Scripture,
Moore, ‘Intermediaries in Jewish Theology: Memra, Shekinah, Metatron’, HTR,
15 (1922), pp. 41-85; A. F. Segal, ‘Ruler of This World: Attitudes about
Mediator Figures and the Importance of Sociology for Self-Definition’, in E. P.
Sanders, A. I. Baumgarten and A. Mendelson (eds.), Jewish and Christian Self-Definition,
Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1981, II, pp. 245-268; 403-413; 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,
S. Krauss, 'Notes on the Hymn "Natrei Tarei",' Yearbook of
American Jewry, 1 (1931), pp. 260-263
(and the note of S. Assaf in Ginzei Kedem 4 , p. 111); Y. Ratshabi, 'Remnants of
"Mercy" from the Period of the Gaonim,' Sinai, 58/115 (1995),
pp. 193-216 (Hebrew); J. Yahalom and M. Sokoloff, Shirat benei Maarava,
Jerusalem 1999, p. 20; J. Yahalom, Poetry and Society in Jewish
Galilee of Late Antiquity, Tel-Aviv: Hakibutz Hameuchad, 1999, p. 54
(Hebrew) ; R. Barkai, Science, Magic and Mythology in the
Middle Ages, Jerusalem, 1987, p. 74, note 40 (Hebrew).
D. Goldschmidt, Mahzor for the Days of Awe, 2, Yom Kippur,
Goldschmidt notes that the precedent for this notion can be found in Hekhalot
Rabbati 13,2 (S. A. Wertheimer, Batei Midrashot, Jerusalem: Reuven Mass,
l980, I, p. 88; P. Schaefer, Synopse zur Hekhalot-Literatur, Tübingen: J.C.B.
Mohr, 1981, p. 76, paragraph 172)
you attributes bearing the Seat of His Glory... and intensify song, joy, poetry
and singing before the Seat of His Glory ... and He will be Available to the
descendants of the chariot at the time when they stand before Him, before the
Seat of His Glory.'
 Goldschmidt, The Order of Selihot, p. 208. The hymn is also recited in the Ne'illah 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 before the Mussaf 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
. In the Mahzor for the People of Israel –
Sephardi Version, Tel-Aviv 1958, p. 76, the text differs slightly: 'And so may
it be Thy Will... that the angels rising
from the shofar and from the various sounds...
and will intercede favorably for us’. That is to say, not the angel
appointed over the shofar sounds, but the sounds themselves, till now perceived
only by the sense of hearing, will become mighty angels. A similar idea is
found in Shemot Rabba 21:4: 'After all the congregations have completed
all the prayers, the angel appointed over the prayers assembles all the prayers
prayed in all the congregations in the land makes of them wreaths that he
places on the Head of the Holy One Blessed Be He’. See also: H. Krauss, He Sustains the
Living with Kindness, Jerusalem l982 (Hebrew); M.
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. 125)
; 'The Kadishim of the superior seraphim
and ophanim, Bring forth our plea before the Master of Masters' in the
hymn 'Seating of the seat beyond being carried' by Simon bar Yitzchak (In D.
Goldschmidt, The Order of Selihot, pp. 174-175). For more about angels in prayer (and not necessarily appeals
to them), see: H. Merhavia, '"Kol
Nidrei" - between Problem and Puzzle', in
S. Yisraeli, N. Lamm, and Y. Rafael, eds., Rabbi. J. B. Soloveichik
Jubilee Volume, 2, Jerusalem and New York, pp. 1056-1096 (especially 1076
ff.) (Hebrew); M. Bar-Ilan, 'Notes on the Mahzor in Matters of Angels,’ Or
Hamizrah, 35 (1987), pp. 7-12 (Hebrew).
The proximity of prayers to angels to Rosh Hashana may derive from the mystic
character of Rosh Hashana (and Yom Kippur)
feature requiring separate consideration.
 Avraham ben Eliezer Halevi, ‘Instruction on the Question of the
Angels,’ Kerem Hemed, 9 (1856), pp. 141-148 (Hebrew).
For a discussion of this question and its author, see: Avraham ben Eliezer
Halevi, Maamar Mishra Katrin (An article on untying knots), introductory
remarks by G. Scholem, edited and completed by M. Beth-Aryeh, Jerusalem 1978,
Introduction, pp. 30-31); M. D. Freudental, Maamar Mordecai, Breslau
1834, pp. 3 ff.; Baruch Halevi Epstein, Baruch Sheamar, (rep. Tel-Aviv
1970), pp. 425-426 (Hebrew); S. A. Horodetzky, Mystery in Israel, 2,
Tel-Aviv, 1951, pp. 118 ff. (Hebrew).
See: Nils Johansson, Parakletoi,
In the fourth and fifth centuries, the Christians
in Syria also dedicated churches to angels such as Gabriel, Michael, etc. See:
H. C. Butler, Early Churches in Syria, Amsterdam 1969, p. 253.
Translation from: Tzee
Zahavy, The Talmud of the
 R, 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 One.’
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’. See also:
E. E. Urbach, The Sages – Chapters in Beliefs and Opinions, 3rd edition,
Jerusalem 1976, pp. 115-160 (Hebrew), which
contains an exhaustive treatment of the attitude of the sages to angels in
general, and specifically praying to them; see BT Ber 33b: 'He is silenced for
it has the appearance of two jurisdictions’.
R. Yehiel son of R. Zedekiah (?), Tanya Rabbati,
In printed edition
s the name
appears as Dordia, or Doradia. In the Ms. JTS 15 the name is Dardoya while in
Ms. Munchen 95 the name appears once as Dorda or Dorada and once as Dordi(a).
The meaning of the name is not clear.
See also: S. Abramson, ed., Tractate AZ
manuscript, New York, 1957, p. 29.
In a different version
of the manuscript, the title 'Rabbi' is added at the beginning, the father's name
is Dardoya, and the prayer is to the stars and the signs of the zodiac. See
also: M. Baer, ‘On the Atonement of Penitents in the Literature of the Sages’, Montana, GA
 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
R. Yehuda Hadassi, Eshkol Hakofer, Goslaw 1836 (reprint:
S. Lieberman, Yemenite Midrashim, 2nd edition,
For the issue of internal censorship, which has
received little research attention, see: H. L. Strack and G. Stemberger, Introduction
to the Talmud and Midrash, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992, p. 226.
 From a collection of homilies about Moses and
his death: A. M. Haberman, Helkat Mehokek (The Portion of the Lawgiver),
R. Yehuda Hadassi’s addition of Moses turning to the ‘
point of the passage deals with the death of Moses, who asks the Lord not to
turn him over to the angel of death. However,
'Samael, the angel of death, did not know that Moses servant of the Lord
had died and he was hidden under the Seat of His Glory, and he went to his
place, sought him, and did not find him. He went to the ocean and said: Ocean,
is Moses seen in you? He replied: You world-class fool, from the day he cut me
in twelve sections and brought Israel across, I have not seen him... He went to Gehenna and said: is Moses seen in
you?… he went to Sheol and hopelessness
... he went to deserts... he went to
mountains... he went to Mt. Sinai... he went to birds ... he went to the
animals in the field... he went to Hatzar Maveth (courtyard of death)... he
went to the ministering angels’, etc. In other words, the passage appears to be
the conceptual continuation of the legend in which Moses turns to those
'mediating' factors. 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 Exodus from
 I. Epstein, The Babylonian
Talmud: Seder Kodashim,
The Soncino Press, 1948, 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 powers.
 J. Neusner, The Tosefta: Translated from the Hebrew,
Fifth Division, Qodoshim,
See: J. Faur Halevi, Studies in the Rambam's Mishne Torah,
 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
; S. A.
Wertheimer, Betei Midrashot, Jerusalem, l980, I, p. 26 [P. Schaefer, Synopse
zur Hekhalot-Literatur, Tubingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1981, p. 76, paragraph 849] ; Bereshit
Rabbati, Ch. Albeck edition, Jerusalem 1967, p. 35.
correct, but it is likely that an error has crept in and it
should read: ‘continues to circumcise <or continues to slaughter>
until his soul expires’.
See: Sefer Harazim (Book of Secrets), M. Margaliot edition,
See: N. H. Baynes, ‘The Icons before Iconoclasm’, HTR, XLIV (1951), pp.
(see there on the tearing of a curtain with a
picture in a fourth century Christian church).
This version of the prayer is unusual in two
respects: the mention of angels and the designation of God as the 'Gods of
Israel'. However these two aspects are retained in the invocation (of a group
of at least three) for grace after meals according to the text in M Ber 7:3, a
version already discarded by the time of the Tannaim
 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’, Tarbiz, 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.
Translation: I.Epstein (supra n. 38), pp. 215-216.
 BT BB 116a; translation: I. Epstein (supra n. 19), vol II, p. 478.
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].
Although this law appears to relate to our subject,
closer examination reveals otherwise. The fact that the law deals with his
‘companion’ indicates that the person praying has equal status to the one the
prayer is designed to help. It is therefore not the prayer of a dominant or
charismatic individual, but rather an example of a shared destiny between
friends. Furthermore, omission of the name of the person in need of help
reflects the restriction of the magical element, and hence this is not an
example of the concept of intervention.
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,
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
, saying: ‘My father David My father David My
father David, see your shame and the shame of your daughter: go before the Seat
of the Glory of the Almighty and ask for mercy for me before the Lord of Hosts
to help me with His help’. In other words, King David served as 'intermediary'
between the one needing help - in this instance, his daughter - and God, much
as Joshua bin Nun intervened between Moses and the Lord. The expression 'before
the Seat of His Glory' appears in rabbinical prayer (in the blessing 'Who
fashioned man' and in the 'Remembrances'
of Rosh Hashana), but the text reflects an additional, non-rabbinic influence.
For more on this text, see:
GA: Scholars Press, 1998, pp. 93-94.
T. J. Lewis, Cults of the Dead in Ancient
 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 with God.
BT Taan 16a: ‘Why do people visit a cemetery? R. Levi bar
Modern researchers disagree in such cases as to
the identification of the respective speakers. This would appear to be an
example of chiastic notation, that is, it is R. Levi bar Hama who believes the
dead plead for mercy.
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,
sources should be consulted for a complete picture and textual analysis
 Lam. Rabba, Pesikta, 24, S. Buber edition, pp. 24-25; Eicha Zuta, p. 64.
Genesis Rabbah (translated by J. Neusner),
The translator added here in a footnote: ‘I.e., transfer my bones to Machpelah
Pesikta Rabbati (translated by William G. Braude),
D. Goldschmidt, ed., Order of Elegies for the Ninth of Ab: Polish Rite,
S. Assaf, ‘Ancient Prayers on the Grave of the Prophet Samuel’,