Yom Kippur : Learning From Angels

I just got back from my “Mikvah Run” and had the opportunity to listen to Rav Shlomo Brevda.  He told over an interesting story that I don’t remember hearing before.  A few hundred years ago, the Vilna Gaon called over his main disciple, Rav Chaim Volozhin, and told him to go to his brother with a message.  “Tell him that in a few days, he will be visited by a malach (angel), who will reveal to him secrets of the Torah.  Tell him not to accept this malach and not to see him."


Rav Chaim Volozhin was a bit taken back.  After all, it’s not every day, and certainly not everyone, that receives such a visit!  He asked the Vilna Gaon for his reasoning.  After all, didn’t the Beis Yosef (author of the Shulchan Oruch) regularly receive visits from a malach?  The Vilna Gaon cited two differences.  The first was that the Beis Yosef lived several hundred years earlier, where there was a lot less “sin in the air.”  And the second was that the Beis Yosef lived in Eretz Yisroel, where the air has more holiness.


He continued and explained that when a malach comes down to this world, the “klippos” (it’s hard to translate, but let’s just say "specks of impurity") will attach themselves to this malach, and will even come to pervert the malach and its teachings.  Therefore, it would be dangerous to learn from this malach in such an environment.


Rav Brevda took this story to explain the greatness of Bnei Torah.  We are living in a world far more spiritually polluted than that of the Vilna Gaon.  We are living in a world that will take something so spiritually pure and make it impure.  Yet, a Ben Torah takes himself, which is naturally impure and physical, and works on growing in Torah and mitzvos, which in turn purifies himself.


What gives Hashem more "nachas"?  The pure angel that can easily become impure or the impure person who slowly but surely purifies himself?  One should never let himself get depressed over his spiritual station in life.  He should remind himself of what type of world he is living in, and that he has the power to move beyond it, that every step upwards proves that he is greater than a malach itself.


Have a wonderful Shabbos and Yom Kippur!


Michael Winner