All about Sarah
Let us examine the names of the angels in context of their mission: Micha’el came to give Sarah the news of Isaac’s upcoming birth; Gavri’el came to destroy Sodom; and, Repha’el came to heal Abraham. Taking the sum of the angels’ names with the objects of their mission, we get that:
מיכאל שרה ┴ גבריאל סדם ┴ רפאל אברהם = 1515 = שרה שרה שרה
Meaning that Micha’el plus Sarah plus Gavri’el plus Sodom plus Repha’el plus Abraham = 1515, which is three times Sarah. Thus, the average value of each of the angels and the name of the object of his mission is Sarah! This places Sarah clearly as the center of everything that happens in our parshah.
Now, the numerical value of Sarah (שרה ) is 505, which is 5 times the numerical value of Micha’el (מיכאל ):
שרה = 5 · מיכאל , or 5 · 101
Therefore, it follows that 1515 = 15 · מיכאל , or 15 times Micha’el.
We have previously noted that Micha’el (מיכאל ), whose numerical value is equal to 101, is considered the angelic minister of the Jewish people, Israel. The numerical value of Israel,ישראל is 541. Amazingly, the 101st prime number is 541!
It is interesting to note that the name “Isra’el” follows the common naming of an angel (that ends with “el”). Indeed, Jacob received the name Israel only after having defeated Esau’s angel,1 “Because you have wrestled with angels and men and you have overcome.” Jacob’s ability to overcome Esau’s angel came by his including the strength of Gavri’el, who manifest the power of the sefirah of might. After the sun rose, Jacob was healed by the power manifest in the angel Repha’el.
The name “Israel” stems from the root meaning “to overcome” or “to minister” as does the name “Sarah.” The numerical value of “Israel” (ישראל ) is 541, which is also the sum of “Sarah” (שרה ) and “Leah” (לאה , the mother of Jacob’s six children, as explained in an earlier teaching): ישראל = שרה לאה .
Since “Sarah” is equal to 5 times “Micha’el,” this means that the difference between “Israel” (in this case referring to Jacob) and his wife “Leah” is 5 times “Micha’el.” Jacob’s other wife, and Leah’s sister was Rachel, whose numerical value is 238. Amazingly, the difference between “Israel” and “Rachel” is also a multiple of “Micha’el”: ישראל = רחל ┴ 3 · מיכאל ! This follows from the fact that the difference between Rachel (238) and Leah (36) is 2 times Micha’el (202). That Micha’el figures into the relationship between Jacob and both of his wives who are matriarchs suggests that as the ministering angel of the Jewish people, and the angel corresponding to the power of loving-kindness, Micha’el plays a role in establishing and elevating these relationships.
Micha’el and the individual
Now that we have seen a few examples of Micha’el’s role at the national level of the Jewish people, let us focus on his role for every individual. In respect to our devotional service of the Almighty, Micha’el appears as the power entailed by our love for God that can break us free of our so-called comfort zone. Recall that the value of his name is 101. Let us quote from theTanya,2 the foundational work of devotional service and the basis of Chassidic teachings:
The Talmud writes that “he who serves God”3 refers to one who reviews what he had studied 101 times, while “he who serves Him not”4 refers to one who reviews his studies only 100 times. This is so because in the Talmudic days, it was normal to review each lesson one hundred times.
The Talmud illustrates this by drawing an analogy with a market of the donkey drivers. The drivers would charge one coin for every ten miles that they would have to cover, but demanded two coins for driving 11 miles because driving an additional eleventh mile deviated from their standard [which was for driving 10 miles]. Likewise, the 101st review of one’s studies, which illustrates a commitment to study that is beyond the normal practice to which the student has been accustomed since his childhood [his “comfort zone”], is itself equivalent to all the 100 repetitions already performed, combined.
In fact, the 101st review’s quality surpasses the first 100 times in its greater strength and power. Therefore, it is only this one extra review that entitles the student to be called “he who serves God.” For in order to change his natural habits the student must arouse love for God, by meditating on God’s greatness in his mind; this meditation makes it possible to control the habitual aspect [of one’s character] that resides [symbolically] in the left chamber of the heart, the seat of the animal soul, which is full of the blood of the animal soul whose source is in the kelipah, the source of these types of habits. This is considered impeccable service for a Beinoni [one who is not a tzadik].
An alternate type of service for a Beinoni is to awaken the natural love for God that is inherently found hidden in the [right chamber of the] heart, thereby overpowering the natural habits that are in the left chamber of the heart. This too—struggling against one’s natural habits and inclination by arousing one’s natural love [for God]—is deemed serving God.
If, however, one does not struggle at all with one’s habits, [the existence of] this type of love [the natural love of God that lies dormant in the heart] cannot be credited to his service of God. [Therefore he is described as “he who serves Him not.”]
Thus, it is the angel Micha’el who represents the power to break out of one’s inbred habits in search of growing closer to the Almighty. Note that the Tanya describes two such methods for freeing one’s self and going beyond one’s comfort zone: 1) by meditating on God’s greatness and thereby arousing new-born love for God, 2) by awakening one’s natural love for God.
Torah meditation requires intellectual effort and a struggle against the opaqueness of our mind (the study of Torah clarifies one’s thought—without investing and immersing oneself in Torah, the mind remains an unpolished lens, unable to truly understand the Divine). Thus the first method is related to the World of Creation, which corresponds to the intellectual processes of the psyche.
The second method requires us to awaken our natural, inborn love for God, in order to struggle against our habits. Habits are formations in the psyche—they grow steadily and surely as time passes, just as stalagmites grow in a cave, eventually creating an emotional impasse that one cannot even venture to cross. This type of struggle is in its essence an emotional one and thus occurs at the level of the World of Formation, which encompasses the psyche’s emotional faculties (from loving-kindness to foundation).
Of course, one who has not awakened even the soul’s innate love of God is called “one who serves Him not.” It may be that such an individual performs many acts of goodness and commandments of the Torah out of habit, but without the struggle to advance in one’s level of action and observance, there is no service of God, only good habits. This is the level of the World of Action, which is void of any emotional or intellectual spirit.
What this reveals is that the angel Micha’el, the angel of revealed love for God, appears in two distinct manners, intellectual and emotional. These are the aspects of Micha’el in the World of Creation and in the World of Formation. Multiplying the value of Micha’el by 2, we get the Hebrew word for “master”: מיכאל מיכאל = רב , alluding to his symbolic capacity as the power to escape one’s habits and push forward. In the Bible, the word “master” appears as part of two word idiom “master and commander”5 referring to the powerful sovereignty of a king. The numerical value of “master and commander” is 557, the same as the value of “Gavri’el” and “Repha’el” together: רב ושליט = גבריאל רפאל , indicating that Gavri’el and Repha’el have been included within Micha’el in order to provide the Divine soul with sovereignty over the animal soul.
Micha’el and the Mashiach
In the passage quoted from the Tanya, the normal habit referred to corresponds to the spiritual level of the World of Action—activity without emotional or intellectual struggle. In Talmudic times the consummate perfection of the World of Action was represented by the number 100. 100 is also the gematria of “Michal” (מיכל ) King Saul’s daughter and King David’s first wife who in the future is destined to give birth to the Mashiach, the son of David. It is David’s task to awaken in Michal the letter alef (א ), which will then transform her name to that of the angel Micha’el, the minister of the Jewish people, the angel of love, whose ultimate task (as the High Priest of the spiritual Temple) it is to elevate the souls of the Jewish people from the World of Creation to the World of Emanation, thereby revealing their inherent nature as tzadikim. Transcending from Creation to Emanation can be understood as adding self-nullification to the individual, regardless of how much intellectual knowledge of the Torah he or she has. Without self-nullification (bitul, in Hebrew), one cannot become one with the Almighty, nor can one truly fulfill one’s mission in life.
Micha’el, the message of fraternal love
In the Song of Songs there is a beautiful allusion to this transformation of Michal into Micha’el. The words “If only you were like a brother to me….”6 In Hebrew, the initials of these words spells Michal: מי יתנך כאח לי , in order. But, the כ in כאח is a relational כ , meaning “like.” The word itself is אח , meaning “brother,” whose initial is א . So, we have also the name Micha’el alluded to: מי יתנך כאח לי , also in order. From this analysis we learn that the special power of the angel Micha’el is to instill a feeling of fraternity between the supernal groom and bride—the Almighty and the Congregation of Israel.
This is a beautiful example of the aspect of loving-kindness that the angel Micha’el can add to a relationship. Indeed, we can now say that it was indeed thanks to the fraternal bond and love between Abraham and Sarah that made it possible for the angel Micha’el to come and give Sarah the news of Isaac’s impending birth. It was Abraham who told Sarah, “Say that you are my sister,”7 which the sages say was not a falsehood, for she was indeed his niece and as such their love also included the fraternal love (the most idealized form of love, as explained elsewhere) between brother and sister.8
Yehoyada and Yehosheva
Apart from the letters that spell Micha’el in this phrase, the numerical value of the rest of the letters י תנך ח י is 498 also the numerical value of Yehoyada (the High Priest) and his wife Yehosheva, יהוידע יהושבע . As a couple, they represent the consummate rectified brotherly love in the Bible. Together they were able to save the boy Yo’ash, an offspring of the House of David, and to have him appointed rightful King of the nation.9 In the Midrash,10 Rabbi Nechemyah connects Yehoyada and Yehosheva with the verse: “Two [together] are better than one… and the triple cord will not soon be broken,”11 which can also mean that the two (Yehoyada and his wife, Yehosheva) are together because of the one (אחד , in Hebrew)—i.e., their fraternal love. As explained elsewhere, in the Bible the word “one” is also written as “brother” (אח ).12
The Midrash writes that Yehoyada and Yehosheva’s marital bond gives birth to the Mashiach.13 What their names share in common are the first three letters of God’s essential Name, Havayah יהו , the third partner in “the triple cord that will not soon be broken.” Indeed, יהו יהו is equal to אהיה (אשר) אהיה , “I will be that which I will be,” the Name of God that represents the power “to become,“ i.e., to give birth (and redeem). The final three letters in their two names, ידע and שבע together equal 456, the value of “Jacob,” “Rachel,” and “Leah” יעקב לאה רחל .
498, the value of Yehoyada and Yehosheva, is also the numerical value of the complete spiritual family, “father, mother, son, daughter” אב אם בן בת , which corresponds to the four letters of God’s essential Name, Havayah.14 498 is also the numerical value of the four basic categories of beings in Talmudic taxonomy (which also correspond to the four letters of God’s essential Name, Havayah): speaking (man), living (animal), growing (vegetable), and silent (inanimate), מדבר חי צומח דומם , over which the angel Micha’el, as described above, has sovereignty.
As hinted above, Michal, David’s first wife was destined to give birth to his son who would become the Mashiach. Above we connected “Michal” with the phrase “If only you were like a brother to me….” Clearly, this suggests that Michal yearned for her husband King David to experience the fraternal love that Abraham and Sarah had—a love that is essential for the birth of Mashiach. When we add the value of the entire phrase whose initials spell “Michal” (מיכל ) to “David” (דוד ) we find that together they equal 613, the full number of commandments in the Torah and the numerical value of “Moshe Rabbeinu,” whose soul will be the soul of the Mashiach: מי יתנך כאח לי ┴ דוד = משה רבינו !
1. Genesis 32:29.
2. End of chapter 15.
3. Malachi 3:18.
5. Daniel 2:10.
6. Song of Songs 8:1.
7. Genesis 12:13.
8. For a more complete discussion of the topic of fraternal love in marriage seeConsciousness & Choice, pp. 82-3 and pp. 168-174. See also What You Need to Know About Kabbalah, pp. 107-9.
9. See II Kings chapter 11 and II Chronicles 22:10 ff.
10. Kohelet Rabbah 4:8.
11. Ecclesiastes 4:9-13.
12. Ezekiel 18:10. See Consciousness & Choice, p. 172.
13. See Yalkut Shimoni to II Samuel 161.
14. See What You Need to Know About Kabbalah, p. 129-131.