Ki Tisa by Rabbi David Hartley Mark

D'var Torah Ki Tisa

KeeTeesa: Metatron, Prince of Angels


“Go now, lead the people where I told you. See, My angel shall go before you.”

–God, speaking to Moses (Ex. 32:34)


Welcome, Stranger! I rejoice that your powers of creativity and imagination have enabled you to ascend and enter among us heavenly-folk. It is all very well to attempt interpretation—rabbis and scholars have done that for centuries—but to interview me; well, that’s a cherub of a different complexion, as we angel-folk say.

I? I am none other than Metatron, who stands next to the Divine Throne. I am Prince of All Angels, second only to God Himself. Some call me the Recorder of Heaven; others, the Measurer, for I appear in Kabbalistic texts as the one who measures God’s size (Yes, I do, obscure though it may seem.). I myself prefer the title of Chancellor of Heaven—we are a hierarchy of royalty, you know.

Do I advise God? Well, perhaps as nothing more than a sounding board—one cannot tell the Sovereign of the Universe to perfect His will or change His mind, except, perhaps, Moses, who persuaded God not to destroy the Israelites and create a new Jewish people from him—Moses, that is. I wonder, however, what might have happened had Moses accepted my leadership, allowing the LORD GOD to remain in heaven. I believe it would have made a significant difference.

Why? Well, to begin, I am an angel, not Almighty God. Perhaps Moses, Joshua, Caleb, and the Elders might have evolved a sort of—parliament of advisers, who discussed and evolved Judaism, rather than pass along Divine Laws by fiat. I believe, if you press me, that God intended precisely that, when He offered my services as Celestial Israelite Leader. Judaism might have turned out altogether differently….

Democracy? Well, to speak truth, why not? We—Moses and I—might have developed a sort of Judaism that made more sense—not in the notion of godless ethics mixed with a dollop of secularism; I am divine, after all—but rather a faith that strove to be more equitable, treating both the Israelite woman and the Canaanite slave more agreeably. As it is, your faith—that is, ours—are far too tilted toward the men, as well as containing a plethora of chukim, those unreasoning, unexplained laws which assure Israel’s particularly unique tribalism, but also include a large degree of chauvinism and supernatural obscuration.

The plagues following the Golden Calf, for example; what was the point? One does not beat an ox for eating the corn it is plodding about the millwheel to grind. One would have to be a total dunce not to realize that the statue was meant for God to ride in a Baal-like fashion, and that the Israelites were not worshiping it. Yes, well, there was a mixed multitude of Egyptians who escaped from Egypt—Pharaoh was conducting his own Mariel Boatlift, opening his prisons and lunatic asylums, thereby expelling all of his troublemakers along with the Israelites—but I—that is, we—would have figured out some way to include them among the Israelites, rather than blame them for every sin and shortcoming.

Is this apikorsus or heresy, you ask? Well, I am an angel, not some earthly theologian, let alone a rabbi. (That would be the height of chutzpah and absurdity, to make an angel a rabbi, not to mention a rabbi an angel. Begging your pardon: I think not.). My purpose here is to smooth the ruts in the road of your ancestors, allowing them to blend into the world better.

What’s that? You tell me that you like, even enjoy, those unreasoning laws of your faith? Well, forgive me—though only God can do that—I thought only, as the assigned Protector of Israel, to offer some suggestions regarding Judaism. I believe we can agree about how complex it is—your Sabbath alone has thirty-nine forbidden Acts of Labor, not to mention the subdivisions and corollaries connected to them. It is, to be blunt, difficult to observe properly.

You tell me that, if all Israel observed two Sabbaths in a row properly, Messiah would come? Well, obviously that has not yet happened. I am not surprised, and I have seen a great deal more than you have.

I see that we are done speaking, Mortal. I will vanish behind the Pargod, the Divine Curtain which foretells the future. Yes, God has inspired me to be aware of all that will transpire in the coming years, to Israel and to other nations, as well. You wish some hint of it? Let me respond by ending with a fragment of prophetic poem—you mortals seem very fond of them:

The World turns and the World changes,

But one thing does not change…

However you disguise it, this thing does not change:

The perpetual struggle of Good and Evil.

Forgetful, you neglect your shrines and temples;

The people you are in these times deride

What has been done of good, you find explanations

To satisfy the enlightened, self-satisfied mind.

Second, you neglect and belittle the jungle.

The jungle is not remote in southern tropics,

The jungle is not only around in the corner,

The jungle rides in the subway with you,

The jungle is in the heart of your brother.


I say unto you, if you can’t love your brother,

Then, in God’s Name, at least learn to respect him.

When you do what is good, be prepared to be unloved,

But (again, for God’s sake) only strive to be human.

–Adapted from T.S. Eliot, “Choruses from ‘The Rock’” (1934)

Rabbi David Hartley Mark is from New York City’s Lower East Side. He attended Yeshiva University, the City University of NY Graduate Center for English Literature, and received semicha at the Academy for Jewish Religion. He currently teaches English at Everglades University in Boca Raton, FL, and has a Shabbat pulpit at Temple Sholom of Pompano Beach. His literary tastes run to Isaac Bashevis Singer, Stephen King, King David, Kohelet, Christopher Marlowe, and the Harlem Renaissance.

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