The upstairs ceiling was quite high, and I needed to balance with one foot on the railing of the stairs, leaning away from the ladder as I installed a toggle bolt for the fan. I wanted to be certain that the bolt would hold the heavy fan, so I tested it by hanging from it with my ft1ll weight, not considering what might happen if, in fact, the bolt did not hold me. Even to this day I remember a clear warning somewhere in the depths of my consciousness. I heard it, and ignored it. (We will see in the upcoming story of Balaam how easy it is to be blind to obvious signals.)
The primary building materials in the Old City are stone, marble, iron, and plaster. As the bolt broke loose from the plastered ceiling, I felt myself toppling over, about to fall headfirst to the bottom of the marble stairs. My instinct was to reach back for the rail or ladder as the weight of my body was falling in the opposite direction. In that instant, a voice distinctly cried out: “You must jump for the middle of the stairwell!”
It was counterintuitive to jump, but within a split second I realized that it was now or never; I only had a toehold left. So I jumped. I was able to land halfway down the stairs on one foot instead of falling out of control the full distance, which almost certainly would have resulted in a major injury. Instead, only my heel was crushed—broken into a few dozen pieces.
The moment I hit the uncarpeted marble floor, I knew something was wrong with my foot. But at that same instant I had the most enormous wave of relief wash over me. I was alive and not crippled! Except for the foot, I felt fine. It could have been far more serious. I found myself feeling the deepest sense of gratitude, almost euphoria, for the rest of that evening—despite the trip to the hospital, the pain, and the slow response of the physicians.
In that state of mind, throughout the evening I felt and knew clearly the surrounding and protective forces that people call angels. This was the first time I truly experienced an extraordinary, palpable sense of Presence, and I have returned to that experience many times over the years. It was not a visual experience of beings with wings, but rather a profound knowing that transcends the intellect.
Do We Need Special Glasses to See Spiritual Beings?
Mystics over the ages have attempted to describe this feeling, but it defies words. Let me simply say that most of us have experienced the excitement and joy of anticipation when we are about to meet a beloved person, and most of us have experienced the deep pleasure at certain times when our beloved is sitting next to us. These experiences are similarly impossible to convey fully with words. The palpable sense of Presence is like the profound joy and pleasure of being held in the arms of a beloved; it elicits a peace of mind that transcends description.
My studies in Jerusalem often brought me in touch with realities beyond the ordinary mundane world, It is as if I put on glasses tinted with a certain hue, and everything is seen in that new way. With special glasses in place in the spiritual realm, the world fills up with angels of all types, shapes, sizes, and energies. They are part of daily prayers, they show up in many of the biblical texts, they fill the commentaries on the texts, and they can be seen in virtually every act that is performed.
When my mother died, a few years before the stairwell incident, my older brother called to tell me the news. On the flight to California from Israel, I gazed out of the window and experienced not simply clouds and sky, but myriads of angels and my mother’s spirit dancing everywhere I looked. She danced happily, finally released. This was an amazing experience. I am certain that had I not been studying biblical commentaries for years, it would have been unlikely to have had that experience on the way to my mother’s funeral. Yet seeing Mom dancing with angels opened my heart. While I grieved the loss, I was happy for her; she was now free. This is one important way that learning to invoke angels can be of enormous value when difficult or tragic situations arise.