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.
When the Archangel Raphael Saved My Brother
A couple of months after breaking my heel, I got a call from my niece that my older brother had a nearly fatal heart attack. My niece is a physician, and she told me on the phone that he had about a one-in-ten chance of surviving. I caught the next plane out for New York and got to Syracuse as quickly as I could. On the way, I found myself doing a traditional archangel meditation, surrounding myself with the archangels: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Uriel. My oldest brother’s name is Ralph, and Raphael, as will be seen, is the archangel of healing.
I arrived at his bedside in the cardiac unit and saw all the tubes running in and out of his body. He could not speak because the machines were helping him breathe, but his recognition and his smile as I entered the room were priceless. When I got there, he demanded that the tube in his throat be removed, even though the risk was high. As they pulled the tube, I was in communion with the angel Raphael.
My brother survived and continues to do well fifteen years later. I do not talk to Ralph about the angel Raphael, for my brother does not want to hear about such things. His world, like that of so many, is not inhabited by angels; even the word makes him cringe. So what? My invoking Raphael was as much for me as it was for Ralph.
I do not claim that my connection with this archangel was the cause for my brother’s survival, yet I felt that both of us were “helped!’ I gained strength and conviction, and nobody knows to what extent this kind of conscious support and prayer for healing is useful. Still, faced with the choice between feeling entirely helpless, or using the tools of angelic imagery and prayer, I am drawn to calling upon a mysterious force of healing in which I find relief and comfort.
I have found that the archangel prayer is one of the most powerful ways to cultivate a kind of intimacy with the angelic realm. Its extraordinary power has been revealed to me time and again as I assist people in my role as a rabbi in situations of great stress, especially in times of illness or serious accidents or when I work with someone who is dying.
'The Archangel Meditation Is Universal'
She began immediately, talking and singing this guided meditation and prayer, despite the fact that her son was in a coma. She did this for days, virtually nonstop, except to sleep occasionally. When he finally came out of the coma, her son knew the words and melody of the prayer by heart; moreover, he reported visualizations of light-filled beings that he had experienced while unconscious. To this day, my friend is certain that archangels were invoked, and they saved her son.
In a story like this most of us focus on the healing power of the angels. I would like to draw attention to the fact that this mother put her heart and soul into the experience of invoking angel, which is a process that must not be ignored; it was clearly for her a vital part of the healing that took place. Moreover, the prayers offered her a refuge in which she could participate and find some solace during those anxious days while the boy was in a coma. Healing can occur on many levels in the practice of invoking angels.