I don't believe that there should be mediators (like Christians believe Jesus is a mediator between God and man whom they pray to and/or pray through) between us and God, but is there anywhere in the Hebrew Bible where this subject is alluded to?


I once typed up something about angels in prayer, so I'll use it here, since it's very relevant (I've translated the Hebrew):

מהר"ל, נתיבות עולם, נתיב העבודה פי"ב: ומזה משמע שיתפלל אל הש"י שלא יהיה לו צרים אבל שיתפלל ולומר למלאכים אל תהיו צרים לי זה אין ראוי רק שזה יהיה דרך תפילה אל הש"י. אבל אנו נוהגים לומר מכניסי רחמים הכניסו רחמינו לפני בעל הרחמים וגו' ואין זה ראוי כי דבר זה כאילו הוא מתפלל אל מלאכים שיכניסו רחמינו ולא מצאנו זה. ... וי"ל שמה שאנו אומרים מכניסי רחמים הכניסו וכו' אין זה בקשה כלל רק שהאדם מצוה כך למלאכים שהם מכניסים התפילה להכניס התפילה לפני הש"י ויש כח לאדם לצוות למלאכים שהם ממונים על זה שיביאו תפילתו לפני הש"י. ועם כל זה הוא דבר שאין ראוי רק שיהיה מכניסי רחמים תפילה על דרך שאמרו ז"ל שיתפלל האדם שיהיו הכל מאמצים את כחו ולא יהיה לו צרים ויהיה מתפלל אצל הש"י ע"ז ולכך מה שמבקש מכניסי רחמים הוא תפילתו אל הש"י כי מכניסי רחמים יכניסו רחמינו. ולפ"ז ראוי להגיה מכניסי רחמים יכניסו רחמינו משמיעי תפילה ישמיעו תפילתנו מכניסי דמעה יכניסו דמעותינו ... אבל שיאמר מכניסי רחמים הכניסו רחמינו בתפילה זה אין לומר כלל רק יאמר מכניסי רחמים יכניסו רחמינו וכו'.

Maharal, Nesivos Olam, Nesiv HaAvodah ch. 12: ... This implies that he should pray to G-d that he not have any distressing occurrences. However, to pray "Angels, don't distress me," is not proper, unless it's done in the manner of prayer to G-d. But we have the custom to say [in Slichos] "[Angels] who bring our prayers of mercy [to G-d], bring in our prayers of mercy before the master of mercy"* etc., and it isn't proper, because it's like praying to angels to bring prayers of mercy before G-d, and we find no source validating this. ... However, there is room to defend [the prayer], that when we say "[Angels] who bring our prayers for mercy" etc. is not at all a request, just that the person is saying to the angels who bring in prayers of mercy to bring the prayer for mercy to G-d, and a person has the power to command angels to do this [and he is commanding, not requesting from them, and therefore there is no problem because he isn't praying to angels]. Nevertheless, it is not proper to say "[Angels] who bring in our prayers for mercy" as anything other than a prayer, like our rabbis said that a person should pray that everyone strengthen him and that he not have enemies or distressors and pray to G-d concerning this [which strongly suggests this prayer is meant as a request to the angels]. Therefore, what he requests in "[Angels] who bring in our prayers for mercy" is a prayer to G-d that the angels who bring in prayers for mercy should bring in the prayers for mercy. According to this, it is more correct to edit the prayer to say "[Angels] who bring in our prayers for mercy will bring in our prayer for mercy, those who cause prayer to be heard will make our prayer heard, those who bring in tears will bring in tears." ... But to say "[Angels] who bring in prayers for mercy, bring in our prayers for mercy mercy" in prayer shouldn't be said at all; only "[Angels] who bring in prayers for mercy will bring in our prayers for mercy," etc.

*The full text is "Angels who bring in prayers for mercy, bring in our prayers for mercy in front of the master of mercy. Angels who cause prayers to be heard, bring in our prayers before ... and so on.

שו"ת חתם סופר ח"א סי' קס"ו: תמה על הגאון מהר"ל מפראג בספר נתיבות עולם נתיב עבודה פי"ב שמיאן לומר פיוט מכניסי רחמים שאין לנו עם המלאכים כלום כ"א ה' אלקינו שומע קול תפילות ... הרי כל הספרים מלאים ותלך לדרוש את ה' להתפלל כמ"ש הרמב"ם עה"ת ואין צורך להאריך תמיהתי הלא הגאון הנ"ל נשמר מזה באותו הפרק תוך כ"ד. ויען כי דבריו סתומים קצת ע"כ אפרש כי דרך להעמיד מליץ בין מלך להדיוט כשאין ההדיוט חשוב וסגול לפני המלך או אינו יכול להטעים דבריו כראוי. ויען ישראל ואינם צריכים מליץ לפני אוהבם ית"ש והוא מתקבל בסבר פנים יפות אפי' בלשון עלגים וגמגום א"כ המליץ הלז אינו אלא קטנות אמונה חלילה ... ולדברי הגאון הנ"ל גם פזמון מלאכי רחמים וסליחה י"ג מדות האמורות בחנינה יש למנוע.

Shu"t Chasam Sofer [1:162] (which I quoted also in this answer: I am surprised at the genius Maharal MiPrag [above] in the work Nesivos Olam, Nesiv HaAvodah ch. 12, who refused to say the prayer "[Angels] who bring in prayers for mercy," because we have nothing with the angels, only G-d, Who hears the voice of our prayers: ... All the books are full of "And she went to seek out G-d," to pray, like the Rambam says on the Torah [?]. There is no need to speak at length about how surprised I am, because that same genius writes this in the same chapter at a distance of the amount of time it takes to say a few words! Since his words are slightly hard to understand, I will therefore explain it this way: It's the ordinary way to have an intermediary between a king and an ordinary person when the ordinary person isn't important compared to the king, or if the ordinary person can't express his words properly. Since Israel don't need an interpreter between them and G-d Who loves them, and He accepts graciously even gibberish from them, then the intermediary between them displays only that they have little faith, G-d forbid. ... According to the words of the aforementioned genius, we should also have to omit the prayers "Angels of mercy" and the slichah that contains the thirteen attributes [i.e. "ezerah elokim ve'ehemayah..."].

פתחי תשובה או"ח סי' תקפא ס"א: ובתשובות שמש צדקה (סי' כ"ג וכ"ד) מביא מלשון רש"י בסוטה דיחיד צריך שיסעייהו מלאכי השרת, הרי שאין בזה חשש איסור ... ובתשובות מהר"י מברונא (סי' ער"ה) מה שאנו אומרים מכניסי רחמים ומלאכי רחמים דאין לחוש כלל שאין זה דרך אמצעי רק דרך שפלות שהוא בוש בדבר לקרב אל המלך.

Pischei Teshuvah (Isserlein) to Orach Chayim 581:1: In the responsa Shemesh Tzedakah (#23-24) he brings the language of Rashi in Sotah that an individual requires the help of the angels, which implies that there is no prohibition involved [in requesting help from them]. ... And in the responsa of Mahari Bruna #275 he says that we have no reason to have any negative feelings at all about what we say "[Angels] who bring in prayers" and "Angels of mercy," because this isn't a request in the way of an intermediary, only humility, that he is embarrassed to approach the king [G-d].

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    Thank you. Does praying to intercessors fall under the commandments against idolatry or worshipping foreign gods? – Malka S Oct 23 '12 at 8:57
  • @MahaliaSamuels As far as I know, those are both part of the same prohibition (though things like creating an idol and worshiping an idol are different prohibitions) – b a Oct 23 '12 at 14:15

There are levels in our connection with Hashem.

The prophets during all ages acted as such. Though - all of Israel are encouraged to reach that level (of prophecy) themselves. Still, when Hashem wanted to say something, it was through prophets. In the Torah we find it the other way too - Am Yisrael asks Moshe to speak to Hashem for them.

There is an example of a non-prophet speaking directly to Hashem. In Shmuel, however, we see Channa praying - speaking to Hashem herself. Still, her answer came from Eli - a prophet, not directly to her.

Kohanim as well, were assigned to the work in the mikdash. Holy work bringing us closer to Hashem - but only a kohen could be the one who brings a sacrifice to the mizbeach.

And, of course, the kohen gadol is the only one who can do the Yom Kippur avoda for us.

  • Hanna's answer came from Eli? Eli spoke to her, and subsequently blessed her, but her "answer" came when she fell pregnant. I don't think he was responsible for that! – Shimon bM Oct 21 '12 at 1:59
  • He said יתן ה' את שילתך which chazal say was a prophecy that her wish would come true. – JNF Oct 21 '12 at 6:00

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