One of the benefits of communal prayer is the ability to say K'dusha in the repetition of the Amidah. We also say "Kadosh, Kadosh, Kadosh" (Is 6) as a preparatory component of Shma, and in U'Va L'Zion (sorry, no hebrew keyboard).

If we posit that angels do not have free will (or at best, the ability to make judgement calls on how to fulfill their purpose), then how are our references to their praise of HaShem interpreted by HaShem. It would seem that we are taking a step backwards, and not evidencing our free will to perform Avodah Sh'balev. Does placing the emphasis on their Avodah somehow imply that we should aspire to their form of worship, which does not seem to be given freely?

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The Gemara in Chulin 91b:

ואין מה"ש אומרים שירה למעלה עד שיאמרו ישראל למטה

Meaning: The ministering angels do not sing to Hashem above until Israel does so below.

The Avudarham in his commentary to Kedusha and the Nefesh HaChaim in Sha'ar Aleph Ch. 6 in a gloss both understand this to be referring to our saying Kedusha. The Avudarham says that we say כשם שמקדישים, "like they [the angels] do" in order to not use Kedusha as a means of glorifying ourselves, even though really we are first and primary. Nefesh HaChaim (seemingly) takes it to refer to the nature of their Kedusha being immediately after ours, enough to be called "at the same time."

This is also why we say נקדש - let us be mekadesh. Rabbeinu Yehuda Ben Yakar explains that in Yotzer and Uva Letzion we are just telling over what the angels do. But here in Shemoneh Esrei is נקדש, let us be mekadesh. We may be borrowing the terms used by the angels, but it is our Kedusha.

Therefore, it seems, that we are not copying the angels - we are at least saying our own praise, and possibly they are even copying us.

  • I would agree with you, except that we only have the text based on what Is. saw and heard, so that we are still really copying them!
    – cmose
    Feb 23, 2014 at 22:57
  • @cmose The gemara in Chulin that I cited derives from verses that they are copying us. So if you want to trust the text, the text says they follow us. Feb 23, 2014 at 23:59

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