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I read in Something To Say on page 31, the following:

Rabbi Nosson Finkel of Slobodkah once chided a student for being chronically late to the morning prayers

"Rebbi," the student defended himself, "I'm only human. After all, people are not angels."

"Indeed they are not," replied the Rav. "They are greater."

Are we indeed greater than angels?

  • It would help to know on what R' Finkel based his statement. – Monica Cellio May 22 '15 at 21:59
  • We are NOT greater than angels but we can become greater than them. The Gemoro often says 'lo nitno torah l'malacha hashores'. like regarding being clean. This should prove that 'normally' we are not greater than angels. – cham May 26 '15 at 8:27
  • Another well know gemoro 'im horishonim k'malochim' if they were angels we are like people. I am sure there are many others. If your rav is like an angel then learn torah from him. Is another that comes now to mind. – cham May 26 '15 at 8:29
  • Duplicate? judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/56930/… – wfb Jun 8 '15 at 17:29
  • Closely related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/31571. – Fred Dec 16 '15 at 6:36
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This is brought down in Mussar Seforim, based on the phrase in Zecharia 3:7

וְנָתַתִּי לְךָ מַהְלְכִים בֵּין הָעֹמְדִים הָאֵלֶּה

And I will go give you a path - (an ability to advance - and improve) amongst these angels (who don't go anywhere; they have no free will and cannot improve - spiritually - as they cannot be awarded for their actions as they have no choice whether to do them.)

So we are greater than angels in that we have free will - and of we fight our base urges, we have shown that we are better than angels who cannot but follow their urges.

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see shaarei kedusha part 3 gate 2

To know if the soul of man is greater than the angels or not. If we say that it is, then why didn't the angels also go down to this world to enclothe in a body? And if (you say) the angels are greater, this cannot be, because all the writings of the Sages we find the opposite. For example, "Who is greater the guardian or the guarded" and many others. Also, the Torah itself testifies the opposite as it says "You have weakened, the Rock (G-d) that formed you" (Devarim 32:18). Or "Give strength to G-d" (Tehilim 68:35), "You are sons to the L-ORD your G-d" (Devarim 14:1). "Yisrael in who I am glorified" (Yeshaya 49:3), "the angels don't say 'Kadosh' until the Jews starts below." And we don't find such things by the angels at all anywhere (that we need to wait for them)

see there for more

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Sanhedrin 93a

The righteous are greater than the ministering angels, for it is said, He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the son of God. Ibid. 25. Thus the angel is mentioned last, as being least esteemed.

Thus humans can reach higher than angels can.

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In Shabbat 88b there's a midrash about Moshe ascending to heaven to receive the Torah. I'm going to paraphrase the story here.

The angels asked hashem why he was giving his beloved Torah to a mere mortal human. Hashem asked Moshe to respond. Moshe responded by pointing out that it was humans who were enslaved in Egypt, were tempted by other nations and false gods, and have urges to commit adultery, murder, etc.

In other words, we humans have had to overcome a lot more than the angels. If you want an English translation, check out the bilingual Glick edition of the Ein Yaakov.

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Man is greater. Angels do not have bechira and are called omdim (standing) because of their lack of ability to grow. See this dvar torah which suggests that although conventional wisdom might order live beings in the following sequence: animals->humans->angels the truth is that humans really bookend the spectrum. As creatures with bechira (free choice) man has the potential to be tremendously great and close to G-d - not out of being created like that (as angels are) but rather via our free choice.

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