At the end of parsha 20 in Pesikta Rabbati, it refers to various bands (גדוד) of angels being shown to Moshe. Is there any minimum number as defined in Torah as to how many comprise a band?

1 Answer 1


In מלכים-ב ה:ב on the Pasuk וַאֲרָם יָצְאוּ גְדוּדִים Rashi says 100 to 200 people is a גְדוּד.

יצאו גדודים. כשהולכין מאה או מאתים מעצמן לשלל כאשר ימצאון, הוא קרוי גדוד.‏

It's the only place I see a number. Other places גְדוּד is mentioned:

  • Breishith 49:19 - the Targumim say: an armed camp
  • Shmuel-1 30:15 - the Metzudos Ziyun says: החיל - the army
  • Shmuel-2 22:30 - the Metzudos Ziyun says: צבאות עם - a lot of people
    • the Ralbag says: חיל רב - a large army
  • Melachim-1 11:24 the Metzudos Ziyun says: חיל אנשים - an army of people
  • Micha 4:15 the Metzudos Ziyun says: ענין מחנה וכן פשט גדוד - a camp
  • Hosea 6:9 the Metzudos Ziyun says: מרבית אנשים קרוי גדוד - a lot of people together are called a גְדוּד

So it seems to be context related.

Just for the record, the following was added by R' Yaacov Deane

There is also a famous letter from Rabbi Shimshon of Ostropolya which is read by many on Erev Passover. It recounts a teaching from the Ari z"l found in a book from him called Pla'ot Rab'ot Sha'ar 15 which is called Sha'ar Yetziat Mitzrayim, chapter 3, page 42 which discusses one of the groups of angels discussed in the Pesikta Rabbati.

פגע בו גדוד של מלאכי חבלה שהם סבובים לכסא הכבוד שהם גיבורים ועצומים

The angels called Malachei Chavalah are the angels appointed over beating and punishing those who have been judged as Rasha'im in Gehinnom. They were also the ones sent against the Egyptians at the time of the exodus.

The Ari z"l says their number is derived from Shemot 21:18 which refers to them as a fist (אגרף). He says the tradition comes from those who were masters of Practical Kabbalah and that the size of this group of angels is 3280 (ג' אלפים ור'פ).

But if you read the plain meaning of the text as found in the Haggadah, it gives two very small numerical values to this band of angels.

The first opinion is offered by Rabbi Eliezer (HaGadol), which says that it means four angels. And the second view is that given by his student, Rabbi Akiva, who says that the band was comprised of five angels.

  • 1
    This is good answer and lists many sources, but doesn't present a minimum number. I may give you the award as correct answer, but would like to see if anyone else comes up with a definite minimum. Commented Aug 6, 2018 at 17:40
  • @YaacovDeane - I've never before heard that passage in the Hagada being explained as referring to angels. Interesting idea. Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 15:36

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