“In the name of the Holy One, the Holy One of Israel, May Michael be on my Right and on my Left be Gavriel, Before me be Uriel and at my Back be Raphael. Above my head and below my feet Shechinah-eyl.”
This is an adaptation from the prayer said before going to sleep in the Jewish tradition. It is one of several prayers that are part of what is called the Bedtime Shema. My dear friend Arik Labowitz has the Hebrew melody beautifully recorded on his CD Simu Lev (track 10, called Angel Song) and you can listen to it on his website or buy the CD. I play his music all the time. The English quote above here is slightly different from what you will find in some prayer books. Hebrew to English never translates perfectly and this is what I sing and sang to my children before they fell asleep. This prayer or any prayer or ritual practice of protection and love spoken ritually and regularly for young ones will help in so many ways. Nightmares just don’t have as much of a doorway in when you have surrounded yourself or your child with four guardian angels.
I also sing or chant these words over and around folks before and after medical procedures or if they come into my home for healing. It is very soothing. It is good to teach to others. I will look into recording a voice memo here and uploading for future reference so you can see the way I sing it. Just saying the words in any way you want is a good idea.
Whenever you see any word in Hebrew or translated into English with the “el” in it, this refers to the Divine. So El is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, Hebrew word for a Divine being. Please see Why Ha-Shem, Not Naming the Divine post for more detail about naming the Divine. In brief, we don’t name the Divine in the Jewish tradition, we use various kinds of descriptors. There is one name used in the Torah which is made up of the four Hebrew letters, but this configuration of letters has no vowels and the original pronunciation for these letters was only passed down orally from High Priest to High Priest. No one except the Cohen Ha-Gadol/High Priest ever knew how to pronounce this name and only did so once a year. See articles on Yom Kippur. This name is called the Tetragrammaton since it is made up of four Hebrew letters. It is inaccurately translated and pronounced sometimes as Yahweh or Jehovah or some variation of this.
Additionally, all Hebrew words are linked to their roots and each root spawns many, many words, which when you know the root for those words links you to a whole system of interconnected words and which informs you about the deeper meanings of a word. Translation is always tricky.
“… Translation, above all, means change. In Elizabethan England, one of its meanings was ‘death’: to be translated from this world to the next. In the Middle Ages, translation meant the theft or removal of holy relics from one monastery or church to another…” ~ Eilliot Weinberger
And my favorite teaching on taking Holy works and trying to understand them literally.
“The surest way to misunderstand revelation is to take it literally, to imagine that God spoke to the prophet on a long-distance telephone.”
~ Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
Even if you cannot access it in the original language that doesn’t mean you cannot benefit from the teachings. I just like to remind folks to think of translation as a kind of very adept word yoga, with lots of bends and twists and flexibility built-in so that you don’t think there is ONLY one way to engage with a word or concept. When learning about the Hebrew prayers and practices and adapting them for any person, regardless of their religion or ethnic or cultural background, it is important to remember that the energy of the word or the prayer is what matters for those who cannot access it in the Hebrew. The other important thing to keep in mind is your kavannah/intention. If you set your intention the meaning will fall into its proper place.
Each of the angel’s names have meaning and can be translated variously as:
- Michael is the angel of love/mercy. Mercy of El, the energy of love angel or the angel of mercy.
- Gavriel or Gabriel is the angel of strength, so strength of El or energy of courage and boundaries, armor, protection.
- Uriel or Ariel is the angel of light from the Hebrew word Or/Light. So, Uriel is the angel of vision and light.
- Raphael is the angel of healing, the word for healing in Hebrew is Refuah
So, please engage how you are comfortable and for further teachings on this please see Rabbi David Cooper‘s book God is a Verb (order if from your local bookstore). Much greater detail than what I’ve given is included there and he has an excellent Archangel Meditation on page 144 of this book. He also has CDs and other sound recordings on angels and tools for those looking to connect more deeply. Rabbi David is a master of Kabbalah and I use his materials all the time.
I have had personal experience with the Archangel Raphael and always experience his presence as being a warm wide-winged embrace that I sink into. Raphael is always a being I fall back into or sink backwards into. There is a profound feeling of trust and warmth. When I pray for others I imagine the wings of Raphael being so big that the person is completely held inside this Holy Being and is comforted and well there in the protecting and deeply healing embrace.
May you find comfort in these practices and please feel free to ask me questions and go and study more!