Guidance from Other Dimensions of the God-Field: Ancestors, Angels and Guides

a sample chapter from Seeking & Soaring: Jewish Approaches to Spiriatual Direction

Chapter 10

Author’s Note: The people whose experiences I have reported have specifically given permission for me to use their names.

Ayn od milvado, “There is nothing other than God,” is at the core of the Hasidic approach to hashpa’ah, Jewish spiritual direction. Everything that we experience in life contains messages from God. Even so, there are many dimensions to experiencing the Divine.  All of these may be called the God-Field.[1] Those of us who work as mashpi’im, spiritual directors named after the Hasidic tradition of spiritual mentoring, know that God speaks to us through our sacred texts, our experiences, and our intuition. And yet it is also part of the Hasidic tradition to know that God has provided us with messengers of light and learning who assist with the great work of Guidance. The Jewish heritage supplies us with an abundance of examples of Biblical heroes and prophets, as well as sages throughout the generations, whose lives were enhanced by guidance from God’s messengers.  (For a short review of the literature, see the internet articles by Rabbis Geoffrey Dennis and David Wolpe.[2]) The first Jews, Abraham and Sarah, received an announcement of the miraculous birth of Isaac when three angels in the form of men visited their tent.[3]  Their grandson Jacob had his name changed to Israel after wrestling a blessing from an angel.[4] Famous teachers such as Joseph Karo (author of the guide to Jewish law called The Shulhan Arukh) and Rabbi Moshe Chayyim Luzzatto (author of many books on spiritual and ethical practice) reported being taught by a spirit teacher called a maggid. [5] The Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Hasidism, was said to have been taught by a spirit guide named Ahijah of Shiloh (I Kings 11:19f).[6]

Closer to home, tradition teaches that Elijah the Prophet is still able to be present to us in spirit form. Accordingly, it is customary for Jews to invite him to every circumcision, and to place a cup of wine for him on our Seder tables. We invite him in as a Seder guest in hopes that this will be the time he will announce the coming of the Messiah or messianic age. Judaism has a long lineage of spiritual guides who are available to those who seek them. In synagogues and at home, when Shabbat begins, it is customary to sing a song of greeting, “Shalom Aleikhem,” written by the medieval Kabbalist Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz. This liturgical piece welcomes the special angels it depicts as joining us on Shabbat as guests at home and in synagogue. In addition, the traditional prayer for travelers, called Tefilat ha-Derekh, calls in angels to guard and protect us on our journeys.

Note: This volume's Appendix B offers a musical version by Rabbi Hanna Tiferet Siegel. Continue reading or BUY NOW Seeking & Soaring: Jewish Approaches to Spiritual Direction (Reclaiming Judaism Press) Or, view another sample chapter.

Mushpa’im(seekers) who come to us will likely have had subtle or not so subtle experiences of the presence of beloved relatives, of angels that rescue and heal and nudge, and of guides in spirit form who were rebbes or prophets or teachers. Our mushpa’im may not bring these experiences into the hashpa’ah session unless we ask.

If we ask, doors may open. This is what happened when I first met with Adalah Caplowe (then a hazzan, now also a rabbi and mashpi’ah) in the Summer of 2005.  Intuitively, I felt the need to ask her if she felt the presence of any guides in spirit form.  She writes, “My opening to my spiritual guides, who had been waiting, began when I first met Reb Shohama...I felt that Reb Shohama’s soul and mine were communicating from the beginning, and the sheer joy of being able to connect with someone in this way began my journey to awakening my spiritual soul-self.”.

Since that time, Adalah has engaged in what she perceives to be regular communication with her guidance team, which includes the Baal Shem Tov, her grandfather, Sarah Imenu (our Mother Sarah, the Biblical matriarch), and a number of angels. These guides, all servants of the Holy One, have served her well in discerning how to lead her congregation, to flower as a poet and composer, and to serve as a mashpi’ah to those drawn to work with her. 


Many people have told me stories of how they received messages from relatives who have departed this realm. I am by nature a skeptic — I only believe something once I have experienced it. But I believe them.  Let me share the story that convinced me that the soul remains alive after death.

In 1993, I was a guest rabbi for High Holiday services in Florida, and stayed at the home of a deeply spiritual woman, Laurel Freeman, who was a trained massage therapist. After Yom Kippur, she asked if I wanted a massage, and I eagerly said “Yes.”  What I didn’t then know was that she was also skilled at connecting with spirit beings.

At the end of the massage she turned to me and said, “This is very strange. While you were on the table my guide began a conversation with your guide, and said, ‘I have to get a message to Shohama.’ So I said, ‘Give me a password so Shohama will know that you are real.’ ”

“Tell her ‘Hims’,” said my guide. 

Replied Laurel, “Well, that’s strange. Give me another password.”

“Tell her ‘cigar’,” said my guide.

“OK. What’s the message?” asked Laurel.

“Tell her that her grandfather is here with her father, and her father wants her to know he thinks she’s on a good path.”

When I heard this I felt spiritual chills run up and down my spine, a feeling I sense even now as I write this. My grandfather Saul, for whom I am named, was an atheist, and my father an agnostic. I knew two stories about Grandpa Saul, that he called my sister by the pet name “Hims,” and that he was usually seen with a cigar.  There was no rational explanation I could find for Laurel Freeman knowing these stories about my grandfather.

That unexpected connection provided emotional healing for me.  I felt that two important men in my life, who would not have understood fully my spiritual calling during their lifetime, now gave their wholehearted loving approval. In working with my own mushpa’im, I have often found that connecting these seekers with their loved ones on the other side has led to new forms of understanding and healing.

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I used to think that angels were mere folklore, a literary device found in tall-tales. My shift began in the mid 1980’s, when I joined the Manhattan congregation of the great musical rebbe, Shlomo Carlebach, of blessed memory.  In addition to the music being gloriously uplifting, his theology challenged and inspired me. My favorite song was B’Shaim HaShem (in the name of God)- The Angel Song, which contained the text asking for blessing, in the name of God, from the four Archangels Michael, Gavriel, Uriel and Rafael, as well as the Shekhinah  (God’s presence in rabbinic literature, which evolved into God’s feminine side in Judaism).[7] This text appears in traditional prayer books as part of the bedtime Shemaprayer.  I made it a practice to chant the song or say the words morning and night, as well as at other times when I needed protection.

I wasn’t sure initially whether the angels were “real” or just a name for energetic qualities of love, strength, vision, and healing. After studying the tradition and realizing that they appear in many places in the Hebrew Bible, as well as in the Talmud and mystical Jewish literature, I was able to suspend my doubts.

One day in 1994 I was lying on my bed, in a meditative frame of mind, when a huge, loving wave of energy swept through my body. In my mind’s eye I saw a large, loving man with huge wings, and felt intuitively that he was an angel. A name came to me, which I hold close to my heart. As I called out this name, my body became swept up in waves of ecstatic energy. That is how this angel made his appearance known. Since that time, I connect regularly with his presence, which feels like a loving and wise guide.  I sense that he is the specific angel that God has sent me to help with my work as a mashpi’ah and teacher of hashpa’ah.

Our sister religions, Christianity and Islam, also teach about the significance of angels as agents of God. M. Ibrahim Baha’uddin Farajaje, a professor, Sheikh and spiritual director in the Sufi tradition, shared with me his life-changing encounter with an angel. A couple of years ago he was in the hospital, at death’s door due to a serious lung infection, feeling as if he were drowning. Finally he dozed, and saw an enormous Archangel place his hands on the left side of his chest and pull out “something.” The Archangel communicated without words that all would be well, and that this was his initiation so that he could help others through the passageway to the Divine Light.

The following day chest X-rays were taken, revealing only healthy tissue. The pathology in the left side of his lung had vanished. Professor Farajaje experienced this as a miracle sent by God through the Divine messenger, the Archangel.

Not all encounters with angels bring about miracles; but they always serve a function or bring a message. For example, in the spring of 2008, while in meditation, I wrote down the following, which I felt came from the angelic realm:

Dearly Beloved, I come to you today with a message of hope. Be not fearful for your future. We here stand ready to assist you in the evolution of your planet. But we must be asked. You have been given a great and difficult task, to raise the energies of your bodies and of your planet to a level where peace and love will prevail.  It begins with you, each one of you.

Know that the force of light can banish darkness whenever it is directed in sufficient strength. Your strength lies in numbers. It says in your Talmud, “Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, ‘Grow, grow.’  How much more is it true for every human.

We bless you to grow, grow.

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Jewish opinion generally holds that angels are a form of guide sent by God. These angels may appear temporarily in human form, but have not lived incarnated lives. However, there are other guides that a person may see, sense and/or feel that have lived in a bodily form. How these guides manifest can vary greatly; some report animal guides, or visitations from people from other centuries and/or other traditions. Others feel like they are receiving clear information from a spirit teacher known in Jewish mystical literature by the Hebrew word maggid,referring to an angelic spirit, the soul of a sacred text, or even the Shekhinah .[8]

It would not have occurred to me to seek a guide who was once a rebbe until my second visit to Israel, in 1980. In that visit I saw that it was the custom for people to visit the graves of famous rabbis and rebbes, and to light candles there and pray for their help with all manner of problems ranging from illness to finding an apartment.  Unlike what I was taught growing up, it was clear to me that Judaism does have a tradition of asking for intercessory prayer from tzaddikim (righteous ones), those known to have especially strong connection with the Divine.

My sense is that all of us who are called to serve as mashpi’im have at least one rebbe guide. It probably is someone whose teachings we admire greatly. Over time, a guide may change. There are some who experience one or more of their guides as archetypal messengers from aspects of their own souls. This interpretation is also echoed in Jungian psychology.

Meeting Your Guides

If you wish to connect with one of your ancestors, angels, or guides, go into adeep contemplative prayer state, and ask to meet him or her. It may be easier if you have your own mashpia or spiritual teacher lead you in a guided visualization, or if you record a guided visualization that you can play back to guide yourself. The exact form doesn’t matter; what matters is that you get into a waking dream state where you are in touch with your soul level of guidance.

For a guided visualization see Appendix A of this volume. BUY NOW Seeking & Soaring: Jewish Approaches to Spiritual Direction (Reclaiming Judaism Press)
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Precautionary Measures

Directing Prayers to God

Jewish tradition holds that we pray only to God, but that we may request help from God’s messengers.[9]


In your opening prayer, it is important to ask God to align you with only the “highest guidance” and “guides” for you at this time. A helpful practice is to visualize your self filled with and surrounded by sparkling white light.  In your closing prayer, thank these highest sources of guidance, and ask that your energy be grounded so that you can function well in your daily activities. It is important to eat well, connect with nature, and get sufficient exercise. There is also a custom, which I follow, of wearing a kameya (amulet)--a piece of specially designed religious jewelry that lies over the heart, and has spiritual meaning for you.


Hearing voices and seeing images can be either the sign of a mystic or a psychotic, and can come from a high and holy place or a dark, ethically challenged and often dangerous realm sometimes referred to as the sitra ahra(the Other Side).  How do we tell the difference?  As we all have blind spots, it is essential for all of us to be in hashpa’ah, to be supervised by our own mashpia.

What will we and our mashpia look for? First of all, are the messages and guides loving and kind?  Do they suggest actions that are ethical, that would serve not only our highest good but that of others as well?

Secondly, does the advice lead us in the direction of our highest dreams? Does the message repeat in different ways? Do doors open for us that seem beyond coincidence? Does it feel like Divine energy is powering our path?

I conclude with thanks to the Holy One, the Source of All, for inspiration and guidance, and for giving me the courage to go public with my experiences of Divine messengers and guides. May this be for the highest good of all creation.

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[1]           Thanks to Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi for introducing me to this expression.

[3]           Gen. 18:10.

[4]           Gen. 32:29

[5]           Louis Jacobs, Jewish Mystical Testimonies, New York, Schocken Books, 1976, pp. 122 and 169.

[6]           Ibid., p. 189.

[7]           A number of websites, such as, will let you play this song for free.

[8]           Thanks to Rabbi Elliot Ginsburg, Ph.D., for this definition.

[9]           Rabbi Judah [sic.] teaches in the Talmud that God wishes to be directly addressed: "If trouble comes upon someone, let him cry not to Michael or Gabriel, but let him cry unto Me (Jerusalem Talmud Berachot 9:12)." Rabbi David Wolpe at

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