What Strange Salty Angels Are These? by the Forward

What Strange Salty Angels Are These?

Is that an angel on your shoulder or are you just unhappy to see me?

I ask this of the “Prayer Police” — the folks who put the “nag” in “synagogue” — who reported Jared Kushner for mispronouncing a word and thus changing a sentence from malche ha-mlachim, “King of Kings,” to melach ha-malachim, “Salty Sailor,” in Shalom Aleichem (literally “Peace Be Unto You,” metaphorically “Hello, Sailor!”) during his most recent Friday night soirée. He’s busy draining the swamp — or at least spritzing it with a mist of potpourri and billionaires — so I’d be inclined to cut Jared some slack, and perhaps ask for a loan.

Ancient rabbis thought we each have an angels on each shoulders: a good one (Gabriel, “Might of God”) and a bad one (Malchiel, “envoy of God” – God always had a low opinion of his envoys). Because angels are identified with stars, and because the Sabbath stretches from Friday night to the stars’ appearance on Saturday, it is a time especially associated with angels, in addition to heavy chulent and gastric distress.

If you arrived home on Friday night, according to Rabbi Yosei bar Yehuda, — whose flaxseed ruling is crucial in allowing us to prepare instant food on Shabbat, earning him the nickname Melech HaPistan, or “King of Flax” — to find everything was set up for the Sabbath, Gabriel would say “Thus shall it be next week.” And Malchiel would have to say “Amen.” But if you got home and nothing was set up, then Malchiel would say “so shall it be” from one shoulder, Gabriel “Amen” from the other and Zeruel — often depicted peeping out from the armpit — would chime in with “Oy, instant kreplach again!”

Zeruel, like Malchiel, is also a salty angel. The M’L’KH that tripped up Kushner, can mean “king,” “salt” or “sailor.” So sometimes, when he’s acting the part of the yetzer hara he’s known as the salty angel — even shown in a jaunty sailor’s hat and a warning for those with high blood pressure.

Though usually translated as the “Arm of God” (hence appearing from the armpit) kabbalists’ teach that Zeruel comes from zera (Brown Driver Briggs 2233) meaning seed or sperm, though the rabbis were understandably reluctant to associate him with that aspect of the Almighty Anatomy. This is also why, in some traditions, Zeruel is the presiding angel over the Milky Way—shvil hekhalav. Interestingly, the Book of Daniel refers to his “night vision” of the Milky Way using the Aramaic term nehar di-nur, “the River of Fire.” Phil O’Lologous has experienced those nights when the production of the Milky Way can feel like a River of Fire, and he sincerely hopes that the biblical hero received proper care.

At the end of shabbat we scrutinize the night sky to see when it is over, and it is Zeruel, Gabriel and Malchiel who are reputed to be the three stars that come out to mark the end of the celebration. Like Jimmy Fallon, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway at the Oscars.

Kushner himself gets his name from the angels. Jared (Literally “One Who Goes Down” — i.e. From the angels to rule over us, though no doubt his day school chums misapplied the meaning to give Jared a salty ribbing) was the father of Enoch in the Book of Genesis. His full name is Jared Corey (from the Gaelic, a “Dweller in a hollow”) Kushner (Furrier). So — etymologically speaking — Jared Corey Kushner is one who has descended from the angels to rule over us by dwelling in a furry hollow, which is certainly an apt description of his father-in-law’s cranium.

May peace be unto us all.


Phil O’Lologous

Phil O’Lologous

Brought up by two reference librarians, Phil was bullied as a foal.

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