Thank you for all that you do - you perform a very important service.
How are we to understand the expulsion of the malach Gavriel. I thought that angels do not have free will, and so cannot refuse to do G-d's orders.
It would seem like here the malach chose to do something that was not to G-d's liking, and that he was punished.
Do angels have free will? How to understand this incident? Thank you very much.
Adam Sragovicz, San Diego, California, USA
Rav Dessler in Michtav Mei'Eliyahu (vol 2, pg. 214) quotes Rabeinu Chananel in Chagigah (15a) as implying that Mal'achim do not have free will, an idea that Rav Dessler strongly endorses. Whenever they do something which it seems they are punished for, it is actually only because their actions are based on the actions of those they represent, namely parts of humanity. They themselves did not choose to do this, but must do so, as they are functionaries of people.
However, there are those who are of the opinion that when Chazal say that Mal'achim sinned, it often means that they chose to sin. This opinion understands that although Mal'achim are very close to Hash-m and therefore clearly understand his will (unlike people who do not see or feel the presence of Hash-m and therefore have a greater level of Bechirah), they can choose otherwise. This can be roughly compared to a person choosing to drown himself in an ocean, which goes against the natural survival instinct but nonetheless can be done. This is clearly the understanding of R' Moshe Feinstein zt"l in Derash Moshe (Bereishis, DH "va'Yomer Elokim"). [The proof R' Dessler brings from Rabeinu Chananel, in the humble opinion of this author, can be easily refuted. However, a complete discussion of this topic is beyond the scope of this forum.]
Does this fit in with what we say in Unetane Tokef, that the malachim yachofazun, they will tremble, ki lo yizku b'aynecha badin, they will not be found guiltless in Hash-m's eyes.
I think that this phrase most likely refers to the Malachim which represent people (either nations or individuals). They tremble because they will have the same result as the people they represent, who cannot possibly be found without sin. This would seem to be the simple explanation even according to the opinion of R' Moshe, stated above, being that the sinning of Malachim does not seem to be a common occurence.
All the best,