Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Af and Chemah: Dark Angels of Destruction

Af and Chemah (or Hemah) are Hebrew for "Wrath" and "Anger." The angelic names are derived from Ps. 37:8 and Deut. 9:19, where these two words are understood to be proper nouns, the personifications of God's fury.

Af and Chemah are two of the six angels of death, the others being Gabriel over kings; Kapziel over youths; Mashbir over animals; Mashchit over children. Af and Chemah are the destructive angels over men and beasts (Beit ha-Midrash, 2:98). Unlike the others, however, these are often paired together, apparently because they are chained to each other with bonds of black and red fire on the seventh level of heaven (Gedulat Moshe).
They have been unleashed on earth several times, most notably to destroy Jerusalem for its sins (T.B. Shabbat 55a) and to punish Moses for failing to circumcise his son Gershon (Exo. 4; T.B. Ned. 32a):

R. Judah b. Bizna lectured: When Moses was lax in the performance of circumcision, Af and Hemah came and swallowed him up, leaving nought but his legs. Thereupon immediately Zipporah 'took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her son'; straightway he [they?] let him alone. In that moment Moses desired to slay them, as it is written, "Cease from Af and forsake Hemah" (Deut. 9:19) (Nedarim 32a) [1]

Zal g'mor - To learn more consult the Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism: http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Jewish-Myth-Magic-Mysticism/dp/0738709050

1. Trans. from the Soncino Talmud.


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