Sandalfon

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SANDALFON

SANDALFON , name of one of the most exalted angels. Ezekiel 1:15 was interpreted in the Babylonian Talmud (Ḥag. 13b) as referring to an angel who stood on the earth with his head reaching up to the living creatures (the ḥayyot). This "wheel" is called Sandalfon, who is said to stand so far above his colleague, apparently *Metatron, that a journey between them would take 500 years. His place is behind the *Merkabah, the heavenly chariot, and he fashions crowns for his creator. According to the sources of the Merkabah literature, these crowns are made from Israel's prayers, an idea widely repeated in Jewish literature. Sandalfon is also mentioned as one of the highest angels in the story of Moses' ascension to heaven, and in the Midrash Konen he is called a mediator or "translator" between Israel and God, obviously because he transforms the words of prayer into mystical crowns on God's head. The etymology of the name is explained, probably correctly, as synadelphos ("confrère" or "colleague"), namely of Metatron. He is mentioned in many hymns, and conjurations regarding him and his mystery are found in Merkabah literature; one such is "The Mystery of Sandalfon" (Merkavah Shelemah, 1922, fol. la). Here he has the power to nullify hostile decrees against Israel. In later sources he is frequently defined as the angel set over birds, sar ha-ofot, particularly in the writings of the *Ḥasidei Ashkenaz and in the Zohar. Spanish kabbalists of the 13th century interpreted the name as a composition of two elements: sandal, meaning in the Talmud a still unformed embryo, and fon, understood as a formation of a face panim; these two elements therefore represent matter and form, brought together in Sandalfon. Many kabbalists declared that Sandalfon was an angelic transfiguration of the prophet Elijah, just as Metatron was described in earlier sources as the transfiguration of Enoch. Since the word sandal has the meaning "shoe," Sandalfon was also thought of as the "shoe" of the Shekhinah, that is to say the angel on which the feet of the Shekhinah rested. Some kabbalists considered him the teacher of Moses. Later Kabbalah ascribed to him a special sphere of mystical being which was essentially more than a pure angelic host.

bibliography:

R. Margalioth, Malakhei Elyon (1945), 148–54; M. Schwab, Vocabulaire de l'angélologie (1897), 201; G. Davidson, A Dictionary of Angels (1967), 267.

[Gershom Scholem]