Foreword by DROB

Published on 7 Sep 2006 at 3:44 am. No Comments.
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by Sanford Drob

“God’s 120 Guardian Angels”

Eighteen years in the making, David Birnbaum’s “120 Guardian Angels”, the poetic portion of his new book God and Good, is a beautiful and fitting complement to his 1988 masterpiece, God and Evil. Nearly everything about this new work, with the exception of its genuine excellence, contrasts markedly with Birnbaum’s earlier book.

Whereas God and Evil was discursive, closely argued and philosophical, “120 Guardian Angels” is poetic, highly personal, and mythological. Whereas God and Evil was profoundly serious, “120 Guardian Angels” is often light and humorous.

Whereas God and Evil spoke with the highest imaginable degree of generality (declaring, for example, that “Holy Potential is at the epicenter of the Divine”) “120 Guardian Angels” can be extraordinarily particular (Guardian Angel #62 is “Snowstorms on School Days, and #88 is “Playing Chess with Your Son”). However, while Birnbaum’s new work is “particular” in the Aristotelian sense that knowledge of the particular brings clarity to the universal, it is hardly particular in the sense of “particularistic” or “parochial”. Indeed, Birnbaum’s angels, while they do seem to have a fondness for Jewish ideas and activities (Guardian Angel #25 is “Lighting Shabbos Candles” and #75 is “Gemorrah Chavrusahs”), are ecumenical enough to include in amongst them #71 “Ju Jitsu” and #89 “Catholic School Marching Bands.”

Birnbaum, in God and Evil, argued that “Holy Potential” is the “primal thrust of the cosmos” and that man, created in the divine image, has as his purpose the actualization and fulfillment of that potential. In this new book, Birnbaum’s angels speak to us directly and inform us precisely how this potential can be attained. Many of the angels, of course, reflect universally acknowledged ideas and values (Guardian Angel #4 is “Freedom” and #5 is “Mercy”), but it is in the more idiosyncratic amongst them (e.g. #44 “Five-Year Old Girls Giggling”, #50 “Putting-the-Kids-to-Bed”, and #58 “Iron Mill Workers”) that we get the sense that the factory of Holy (and human) Potential is really working.



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