In the Torah, angels seem to appear physically several times. For instance, Jacob, physically I think, wrestles with an angel in Genesis 32:22-32, which indicates a material-physical form as far as I can tell. As has been described before, this indicates that angels have a physical form that they can manifest, in conjunction with a non-material transcendental form. As seen in Judges 13 also, when an angel appears to Manoach and his wife, angels can have a more supernatural form, but can still be seen, perhaps teetering on the edges between material and transcendental.

My question is this: why can't we see angels in their material-physical form like the various people in the Torah could? My thinking is that, as many sages and Rabbis described, humans have degraded their spiritual capabilities and thus don't deserve to interact as a collective, with angels in their physical form, but I'd like to learn about what others have said also.

  • When my father had Alzheimer's Disease he said he saw "people" doing both good and bad things. He was quite specific about what he saw. Were these visions of his delusional -- a created image from his brain -- or could it be possible that he saw angels. Since I could not then, nor now, deny that angels exist, I opened up to the possibility that what my father saw were angels. I allowed him to introduce them to me and I would ask him if they had any questions for me. At the same time, I was honoring my father and kept him comfortable in what could have been a difficult moment. May 19, 2023 at 18:53

2 Answers 2


An angel can disguise himself as a human being, and even like someone specific, like Eliyahu disguising himself as Rabbi Chiya (Beraishis Rabbah 26:5), however, it seems that there are still certain ways how one can tell if they are human, like the Ba’al Haturim (Beraishis 32:26) explains the reason why the angel struck Yaakov was in order to see if he had nerves, in order to know if he was an angel like him, as angels don’t have nerves


They are on a different plane of existence. And likely we couldn’t handle seeing them, when the prophets saw God and angels in a vision they were terrified.

Also when Moses saw God’s “back” he was transformed. It seems a person must be very holy to see the other side

  • I agree with your general thoughts, but there are Jewish sources that exist that could add to your answer and support your position. For example, consider the case when Abraham was visited by three angels, and the patriarch treated them as human guests, even offering them food. May 19, 2023 at 18:56

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