I'm a Christian and I've seen and been constantly exposed to our common view of angels. That said I like Matisyahu who draws from a different culture based in Judaism rather than Christianity. In his music video Sunshine a little girl is featured as something spiritual perhaps an angel. Is this what you all think angels look like? Do you have any drawings or paintings?

4 Answers 4


Angels are spiritual, not physical, so they don't have a physical appearance. They can, however appear physically in a sort of "disguise", like when the 3 angels came to Abraham disguised as men.

  • 2
    Don't forget the Angel with the sword that Bilam saw. Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 14:04
  • Yes. At first he couldn't see it, and then it "showed itself", however we understand that. Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 14:23
  • IIRC, my Rav mentioned that Rambam holds that the entire episode of the Mal'akhim visiting Avraham Avinu was a dream or a trance.
    – Lee
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 17:44
  • 1
    @Lee That does not preclude their having shapes or appearances.
    – WAF
    Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 1:03
  • @waf rambam also writes that each person is different. whoever is righteous sees the malocheem as being humans like Abraham Obinu 3alow shololm, but others see them as other things in order to frighten them and send them a message differently than others. Angels have no form for they are like HaShem in that they dont have a body. and when angels are metioned in the torah it is really in a vision not in real life. Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 2:58

I have never seen one :) But our Rabbis have told us of at least one characteristic of Angels is that they appear to have one straight foot.

The relevance to our daily lives is that when praying the Amidah prayer we are instructed to stand with our legs together in order to resemble Angels.

The source for this can be found in the code of Jewish Law A quote from the book "the Abridged code of Jewish Law 18:5 reads as follows:

One positions one's feet one next to the other, as if they are only one, in order to resemble the angels as it was said: "And their feet were like a straight foot." - that is, their feet appear to be as one foot

The appearance of angels is based on Ezekiel's vision in the Book of Yechezkel - Chapter 1

  • 2
    The first chapter of Yechezkel, known as the "Maaseh Merkava", describes Yechezkel's visions of Hashem and His angels. The Talmud limits the amount people are allowed to expound upon it, since it is extremely difficult to interpret it correctly, because it is putting spiritual, supernatural concepts into physical, human terms. The physical metaphors are not necessarily to be taken completely literal. Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 14:30
  • 2
    @SZH that is correct. However the need to stand like an Angel is codified in the SA thus that part we can take literally. For the reason you state n I did not just quote Yechezkel's vision since the other aspects of it I don't know if we can take literally. If my direct link to Yechezkel proves to be a distraction to my main point than I will erase it.
    – eramm
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 14:41
  • 5
    Technically, that only tells us that those angels, the ones we imitate in saying kadosh, kadosh, kadosh, have one straight foot. There might be other types of angels in other contexts. (Comparable reasoning: at least one side of one sheep is black.) Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 16:10
  • 2
    @eramm "are not elements of a constructive comment" erm... AFAICT there is no justification for that claim.
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 5, 2014 at 17:20
  • 3
    1. See rashi on the pasuk, where it means legs parallel. And apply that to other citations. So it might merely be patterned after how these angels were standing in this particular vision. 2. Something can be established as Halacha as patterned after a vision meant figuratively, since its meaning is referential to the vision. 3. See aruch hashulchan, see yerushalmi's about the alternative thing standing like this during amid a might be patterned upon. Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 1:28

Rabbeinu Nissim, when discussing the law surrounding the depiction of angels, describes them as appearing in visions of prophecy as אדם שיש לו כנפים‏, a person who has wings.

I have found other descriptions of angels in the Talmud. Before I mention them, I want to stress that while the Sages' words seem to describe some angels in a certain way, there is likely a deeper, metaphorical meaning behind these descriptions, which certainly yields the most truth and wisdom. The suggestion of visual representation is then a means to an end; an afterthought, if it is true at all.

The Talmudist Rabbah on Taanit 25b says that he has seen the angel appointed over rain, Ridia, who he likens to a calf with parted lips.

Geniva quotes Rav Hanan son of Ravah on Gittin 31b, saying that Ben Netz stays the fierce southern wind. Rashi comments that Ben Netz, literally translated as '[Son] of Hawk', is an angel made like a hawk.

  • 1
    what makes you say that these examples you are giving are supposed to be taken literally... Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 3:00
  • @MoriDoweedhYaa3gob I have edited in a preface that addresses your point.
    – Baby Seal
    Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 3:19
  • add rambam as well from the morah nabucheem Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 4:30
  • @MoriDoweedhYaa3gob I don't know exactly what the Rambam says, but I think it is what Rabbeinu Nissim is saying, that angels take form in prophetic experiences.
    – Baby Seal
    Commented Feb 6, 2014 at 16:35

The common concept in our current society of an "angel" is that of a person with "feathery" wings. That of a "devil" is that of a person with bat wings and horns. We have the description of the merkava and other descriptions of people with six wings. We also have the description like a person with the legs fused into one pillar. In fact, I have had problems using the term "angel" as too many of us automatically "see" the images from movies, television, or "religious" art in the museums. As a result, I suggest using the term Mal'achim, and avoid any attempt to translate it into English. I have spoken with teachers who have told me that they have had difficulties explaining some concepts when using the term "angel" that did not show up when using the term "mal'ach". This is a practical matter rather than a matter of halacha.

As @Baby Seal points out many "appearances" are metaphorical only. The meforshim of the "men" that visited Avraham (and went to S'dom) explain how three mal'achim came to Avraham and two went to S'dom. Each mal'ach is "created" for its specific task and only "exists" for the duration of that task. This is also the explanation of the reaction when Yaakov (and later Manoach father of Shimshon) asks the name of the mal'ach. The "name" of the mal'ach only exists in relation to its task. Once that task is complete, the name is gone.

Similarly, there were three tasks required in the visit to Avrohom. The mal'ach sent to predict the birth of Yitzchak finished his task and "left". The mal'ach sent to heal Avraham either had the rescue of Lot as part of that task or became "available" for a similar task afterward, or was just replaced by the mal'ach sent to rescue Lot. The third mal'ach, to destroy S'dom, was needed as part of the three, according to many meforshim, because the fate of S'dom was not completely decided until Avrohom showed the real chesed of his acceptance of the three "men".

A mal'ach can be a person, a natural event, or a supernatural being created and sent for a purpose. There are many examples.

A TSA official who delays someone so that he misses a flight he is not supposed to be on.

A woman and child taking the seat of a person, so that he can show chesed by letting them sit together.

A traffic jam to force a person to take a particular route.

A sudden rain or a wind to blow the clouds away.

And of course the mal'achim as we see in the case of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov as well as all the other times mentioned in Tanach.

Thus there is no specific "image". Additionally, one is not supposed to create images of the "residents" of heaven, but that is another question from the Ten Commandments.


You must log in to answer this question.