Project Genesis

The Concept of Angels

Question: Could you please help me to find out about the meaning of angels?

Answer: Hi, Thanks for asking a fantastic question. The concept of angels in Judaism is very different than in other religions. I always start out by asking a person to describe to me what they think an angel looks like. The typical answer is something to do with a halo, white body, wings, and they are usually women or children. That is nothing like an angel according to Jewish tradition.

One example of angels in the Torah is with Abraham. There were three men who came to visit Abraham three days after his self inflicted ritual circumcision. His house was known to be open to strangers and guests, but it wasn’t the best time for company. Abraham, however, had Sara prepare a meal for them, washed their feet, and treated them like kings. These people, according to some of our commentators, were angels of G-d.

In the physical world, G-d can send angels as messengers, but they have a specific mission and cannot deviate from it. They have no free will. Angels are static and are controlled by G-d. From a spiritual perspective, angels, or Melachim in Hebrew, are white spiritual beings with one bottom (they have no legs) and exist for G-d to give them spiritual tasks. The Torah says in Genesis, “Let us make man.” We understand that to mean that G-d consulted with the spiritual powers and created the world. The angelic world is very complex.

If you are interested in further reading on the subject I highly suggest you get a book entitled, “The Way of G-d,” by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato.

Thanks, Rabbi Litt


2 Follow-ups »

  1. I read your article response to the question of angels. In it you state that “Angels have no feet”. I would like to submit these two verses in response if I may.

    “And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground;” Genesis 19:1

    “And he said, Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant’s house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet, and ye shall rise up early, and go on your ways. And they said, Nay; but we will abide in the street all night.” Genesis 19:2

    I would like to make your case even stronger. Abraham was approached by two men when he was sitting in his tent when “three men” approached him. These three men were angels as well.

    If you read the Torah without rabbinic commentary you will never understand what the Torah is talking about. It is naive to think that anyone who just picks up the Torah and tries to read it will have any clue what the true meaning is of this holy book. The true meaning of these verses is that yes, angels did come, and yes angels did “walk in.” However, angels, according to Jewish belief, can take the form of humans. Meaning Hashem (G-d) commands a spiritual being to go do a mission. That “angel” has no choice whether or not he is going to go do that mission. He does it because he knows the will of His Creator so well. If we would know G-d as well as these spiritual beings then we would also have that absence of free will. These spiritual beings, called “malachim” can take human form, but are not really human. In their essence they have no legs. In the form that they need to be to accomplish their mission, they simply appear to.

    Be Well,
    Rabbi Litt

    Comment by ATR — November 30, 2006 @ 2:28 pm

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