Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 432
"Angel Levine" centers around a tailor in New York City named Manischewitz. After a fire that destroys his business, Manischewitz is in a hopeless state. He had insurance but has to settle lawsuits from customers who were injured, so he's penniless and ill as well, wracked by physical pain and able to work only a few hours a day as a presser; moreover, his wife, Leah, is dying.
A black man named Alexander Levine appears one night in Manischewitz's flat. Levine describes himself as an angel whose mission is to help him. Manischewitz is skeptical, partly because of the anomaly of Levine being both Jewish and black, and because Levine doesn't have wings. Levine takes leave of him, saying that Manischewitz can find him in Harlem if he needs him.
Manischewitz does go to Harlem and is able to locate Levine with relatively little trouble. However, he finds Levine involved in rather un-angelic activities, seated at a table in a nightclub called Bella's and then dancing with the voluptuous hostess. Manischewitz departs, but back at home he has a dream that convinces him Levine really is an angel. Leah's condition has become hopeless, and Manischewitz returns to Harlem in an effort to locate Levine again.
In Harlem, he finds that the location of Bella's nightclub has been converted to a storefront synagogue. Inside he finds that the worshippers are black men, reading from the Holy Word and the commentaries. They direct him across the street to where the nightclub is now located, and where he finds Levine. Though at first Levine is angry that Manischewitz has confronted him there, the tailor has told him he now believes that Levine has indeed been sent by God. The two return to Manischewitz's flat and go up the stairs, past the tailor's door, to which Levine points and tells him, "That's all been taken care of." Levine continues to the roof, and Manischewitz manages to spot a dark figure flying away, as what first appears a feather drifts down from the sky, then just seems to be snow. Back in his flat, Manischewitz finds that his wife has recovered from her illness and is up dusting the bedroom.
Malamud's story conveys the idea of faith rewarded as well as the theme of brotherhood. Manischewitz grasps that metaphorically, everyone is a Jew, and everyone is black, and his belief in this, and in Levine's angelic nature, rewards him with his wife's recovery. The story is thus similar to other examples of "visitation" fiction such as Dickens's A Christmas Carol and the film It's a Wonderful Life.