Sunday, February 15, 2009

Shabbat’s Angel Companions

In the Talmud (Shabbat 119b), Rabbi Josi the son of Judah is quoted as saying:
On the eve of Shabbat, two ministering angels accompany a person home from the
synagogue. One angel represents the positive forces and one angel represents the negative
forces. When the person arrives home and finds the candles lit, the table set and the
house in proper order [in other words, a house prepared for Shabbat], the positive
angel says "May it be thus for another Shabbat!" The negative angel must affirm this
and say "Amen." If, however, the house is not ready for Shabbat, the negative angel says
"May it be thus for another Shabbat!" The positive angel must affirm this and say "Amen."

This Talmudic reference is the source for the singing of Shalom Aleichem when one returns home from synagogue (or just before one begins the Shabbat meal). These two angels remind us of the importance of the Shabbat atmosphere. Shabbat is more than just a day of resting from work, it is a day infused with holiness.
Throughout rabbinic literature, one finds Shabbat referred to as both the “Shabbat Queen” and the “Shabbat Bride.” The accompanying angels are like royal servants who have come to make certain that everything is prepared for the arrival of the Queen. So grand is the arrival of Shabbat, that even preparing for its arrival brings extra blessings to one’s home.

Words of Shalom Aleichem:

Verse 1:
Shalom aleichem, malachei ha’sharayt, malachei elyon, mi’melech malchei ha’mlachim, HaKadosh Baruch Hoo.

Peace be unto you, ministering angels, messengers of the Most High, the King of kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He.

Verse 2:
Bo’achem l’shalom, malachei ha’shalom, malachei elyon, mi’melech malchei ha’mlachim, HaKadosh Baruch Hoo.

May your coming be in peace, messengers of peace, messengers of the Most High, the King of kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He.

Verse 3:
Barchunee l’shalom, malachei ha’shalom, malachei elyon, mi’melech malchei ha’mlachim, HaKadosh Baruch Hoo.

Bless me with peace, messengers of peace, messengers of the Most High, the King of kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He.

Verse 4:
Tzaytchem l’shalom, malachei ha’shalom, malachei elyon, mi’melech malchei ha’mlachim, HaKadosh Baruch Hoo.

May your departure be in peace, messengers of peace, messengers of the Most High, the King of kings, the Holy One, Blessed be He.


NOTE: While not universal, there is a strong custom to sing each verse of Shalom Aleichem three times. It is emphatically not part of the Jewish faith to pray to angels, and clearly this song is not a prayer. Shalom Aleichem is a respectful and gracious salutation to G-d’s messengers who are harbingers of the Shabbat Queen.


Twebrew School: Shabbat is brought to you on behalf of Shabbat Across America and Shabbat Across Canada, the only cross-continental celebration of Shabbat. The fourteenth annual SAA/C will take place on March 5, 2010. To learn more, click here.

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