Shalom Aleichem (liturgy)

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Shalom Aleichem is a traditional song sung Friday night at the beginning of Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, welcoming the angels who accompany a person home on the eve of the Sabbath.

Source[edit]

This liturgical poem was written by the kabbalists of Safed in the late 16th or early 17th century.[1]

According to a homiletic teaching in the Talmud, two angels accompany people on their way back home from synagogue on Friday night — a good angel and an evil angel. If the house has been prepared for the Shabbat ("the lamp has been lit, the table set, and his couch spread"), the good angel utters a blessing that the next Shabbat will be the same, and the evil angel is forced to respond "Amen". but if the home is not prepared for Shabbat, the evil angel expresses the wish that the next Shabbat will be the same, and the good angel is forced to respond "Amen".[2]

The custom of singing Shalom Aleichem on Friday night before Kiddush is now nearly universal, despite the fact that certain rabbinical authorities have expressed misgivings. As has been noted by Rabbi David Bar-Hayim of Jerusalem, the 18th century Rabbi Jacob Emden in his Sidur Beth Ya’aqov prayer book pointed out many problems regarding this song (addressing requests to angels, expressions that do not make sense, etc.). A similar attitude to the singing of Shalom Aleichem is attributed to Rabbi Elijah, the Vilna Gaon. A further objection, Bar-Hayim explains, is that the song is based on a literal understanding of an Agadic (homiletic) statement (Babylonian Talmud Shabath 119b) which he views as misguided[3] . Most rabbis, however, do not accept these arguments.

Words[edit]

The lyrics, in Hebrew, are as follows:

שָׁלוֹם עֲלֵיכֶם מַלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁרֵת‏‏ מַלְאֲכֵי עֶלְיוֹן
מִמֶּלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא

בּוֹאֲכֶם לְשָׁלוֹם מַלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁלוֹם מַלְאֲכֵי עֶלְיוֹן
מִמֶּלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא

בָּרְכוּנִי לְשָׁלוֹם מַלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁלוֹם מַלְאָכֵי עֶלְיוֹן
מִמֶּלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא


צֵאתְכֶם לְשָׁלוֹם מַלְאֲכֵי הַשָּׁלוֹם מַלְאָכֵי עֶלְיוֹן
מִמֶּלֶךְ מַלְכֵי הַמְּלָכִים הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא

According to Sephardi pronunciation, the song in Hebrew is transliterated as follows:

Shalom alechem malache ha-sharet malache elyon,
mi-melech malche ha-melachim Ha-Kadosh Baruch Hu.
Bo'achem le-shalom malache ha-shalom malache elyon,
mi-melech malche ha-melachim Ha-Kadosh Baruch Hu.
Barchuni le-shalom malache ha-shalom malache elyon,
mi-melech malche ha-melachim Ha-Kadosh Baruch Hu.
Tzet'chem le-shalom malache ha-shalom malache elyon,
mi-melech malche ha-melachim Ha-Kadosh Baruch Hu.

The words to the song translate as follows:

Peace upon you, ministering angels, messengers of the Most High,
of the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.
Come in peace, messengers of peace, messengers of the Most High,
of the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.
Bless me with peace, messengers of peace, messengers of the Most High,
of the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.
May your departure be in peace, messengers of peace, messengers of the Most High,
of the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He.

NOTE: Mizrahi (not Sefard) tradition includes a penultimate verse, beginning בְּשִׁבְתְּכם לשׁלוֹם, "May your rest here be in peace,..." and the final verse has a בְּ inserted in front of the צ, which does not change the meaning of the last verse.  [4]

Rabbi Jacob Emden, in his prayerbook, Bet El (1745), criticized both the use of the hymn (on the grounds that supplications on the Sabbath and supplications to angels were inappropriate) and its grammar - arguing that the inclusion of the prefix מִ at the beginning of every second line (i.e., mi-melech) was bad form, as it rendered the passage, "angels of the Most High, away from the King who rules over kings". He therefore deleted that מִ, thereby reducing mi-melech to melech, and that deletion has been emulated in some other prayerbooks (apparently a small minority) such as Seligman Baer's Siddur Avodat Yisroel (1868), the Orot Sephardic, and Koren's Mizrahi (but not Koren's Ashkenaz or Sefard) prayerbook, although it makes the musical meter a bit awkward.[5]

Melodies[edit]

Many different melodies have been written for Shalom Aleichem.

The slow, well-known melody for the song was composed by the American composer Samuel E. Goldfarb and his brother Rabbi Israel Goldfarb on May 10, 1918 while sitting near the Alma Mater statue in front of Low Memorial Library at Columbia University. The famous Goldfarb song is often presumed to be a traditional Hasidic melody. I. Goldfarb wrote in 1963, "The popularity of the melody traveled not only throughout this country but throughout the world, so that many people came to believe that the song was handed down from Mt. Sinai by Moses."[6]

Lately, a modern, exuberantly joyful version of this melody has been popularized by Idan Yaniv and Kinderlach.

As one of her last acts, Debbie Friedman shared her beautiful and haunting "Shalom Aleichem" with Rabbi Joy Levitt. Friedman believed it was this song that would become her legacy.

The Faster Common Traditional Melody was composed by Rabbi Shmuel Brazil.

References[edit]

  1. ^ It is first found in the Tikkune Shabbat, published in Prague in 1641, according to B.S. Jacobson, The Sabbath Service (Sinai Publ'g, Tel-Aviv, English ed. 1981) page 123; M. Nulman, The Encyclopedia of Jewish Prayer (Aronson, NJ 1993) page 290; and A.Z. Idelsohn, Jewish Liturgy and its Development (NY, 1931) page 54.
  2. ^ Shabbat 119b.
  3. ^ http://machonshilo.org/en/eng/list-ask-the-rav/46-tphilla-and-brakhoth/446-sidur-nusah-eress-yisrael-davening-in-general-lkha-dodhi--shalom-alekhem
  4. ^ Koren Siddur Tefila, Mizrahi ed., 1988 Jerusalem, page 156; Orot Sephardic Shabbat Siddur, 1995 NJ, page 140; M. Nulman, Encyclopedia of Jewish Prayer, 1993 NJ, page 291; but not found in the "Sefard" prayerbooks by Koren, ArtScroll, or de Sola Pool.
  5. ^ B.S. Jacobson, The Sabbath Service (Sinai Publ'g, Tel-Aviv, English ed. 1981) pages 124-1254; Siddur Avodat Yisroel page 196.
  6. ^ http://www.kanestreet.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/hjbinder06sacred_music.pdf#page=5

External links[edit]