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Shalom Aleichem: Peace Be Upon You

by Gabriella Tzin

If you have ever participated in a Jewish Kabbalat Shabbat meal, then you have most likely heard the infamous song, “Shalom Aleichem (שלום עליכם).” This traditional song has been a central part of Friday night Shabbat liturgy for many years and is prevalent in most sects of Judaism. Its purpose is to signal the start of Shabbat as well as to usher peace and wholeness into the home.

Shalom Aleichem was originally a poem that was written by kabbalists (believers in Jewish mysticism) in the city of Tzfat towards the end of the 16th century. It is found in the Talmud in addition to the rather interesting and slightly controversial teaching that goes with it.

According to the teaching, when an individual leaves the synagogue on a Friday night after saying prayers, two angels escort him on his journey home. One of the angels is supposedly righteous whereas the other does what is evil in God’s sight.

If the man’s house is well-prepared for Shabbat, such as the table being beautifully set, the meal prepared, and a peaceful atmosphere amongst the family, then the good angel will say a blessing, wishing the same to occur the following week. After the good angel blesses the man and his home, the evil angel is forced to say, “Amen, may it be so.”

If the opposite occurs, however, where the man’s house is a mess either physically or emotionally, then the bad angel will utter a wish that it will be exactly the same way next Shabbat. The good angel must then respond by saying, “Amen, may it be so.”

It is not surprising that the previous teaching on this poem has some controversy associated with it. Nonetheless, it serves as a window into Jewish thought throughout history, especially under the influence of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism).

In 1918, one of the most well-known melodies for Shalom Aleichem was written by Rabbi Israel Goldfarb, an American composer and conductor. The slow yet beautiful tune is the most recognizable and commonly played versions of this song, despite more upbeat compositions existing.

Even more so, this song has become a fundamental part of Jewish culture, marking the start of Shabbat in Jewish homes across the world. You can hear a version of Rabbi Goldfarb’s melody here:

Below are the lyrics to Shalom Aleichem in Hebrew and English. It should be noted that each verse is customarily sung three times each, though not all observe this practice.

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

The song is transliterated as follows:

Shalom aleichem malachei hash-sharet malachei Elyon,

mi-melech malachei ham-melachim haq-qadosh Baruch Hu.

Bo’achem le-shalom malachei hash-shalom malachei Elyon,

mi-melech malachei ham-melachim haq-qadosh Baruch Hu.

Barchoni le-shalom malachei hash-shalom malachei Elyon,

mi-melech malachei ham-melachim haq-qadosh Baruch Hu.

Tzeitechem le-shalom malachei hash-shalom malachei Elyon,

mi-melech malachei ham-melachim haq-qadosh Baruch Hu.

Peace unto you, ministerial angels, messengers of [the] Highest,

from the King, king(s) of the kings — the Holy, blessed be He.

[May] your coming [be] to peace, envoys of the peace, messengers of [the] Highest,

from the King, king(s) of the kings — the Holy, blessed be He.

Bless me for peace, envoys of the peace, messengers of [the] Highest,

from the King, king(s) of the kings — the Holy, blessed be He.

[May] your departure [be] to peace, envoys of the peace, messengers of [the] Highest,

from the King, king(s) of the kings — the Holy, blessed be He.

About Gabriella Tzin

Gabriella is the content writer for Netivyah Bible Instruction Ministry in Jerusalem. She enjoys hiking and exploring the great outdoors with her husband and cat in her spare time. Some of her other hobbies and interests include raising chickens, sheep wrestling, shotgun skeet shooting, yoga, photography, and making mosaics.

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