The Shalom Aleichem Hymn
The Talmud teaches that two Malachei HaShareis, ministering angels – one good and one evil – escort a person home from the synagogue on the eve of the Sabbath. If a Jew arrives home and finds a kindled lamp, a set table, and a made bed, the good angel says, ‘May it be [God’s] will that it also be so next Sabbath.’ The evil angel is compelled to answer, ‘Amen.’ But if not – then the evil angel says, ‘May it be [God’s] will that it also be so next Sabbath.’ The good angel is compelled to answer, ‘Amen’ (Shabbos 119b).
The Shalom Aleichem song is based on the above passage. If two ministering angels accompany every Jew home, then it is only proper that he greets them, bless them, and seek their blessing. The zemer is of comparatively recent origin, apparently composed by the Kabbalists of the seventeenth century.
Peace. If a Jewish home is worthy of the Sabbath’s holiness, even the angels gain the blessings of peace that emanate from the meritorious deed.
Angel of peace. The first stanza speaks to ‘ministering’ angel, the others speak to angel of ‘peace’. The zemer addresses different sets of angels. The first stanza refers to the entire heavenly host, the infinite heavenly beings who stand in the service of God. The succeeding ones address the two angels who accompany the Jew to his home (Rabbi Isaac of Komarna).
Bless me for peace. If the escorting angels are pleased with the Sabbath preparations awaiting them, they extend the blessing that it may be equally so in succeeding weeks. This is in recognition of man’s achievement and is a good wish for the future. In seeking this ‘blessing’ from the angels we do no more than express the hope that our efforts have met with their approval.
He will charge His angel for you. Our Sages teach that one who performs many commandments will be given many angels to protect him. Therefore, upon taking leave of the angels at the conclusion of Shalom Aleichem, the Jew is comforted by the pledge that God will dispatch numerous other angels to safeguard him.