The ministering angels and the angels of peace are addressed in the popular hymn Shalom Aleikhem (Peace unto You). This hymn, recited in the Ashkenazi rite after returning from the synagogue following the Friday evening service, welcomes the Sabbath angels into the home.

Shalom Aleikhem is a late poem of kabbalistic origins, that draws its inspiration from an early Talmudic legend concerning two ministering angels (one bad and one good); these angels are said to accompany each Jew home from the synagogue, blessing or cursing his table depending upon whether he honors or dishonors the Sabbath Queen.[1]

Rabbi Yosi son of Rabbi Yehudah said: Two ministering angels accompany a person home on Friday night from the synagogue. One is an angel of good and one is an angel of evil. When the person arrives home to find that Shabbat candles lit, the table set and the beds made, the angel of good says, "May it be [Your] will that the next Shabbat should be the same." And against his will, the angel of evil answers, "Amen."

If not [meaning, if the candles are not lit and the table is not set], then the angel of evil says, "May it be [Your] will that the next Shabbat should be the same." And against his will, the angel of good answers, "Amen."[2]

Listen to Shalom Aleikhem sung by the Efroni Choir, conducted by Maya Shavit

Hebrew text
Listen to a lovely arrangement (midi)
Download sheet music

Shabbat eve.
Detail of a painting by Moritz Oppenheim, 19th cent.

First mention of Shalom Aleikhem:
The order of the Kabbalat Shabbat (Friday evening) service and such well-known hymns as Lekhah Dodi[3] recited on Friday evenings and Sabbath are found in the Tikkunei Shabbat books which were printed in the early 17th century. Tikkunei Shabbat is a collection of excerpts from the Mishnah Shabbat and piyyutim (religious hymns) whose composition is attributed to the 16th-century kabbalist Yitzhak Luria.

Concerning the Shabbat meal, these books state that it was the custom to recite Shalom Aleikhem and Eshet Hayil (from Proverbs)[4] at the Shabbat evening meal.


[1] The two ministering angels that always accompany the individual to testify concerning his daily conduct appears elsewhere in the Babylonian Talmud (Hagigah 16a), emphasizing the notion that whatever man did, even in secret, was recorded against him. [back]
[2] BT Shabbat 119b [back]
[3] The famous hymn Lekhah Dodi, written by 16th-century kabbalist, poet, and founder of the kabbalistic community of Safed, Solomon Alkabez,
[4] Eshet Hayil, Woman of Valor, is taken from Proverbs 31:10-31. It was introduced since the Zohar and various kabbalists understood and interpereted it as referring to the feminine aspect of God, the Shekhinah. [back]


Shalom Aleikhem: sung by the Efroni Choir, conducted by Maya Shavit
From the CD: Jewish and Israeli Music, produced by the Beth Hatefutsoth Feher Jewish Music Center.
Courtesy of Beth Hatefutsoth, Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, Jewish Music Dept.

ANGELS Table of Contents




Subscribe to the JHOM mailing list for updates.

Contact us

Tell a friend