Shalom Aleichem Liturgy
By William J Kuik, Congregational Leader of ECBY
Shalom Aleichem is a hymn sung or chanted on Friday nights after coming home from the Erev Shabbat synagogue service. It is sung before Kiddush, just before the meal. It originated in the 17th century with its first occurrence in the siddur from Prague. The song is based on a passage in the Babylonian Talmud (Sabbath 119b.) The homiletic teaches that two angels accompany people on their way back home from synagogue on Friday night (Erev Shabbat), a good angel and an evil angel. If the house has been cleaned, prepared for the Shabbat, and a peaceful atmosphere in the home then the good angel says, So may it be next week, the bad angel is forced to say Amen. If the house has not been cleaned, prepared for the Sabbath, and if there is no peace in the house, then the bad angel says, So may it be next week, the good angel is forced to say Amen.
As Messianic Believers in Yeshua we regard Biblical Judaism with the highest esteem possible. Our calling and goal is to follow a truly “biblical lifestyle,” modeled by Yeshua, seen through the eyes of the Jewish community of believers in the first and second century (Nazarenes’.) Yochanan (John) 14:15 If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. And again in Yochanan 14:19—21 …because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who lives Me;…. In our zeal to follow Yeshua and to outreach the Jewish community (Romans 1:16 …to the Jew first and also to the Greek) Messianic Synagogues sometimes adopt Rabbinic traditions. This is done without thinking about the origin or thinking about the implications. Just because something is done today in the Jewish Orthodox Synagogue or the Jewish community it does not mean it is Biblical. This is true whether we are looking in the mirror or looking at the traditions of the Protestant or Catholic Church. Believers (Christians) are called to the highest standard. We are called to follow God through the Ruach Ha-Kodesh (Holly Spirit) with the knowledge and example Yeshua provided. His discernment has been provided for us through the Brit Chadashah (New Testament.) NOT all liturgy is appropriate for a Messianic believer to recite. The Kabbalistic mysticism associated with Shalom Aleichem is inappropriate. Some Orthodox Rabbi’s agree, Rabbi Jacob Emden, criticized the use of the hymn for making supplications to angels and the grammar for speaking of “angels of the Most High,” instead of exulting the “King who rules over kings.” We agree with this assessment. No scripture commends us for calling out to angels. The idea that a good and an evil angel follow you home from the synagogue is not supported by any scripture. Addressing these angels in this context is also not supported by scripture.
We have included Shalom Aleichem previously in the liturgical portion of our service; however, we have re-evaluated its use. As a result of that re-evaluation, we have removed it. Furthermore, we do not recommend that Messianic synagogues include any liturgy simply because “it’s the traditional thing to do.” We all need to assess the ways in which we choose to express our worship of Adonai, as well as our reasons for doing it. That does not mean that all liturgies are bad. Much of the traditional liturgy highly praises our Creator, and serves to refocus our attention upon His glory rather than the troubles from our busy week that so easily distracts us. In 1 Cor. 10:23 we are reminded that, Everything is permitted”—but not everything is helpful. Everything is permitted—but not everything builds up (TLV). We would do well to remember these things as we plan our worship services, and not just settle into a routine because “this is how it has always been done.”
What follows is the text to Shalom Aleichem:
Shalom Alaychem malachay hasharet, malachay elyon, Peace be unto you, ministering angels, messengers of the Most High, Mimelech malchay hahm’lacheem, hakodosh baruch hu. the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed is He. Bo-achem l’shalom, malachay hashalom, malachay elyon, Enter in peace, messengers of peace, messengers of the Most High, Baruchnee l’shalom, malachay hashalom, malachay elyon, Bless me with peace, messengers of peace, messengers of the Most High, Mimelech malchay hahm’lacheem, hakodosh baruch hu. the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed is He. Tsaetchem l’shalom, malachay hashalom, malachay elyon, Depart in peace, messengers of peace, messengers of the Most High, Mimelech malchay hahm’lacheem, hakodosh baruch hu. the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed is He.
This hymn has almost a hauntingly hypnotic appeal when sung, never-the-less in light of the above text we have chosen not to continue it’s tradition.