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Shalom Aleichem

Peace be upon you, O angels who serve God, angels of the Most High—from the King who is above all other kings, the Holy One, Blessed is God.

Come in peace, O angels of peace, angels of the Most High—from the King who is above all other kings, the Holy One, Blessed is God.

Bless me with peace, O angels of peace, angels of the Most High—from the King who is above all other kings, the Holy One, Blessed is God.

Depart in peace, O angels of peace, angels of the Most High—from the King who is above all other kings, the Holy One, Blessed is God.

 

Does mainstream Judaism believe in angels? Of course! They are God’s messengers, each with a specific message to deliver or task to accomplish. Recall the three angels who appeared to Avraham in Genesis Chapter 18. By the time Avraham arrives in S’dom a chapter later, there are only two angels at his side. The first of the three had accomplished his assigned task—announcing to Sara that she was about to bear a child (despite her advanced age), and had therefore departed. The other two still had their missions to accomplish: to protect Lot and his family from the wicked residents of S’dom, and to destroy the evil cities.

As we prepare to retire each night, we ask protection from four angels: Michael מיכאל representing the outstretched hand of God; Gavriel גבריאל representing God’s strength; Uriel אוריאל God’s light; and Refael רפאל God’s healing powers.

Tradition tells us that two ministering angels מלאכי השרת accompany a family home from the synagogue after Shabbat evening services. If the home is clean, Shabbat candles have been blessed, and the parents bless their children with hearts full of love, the defending angel proclaims, “May all your Shabbat celebrations be just like this one!” and the prosecuting angel must—against his will—answer “Amen.” But if the home is a shambles, no candles have been lit, and the parents grumble at their children, the prosecuting angel proclaims, “May all your Shabbat celebrations be just like this one!” and the defending angel must—against his will—answer “Amen.” This is the meaning of the hymn Shalom Aleichem.

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