Shalom Aleichem and Shabbat

Posted January 14th, 2013 by Or Shalom London with No Comments

You wouldn’t know it, even if you went into almost every shul, dining room or kitchen in the world where Jews are having Shabbat dinner, but Shalom Aleichem, the song sung at the start of Shabbat dinner, is a very controversial poem and has been for centuries. It’s even controversial for lots of different reasons.

I’ll mention here just one point of dispute. The Vilna Gaon, the foremost 18th-century Talmudist, refused to sing it. You see, the piyyut asks angels to bless us with peace. He objected on the grounds that only God, not angels, has the ability to bless us. Nonetheless, Shalom Aleichem is immensely popular today. Sing it to kick-off your next Shabbat dinner and enjoy the blessings, angelic or divine!

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