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Angels and Shabbat

August 2, 2013

Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Shabbat message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter. Below is the Shabbat message for Friday, August 2, 2013.

Shalom Aleichem is a traditional hymn that’s sung at the Sabbath table on Saturday nights:

Shalom aleichem, Malachei ha-sharet,

Mal’achei elyon –

Mi-Melech Malchei ha-mlachim –

Ha-Kadosh, Baruch Hu.

 

Peace be upon you, ministering angels

Angels of the most high –

From the King of Kings,

The-Holy-One-Blessed-Be-He.

We saw those same angels last week in the Bialik poem. Bialik writes about the Sabbath Queen – but he adds: “And with her are angels, an army of peace and rest.”

So what are those angels? Why angels on Shabbat? In fact . . . what are angels anyway? The Hebrew word for angel is “Mal’ach,” which literally means “messenger.” Actually, the English word we have for Angel comes from the Greek translation of the Hebrew: Angelos... Messenger. What angels are is actually really mysterious. They are messengers, but what do they look like? I know, I know . . . we have images from medieval Christian art and later that presumes that angels look like beautiful human beings with wings. But in the Jewish tradition, angels are not humans. The Torah tells us, for example, that the Burning Bush is an angel! In other places in the Hebrew Bible, they are referred to as “Holy Animals,” or as “Circles.” Mysterious indeed.

One thing is “clear” however in the Jewish tradition: Angels enter our homes on the Sabbath, bringing with them peace, and rest, harmony and beauty. According to legend, two angels, a good angel, and a evil angel, accompany each Jew when he/she enters the home for Shabbat. If the candles are lit and the table is set, the Good Angel says, “May it be so every Shabbat,” and the Evil Angel says, “Amen.”

So . . . I hope the angels bring you Sabbath Peace.

Shabbat Shalom.