Siddur Ba-eir Hei-teiv --- The Transliterated Siddur

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Learn to sing Shalom Aleichem Print E-mail
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All transliterations, commentary, and audio recordings are copyright © 1997, 1998, 2002, 2009, or 2016 by Jordan Lee Wagner. All rights reserved.

Here are some of the most popular melodies for Shalom Aleichem:

  • This is the most well-known tune for Shalom Aleichem. It was written by Israel Goldfarb on a Friday afternoon in May of 1918, at Columbia University, and was published in Friday Night Melodies, his collection of works for four-part chorus with keyboard accompaniment. Israel's brother, Rabbi Samuel Goldfarb, was the director of the New York City Board of Jewish Education, which had a network of children's choruses all around the city. Israel's Shalom Aleichem tune (as well as Israel's popular Magein Avot tune) was taught to most of the Jewish children of New York, and in less than twenty years it had spread around the world. In many places its origin is unknown, and there are even some published collections that misattribute it as "traditional" or a "folk tune." It is, however, copyright 1918 by Israel Goldfarb.
  • Here is a faster melody featuring distinctive syncopation. It sounds sephardic to me, but I don't know its origins. I'll post more about it when I learn where it's from.

Shalom Aleichem

Shalom Aleichem was introduced by kabbalists about 350 years ago. It is a song of peace and hospitality. Shalom Aleichem is traditionally sung Friday night upon returning home after services, and/or on the way home. It is sometimes sung in syna­gogue at the end of Friday night services.

It is based on a passage of folklore in the Talmud (Tractate Shabbat 119), which says that two angels accompany every person home from synagogue on Friday night. One is good and the other evil. If they find a beautiful table prepared and the fam­ily in harmony, the good angel says: "May the next Sab­bath be as this one." And the evil angel is forced to say, "Amen". If, on the other hand, they find the house neglected and the family in disharmony, the evil angel says: "May the next Sabbath be as this one." And the good angel is forced to say, "Amen."

In traditional communities, strangers come to services to seek fellow Jews. On Friday night, travellers without a place to make Shabbat will be taken home from synagogue by members of the community. On those rare occasions when I travel on business and am out of town on Friday night, if I go to an orthodox shul I can always count on invi­tations to dinner and good company.

Shalom Aleichem is therefore also associated with hospitality. The metaphor of welcoming angels also wel­comes the Sabbath Bride and other guests into the home. Several wonderful tunes are popular.

(Shalom Aleichem is also the pen-name of a beloved Yiddish writer, comparable in style to Mark Twain. Shalom Aleichem wrote the short stories that formed the basis for the musical play, "Fiddler on the Roof.")

--- adapted from "The Synagogue Survival Kit" by Jordan Lee Wagner, publ. by Rowman & Littlefield. 1997.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 December 2009 00:35

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