Vitaliia Dupliakina gracefully sings “Shalom Aleichem” accompanied by Natalia Burnagiel (violin), Michalina Jastrzębska (cello), Maciej Erbel (drums) and Jakub Niewiadomski (piano).

“Shalom Aleichem” (Peace be upon you) is a traditional Hebrew song sung by Jews every Friday night upon returning home from synagogue prayer. It signals the arrival of the Shabbat, welcoming the angels who accompany a person home on the eve of the Shabbat. The custom of singing “Shalom Aleichem” on Friday night is now nearly universal among religious Jews.

This liturgical poem was written by the Kabbalists (Jewish mystics) of Safed in the late 16th or early 17th century. According to teachings in the Talmud (central text of Rabbinic Judaism), two angels accompany people on their way back home from synagogue on Friday night—a good angel and an evil angel. If the house has been prepared for the Shabbat (“the lamp has been lit, the table set, and his couch spread”), the good angel utters a blessing that the next Shabbat will be the same, and the evil angel is forced to respond “Amen”. But if the home is not prepared for Shabbat, the evil angel expresses the wish that the next Shabbat will be the same, and the good angel is forced to respond “Amen”. The hymn is assumed to be based on this teaching.

Shabbat is Judaism’s day of rest on the seventh day of the week—i.e., Saturday. On this day, religious Jews remember the biblical stories describing the creation of the heaven and earth in six days and the redemption from slavery and The Exodus from Egypt, and look forward to a future Messianic Age. Since the Jewish religious calendar counts days from sunset to sunset, Shabbat begins in the evening of what on the civil calendar is Friday.

Shalom Aleichem!