Shalom Alechem, sung before the Shabbat Eve meal, concludes with:

Tzetchem leshalom -- depart in peace.

Why are the angels specifically enjoined to leave before the meal begins? I have heard that, because angels do not eat, people find it distasteful to be watched as they eat by those who do not eat.

Do you know the source of this explanation, or another explanation?

  • 1
    This is in fact one of the challenges raised against the recitation of this poem.
    – Alex
    Jul 14 '19 at 2:33
  • @Alex -- Another one, far weightier, is "Barchuni l'shalom". Jul 14 '19 at 2:36
  • 2
    Just because the piyut is said prior to the meal, why would you assume that saying teitzchem leshalom implies leaving immediately before the meal begins? Perhaps, it's just a general reference to "whenever you leave, you should leave in peace." And, while we do know that angels don't actually eat, why can't they just sit there and be around for the meal and offer protection, or whatever else they might do? Considering it takes maybe 3 minutes to say the whole piyut, you don't find it strange to invite angels as your guests, say hello, bless me, and good bye all in 3 minutes w/ no staying?
    – DanF
    Jul 14 '19 at 2:40
  • 1
    Hence a prevalent alternative nusach is “[Be’]shivtechem le’shalom” - - return in peace.
    – Oliver
    Jul 14 '19 at 3:26

In the Sefer Hamelech BeMesibo vol 2, page 30, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe is quoted as saying that to an angel each moment is incredibly precious. A single moment is a long time for an angel. The fact that they tarried even a moment is a big thing and they actually stayed a long time. therefore it is not disrespectful to wish them a safe departure.

I didn't read the whole thing yet, but the second essay here delves into this in great detail. You may find some interesting leads.

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