8

In the artscroll zemiros book they mention that the Gra and Rav Emden either did not say or modified the shabbat song Shalom Aleichem because there is a stanza which requests that the angels bless us. My question is what is wrong with asking angels to bless us? Yaakov does exactly that when he struggled with the angel of Eisav.

5

Angels can only do what they're programmed to do, they don't work for us. Hence it's questionable if I have any business asking angels to do anything.

I would assume that if Yaakov is minding his own business and is suddenly attacked by an angel, the angel is now running a program called interact_with_Yaakov. Somehow Yaakov reasoned that the interact_with_Yaakov program included something like if (must_bless == True) then bless_Yaakov. Hence he asked for it. But the angel won't give Yaakov his name as it's of no use -- once the sun comes up and the angel flies away, interact_with_Yaakov is no longer running and thus the angel no longer has a job interacting with Yaakov, hence Yaakov can't summon it or make any requests.

As for how Yaakov deduces that the angel has a bless_Yaakov routine, the approach of the Sforno and others is that Yaakov realizes that G-d is sending him this struggle so he can learn a message of hope -- either that he's personally stronger than he thinks, or that his offspring will overcome adversity. Either way, the message isn't truly complete until he can force his adversary to bless him.

  • 5
    Stack Overflow has way too much influence on this site. :) – Ypnypn May 14 '14 at 0:17
  • This answer (and R' Yaakov Emden too, for that matter) assumes that the angels coming to your house on Friday night aren't coming there to bless you. Who says? Why are they coming otherwise, if not to bring you blessings of peace? – Dov F Dec 24 '17 at 21:50
  • @DovF The objection formulated in the Sefer Keser Rosh (# 93) from R. Chaim of Volozhin (and presumably reflecting the Gra mentioned in the question) states that the angels are forced (by God) to either bless you or curse you. The problem with Shalom Aleichem, then, is that you are asking the angels to bless you, which makes no sense – if God told them to bless you they will have to do so even without your request, and if God told them to curse you they will have to do so despite your request. – Alex Dec 24 '17 at 22:55
  • 1
    The way I see it, it's just being polite. I am welcoming them into my home to do their job, after I first bless them and pray that peace should rest upon them -- i.e. that their job should indeed be to bless me with peace. First I say שלום עליכם to the מלאכי השרת; that is a blessing which is a prayer that Hashem put peace upon them. Then I call them מלאכי השלום because I assume my prayer was accepted and I welcome them and instruct them to do their job, and then I escort them out to continue with their job of blessing people with the peace they have been given to bless with. – Dov F Dec 24 '17 at 23:18
1

First of all, according to Rambam and Ralbag the incident with Yaakov and the angel didn't actually happen. It was a prophetic vision.

Guide for the Perplexed 2:42 (Friedlander)

The same, I hold, is the case when it is said in reference to Jacob, "And a man wrestled with him" (Gen. xxxii. 25); this took place in a prophetic vision, since it is expressly stated in the end (ver. 31) that it was an angel.

Ralbag Genesis 32:25

ונראה לו בנבואה מלאך ה' כאילו הוא איש

And an angel of Hashem appeared to him in a prophetic vision as if he were a man.

(I am assuming that if someone does something wrong in a dream it does not count as doing something wrong.)

Furthermore, when Ralbag discusses the blessings that Yitzchak gave to Yaakov, he states that a blessing can only be one of two things – a prophecy, or a prayer.

Ralbag Genesis 28:9

וזה כי כבר יסופק על ענין זאת הברכה אם היא הודעת מה שעתיד להיות או היא כמו תפלה ובקשה מהשם יתעלה שיברך זה המתברך כי בזולת אלו השני פנים לא יהיה תועלת בברכת הנביא

And this is because we are already uncertain as to the nature of this blessing, whether it was a revelation of what would be in the future or if it was like a prayer and request from Hashem-He-Should-be-Exalted that he should bless this person that was blessed. For besides these two choices there cannot be any benefit in the blessing of a prophet.

If you look at what the angel responded to Yaakov, all he said was that Yaakov's name will no longer be Yaakov, but instead it will be Yisrael. That does not sound like much more than a prophecy, which would not be problematic as the whole issue with angelic blessings is that it ascribes power to someone other than God. If the angel is simply stating that something will happen there would be no issue, and in fact throughout Tanach angels tell people that things will happen.

Also, R. Yaakov Emden (Siddur Rabbi Yaakov Emden Vol. I p. 565) actually lists nine potential objections to Shalom Aleichem and the accompanying prayers, and the one about praying to angels is possibly the least significant.

  1. He never saw his father recite these, and they are not mentioned in any of the writings of the Arizal.
  2. It is forbidden to make "requests" on Shabbos, to the point that the Sages even removed all the "request berachos" from Shemonah Esrei on Shabbos despite it being an institution of the Anshei K'neses Hagedolah.
  3. One will read the text by the light of the candle, especially the parts with lengthy unfamiliar text, especially the first times that one recites them.
  4. Prayers to angels are inappropriate. However, he states that this issue is somewhat mitigated by what he wrote about prayers to angels in his commentary to the Tur O.C. siman 3 (that as long as one acknowledges in the prayer that the angels are merely agents of God it is not really a problem).
  5. How can we innovate something that our ancestors/Sages never set? Why should we be "wiser" and more "righteous" than them?
  6. It is perhaps a violation of Bal Tosif (do not add to the mitzvos).
  7. There are grammatical issues, such as the "ב" in בבואכם and בצאתכם.
  8. The phrase ממלך מלכי המלכים (with the מ in the beginning) makes no sense.
  9. Why would you ask the angels to leave?

He concludes by stating that his personal custom is to simply say the following one line:

שלום עליכם מלאכי השרת מלאכי עליון מלך מלכי המלכים הקדוש ברוך הוא

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .