By the Light of the Slivery (yes, slivery) Moon
Rebeccah Mark wrote:
My son David would like to know why one says "Shalom Aleichem...Aleichem Shalom" in the Kiddush Levana (sanctification-blessing at the time of the new moon)? Thank you for the answer.
Dear Rebeccah Mark,
Your son David asked a good question. I've often wondered the same thing myself: During the monthly blessing on the moon, we greet each other by saying "Shalom Aleichem" - "Peace unto you." Why do we do that? I used to think it was to make sure that even grouchy people greet their friends at least once a month.
But after some research into your son's question, I found the following explanation:
In the course of Kiddush Levanah, we pray for the downfall of the enemies of the Jewish People. In particular, we quote the verse from the 'Song at the Red Sea:' "May dread and fear befall them, they should be silent like stone...." Since this verse does not specify who "them" refers to, we therefore turn to the people standing nearby and say "Shalom Aleichem" to show that they are not included among those whose downfall we seek.
Here's another explanation: After you say a blessing on an apple, you take a bite of the apple. So too, after blessing Hashem for the moon and its light, you partake of the moon's light by using it to recognize your friends and wish them well.
- Rema, Orach Chaim 426:2
- Magen Avraham 426:11
- Megilla 3a and Tosafot d.h. "Chayshinan"