21 Jun THE GRAND PRAYER OF ALEINU – PART ONE
After every one of our daily prayers, we say the prestigious prayer of Aleinu. It is such an important part of our prayers that we always say it standing since standing shows extra respect and allows for greater concentration. When analyzing this prayer, the very first question that comes to mind is, Why do we say Aleinu at the end of our davening since its opening stanza is, “Aleinu l’shabei’ach laAdon hakol – It is incumbent upon us to praise the Master of all”? Shouldn’t we say it in the beginning of our prayers, instead of when we are folding our taleisim and preparing to stop our praying and leave the shul?
A beautiful answer to this question is, as we leave we make the statement that we are not ending our prayer session because we ran out of things to thank Hashem for. To the contrary, “Aleinu l’shabei’ach laAdon hakol,” we have much more to say to Hashem. But, what can we do? We need to make a living and go on with our lives. But, it’s certainly not because we have exhausted what we have to say to Hashem.
Another possible reason we say Aleinu at the end of our prayers is that we are acknowledging that Hashem is our Boss, not just when we’re in the synagogue but when we leave shul and go to our workplaces or to our homes. There too, Hashem’s Presence should be acutely felt by us. It is for this reason that my Rebbe, Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, zy”a, insisted that schoolchildren should start their very first Gemora learning from the chapter of Eilu Metzious which talks about the obligation to return lost articles instead of the easier chapters of Tractate Berachos which talk about Krias Shema, Shemoneh Esrei and other blessings. He explained that we want the children to know that they must be a good Jew not just in shul but when they find a wallet in the street or a Parker pen in the schoolyard as well.
In a similar vein, the Gemora in Shabbos [30a] informs us that the very first question a person will be asked when he is judged by Hashem in the next world is, “Nasata v’nasata b’emuna – Did you do business faithfully?” Rav Pam, zt”l, zy”a, wonders why it doesn’t say, “Nasata v’nasata b’emes – Did you do business truthfully.” He answers that Hashem will want to know, “When you did business, did you feel like I was looking over your shoulder watching what you were doing?” This is the faithfulness that Hashem wants from us. And this is why we remind ourselves, before we leave shul, with the Aleinu prayer, that Hashem is the Adon hakol, our Master.
Why do we say Aleinu at the end of Kiddush Levana? Most people think that it’s just the way we finish things. But, it’s more than that. Since we are all congregating together outside to say a blessing over the moon, the onlooker might make a mistake that, G-d forbid, we are praying to the moon. Therefore, we conclude with the clear message, “Aleinu l’shabei’ach laAdon hakol,” that we are praising the Master of all, and we are outside making a blessing of thanks for one of Hashem’s faithful servants, the moon, which brightens the sky, controls the tides and benefits us in many other ways.
For that matter, why do we say Aleinu at the end of a bris milah? The answer is that Aleinu is a heartfelt expression of thanks that we are fortunate to be Hashem’s chosen people. “She’lo asanu k’goyei ha-aratzos – He did not make us like the nations of the land, v’lo samanu k’mishpachos hadamah – He did not place us with the other families of Earth.” Therefore, as another child enters the covenant of Avraham with the bris and he joins the Jewish nation, we express this thanks of how fortunate we are to be numbered among the Jewish people.
In the merit our praise to Hashem, may he bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.
To be continued…