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Following the recital of Aleinu Lishabe'ach, one is to recite the chapter of V'al Kein. In this prayer we express our fervent hope for that great day when idolatry and wickedness will be abolished and all mankind will acknowledge the sovereignty of the Almighty.
And therefore we hope to you, L-rd our G-d, that we may speedily behold the splendor of your might,
Achan who was from the tribe of Judah, composed this prayer. In the times of Joshua, Achan sinned by taking consecrated property from Jericho. This caused G-d's wrath to flare against the children of Israel, and many Israelites fell in the battle against Ai. It was then that the leader of the nation, Joshua, investigated the matter and learned the truth. Achan was condemned to be killed.75 Prior to his execution he composed the prayer of V'Al Kein.
The Talmud relates that by expressing this prayer of praise, Achan guaranteed himself life in the World to Come.76
A proof that Achan composed this prayer is similar to the proof that Joshua composed Aleinu. Achan's name appears in the first letters of the three words Al Kein Nekaveh.
In the High Holiday prayers, we ask G-d to put fear in all His creatures so that everyone will be able to worship Him with the appropriate intentions All creatures will know that they were created by G-d. This is the ultimate goal of our prayer. This prayer of pleading is divided into two categories (a) Aleinu Lishabe'ach, and (b) V'al Kein. In the first part we praise and thank G-d, who took us away from those who are lost, and brought us under His wings. In the second part we beg and plead that G-d give everyone else a chance.
Al Kein and Aleinu are alike in two areas (a) They both begin with a Ayin and end with a Dalet. Al Kein is also an ade (witness), that G-d is one; and (b) here we are again asking for the destruction of evil, (i.e., idolatry), and not the destruction of the wicked who do it.
The Dovar Shalom explains that in our time, many people accept G-d's rule "in name only." Others do not accept G-d at all. In both cases, many people generally do not see, or realize, and certainly do not have a deep appreciation of G-d as the Creator. There are those who do not realize that G-d's Providence extends to each person, individually. Whoever realizes this feels a greater sense of security and contentment. Some people even go so far as to say that G-d has abandoned the world, or watches it from a distance. These erroneous thoughts create a division between G-d, the Creator, and His creations. This can only be caused through man's ignorance. Since G-d rules the world through vessels, His direct glory is not seen by man. We await that time when people who have mistaken those vessels for G-d Himself will see the direct glory of G-d and know only one G-d.
G-d's rule over the world at large is often overlooked because people seem to be under the rule of the forces of nature. This is how idolatry began. Instead of realizing that there is only one G-d, who is the Creator and Master of all laws and forces of nature, some saw the various forces of nature as gods, each with a will and power of its own, which must be appeased every now and then. Now, even those who are wise enough to realize that behind every natural law there is the authority of the ruler, G-d, are sometimes ignorant of His true Sovereignty, and only know Him by His name and authority.77
The Olas Tamid explains, thinking about the splendor and might of G-d should arouse tremendous joy in a person's heart. Sanctification of G-d's name enlivens happiness, for this will be when the name of G-d is sanctified in front of every person. They will then have the ultimate belief that G-d is one, and every nation will bow down to G-d. They will give great praises to G-d's name. At that time, G-d's name will be praise, and be great in all worlds.
The Anaf Yosef explains that when we say "L-rd our G-d," we are testifying that the L-rd is G-d, and that G-d chose us to be the elite group who will serve Him, and that he gives us our part in His Torah. Therefore, we hope to see the correction of this world.
The Chidah78 writes; One should have in mind "KeHaT," (which is one set of names from the 42 letter name of G-d) when reciting the words "L-rd our G-d".
What does "behold" mean? It means that we should merit to see the coming of the redemption.79
Seeing "the splendor of G-d's might" is only possible through the performance a Mitzvah. Mitzvah is an idiom of Tzavta, (attachment). Whoever performs a Mitzvah becomes attached to the Essence of G-d, who issues that particular commandment. Becoming attached to the Essence of G-d will cause "the splendor of G-d's might" to be revealed.
There are two ways to show might (a) To conquer or control the opposition, and (b) to restrain oneself from fighting, which is also a strength. So, too, when one beseeches G-d in prayer, we say, "enough restraining Yourself back from fighting, for we live in a terrible world." Until now G-d's might has been demonstrated in his restraint. We are waiting for the time when G-d will change His "show of strength," and vanquish our oppressors. What is the difference between (a) and (b)? In the first case there is strength being demonstrated physically. In the second case there is nothing being demonstrated physically. Therefore, we are pleading to G-d, "We want the nations of the world to see the splendor of your might." "Restraint" is not noticeable since it cannot be seen, someone may think that G-d is doing nothing. Hence in our prayer, we ask G-d that we may see His might, and show it to the world.
to banish idolatry from the earth - and false gods will be utterly destroyed;
The Iyun Tefillah asks, what is the difference between idolatry and false gods? He explains that idolatry comes from the word "nauseating." Idolatry itself is sickening. Allilim comes from the root word k'al, meaning "false gods".
The Dovar Shalom explains that there were people who worshiped the sun and constellations, similar to the magicians in Egypt who consumed blood, with the belief that it would affect the heavenly bodies. This is the meaning of galal (idolatry). Galal also means excrement. There are others who worship the dust of the earth and the like, and still believe that what they are doing is neither good nor bad. This is the meaning of alil (false gods). Alil also means folly, something for naught. We mention both galal and alil to state that both are under the control of the true G-d, who created the world. When people will come to realize that their idolatry and worship of false gods are nothing more than rubbish, the world will be prepared for the true Kingship of the Almighty (Shad-dai).
Rashi explains the verse, "do not turn to the idols,"80 means do not worship them. The word alilim is related to al, "not" because an idol is considered as a non-entity. The power in all natural entities, (e.g., the sun, earth, etc.) comes from the Creator, and there is no power at all unless the Almighty (Shad-dai) granted it. Obviously worshiping any created object rather than the Creator is foolish.
This does not mean, "do not turn to the idols" or "do not worship idols," for the Torah has already prohibited idol worship.81 "Do not turn to the idols" means, "Do not turn to worship them." Do not even think for one moment of worshiping idols.82
Rashi explains that alilim (false gods) is not related to "G-d," but to Al (not). These "gods" are "naught" (nothing).83
Idolatry refers to worshipping anything other than G-d Himself, as explained,84 "Do not bow down to them," and "Do not serve them." One who bows down to an idol is liable to stoning.85 One who serves "other gods" shall be killed.86
to perfect the world under the sovereignty of the Almighty. All mankind shall invoke Your name, to turn to You all the wicked of the earth.
There are three steps to the aforemetioned phrase (a) To perfect the world; (b) all mankind shall invoke Your Name; and (c) to turn to You all the wicked of the earth. There are two levels of "wicked" people (a) thieves, liars, etc., who are called weak men of the land; and (b) those who do not harm others. The latter think that the reason a person is put into this world is to eat, sleep, and enjoy physical pleasures. We call Yoshve Tevel (the inhabitance of the world), as they have no spiritual goal in life.
There is another lesson that can be learned from these three steps, the first step (perfecting the world) refers to righteous people. When G-d pushes away the idolatry and false gods from the world, the righteous will call out the sovereignty of the Almighty. The second step refers to an intermediate class of persons (those who are influenced by both worldliness and G-dliness) for "all mankind" will call out Your Name. And the third step (all of the wicked of the earth will turn to you) refers to the wicked, that even they will call upon G-d's name.
There are those who, until now, practice idolatry and worship false gods. When the world will be under the sovereignty of the Almighty, all mankind will believe and know G-d, causing all idolatry to implode.
to perfect the world under the sovereignty of the Almighty.
Rashi explains The name Shad-dai (Almighty) is the equivalent of Shedi (sufficient), that He is sufficient, implying that He grants sufficient mercy.87
When Jacob's sons were about to take Benjamin to Egypt, Jacob blessed them by saying, "And may Kel Shad-dai grant you mercy."88 Our Sages of blessed memory explain that one who says that all is good for him, should also say that all is good for him even when he feels distressed.89
Me'am Lo'ez expands upon Jacob's blessing at this point. "One who has said, 'Enough!' should say 'enough to my troubles,' for I have not had any calm since my youth. I suffered the trouble of Lavan, the trouble of Esau, the trouble of Rochel, the trouble of Dinah, the trouble of Joseph, and now the trouble of giving up Benjamin." By the same token, Jacob still prayed that the troubles G-d brings upon him be commensurate with his capacity for suffering. He felt he had reached his limit.90
In offering the prayer, G-d's name, Shad-dai, is used. This comes from the Hebrew word Dai, (enough), and refers to G-d's attribute of "restriction" in creation. (This concept is brought down in Kabbalah, however, we must look forward to future opportunities to expand upon it.)
All mankind shall invoke Your name,
Genesis 128 states "Abraham invoked G-d by Name."91 The Ramban explains that in the time of the Holy Temple they would call in a loud voice in front of the Altar the name 'G-d,' and even if he was only Yoshve Tevel (having no spirituality), he would come to realize and feel the greatness of G-d.92
to turn to You all the wicked of the earth. Then all the inhabitants of the world will recognize and know
The wickedness in the people of the world is implanted in them; it is as a tree that is planted in the earth. When the time (Messianic Era) comes, even they will ultimately be connected to G-d.
The Eitz Yosef writes on the difference between "earth" and "world." When a "world" is referred to, it means only civilized humanity. "Earth," however, means the whole world, including water, etc.
Knowing usually precedes recognition. Here, the recognizing is before the knowing. One must recognize G-d before he can possibly know Him. One calls out to G-d, and only then G-d allows the one who calls to sense His nature and greatness.
that every knee should bend to You, every tongue should swear by Your Name.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains, every knee should bend to you refers to the day one is born. (FOOTNOTE Sefer Hama'amarim vol. 3 p. 296 ff.) On this day as the Talmud states, (FOOTNOTE Niddah 30b) an oath adminstered to the soul in heaven before it desends, "be righteous and be not wicked; and even if the whole world tells you that you are righteous, regard yourself as wicked." On this day the soul is told to swear by His Name. (FOOTNOTE For further elucidation see Likkutei Amarim, Tanya chapter one.)
Regarding the verse every tongue should swear by Your Name refering to the time when one is born. The Eitz Yosef explains No matter who one is, or destined to be, at birth all of mankind knows that G-d is one.
Rabbi Baruch HaLevi Epstein, in his workBaruch She'amar asks What does every tongue should swear by your name mean? If it is referring to the oath one takes when sworn into office, it is not understood, for that is mandatory. We are not speaking of an oath which one is obligated to take. We are speaking of an oath one takes ot of love. In the verse where Abraham made a treaty with Avimelech,93 and in the verse in which King David made a treaty with Yonothan,94 Abraham and David, respectively, were not forced to take an oath; nevertheless, it is still called an oath. So, too, "every tongue shall swear to you," is an oa th out of the profound love that mankind has towards G-d.
There is no strength more connected to a person than what he takes with his mouth (i.e., an oath).95
Before You, L-rd our G-d, they will bow and prostrate themselves
For at this time all mankind will be batul (nullified) to G-d.96
and give honor to the glory of Your Name,
It is only the constant assistance of G-d which enables a person to proceed in his Divine Service, so His apparent achievements are no indication of his true standing. Thus, he must "give honor" to G-d in all he does to serve Him.97
How can one come to "give honor to the glory of G-d's name"? One need only ponder how great are the kindnesses of the Creator. Consider that such a puny insignificant being as man, can bring great delight to the "Greatest of all Great" of Whom it is written, "There is no delving into His greatness."98 Man, therefore, ought to be inspired, and pray with an eager heart and spirit, and 'give honor to the glory of G-d's name."99
and they will take upon themselves the yoke of Your kingdom.
It will be the nature of a person, as he becomes changed to take upon themselves the yoke of His kingdom..100
It has been explained (FOOTNOTE Rabbi Baruch HaLevi Epstein in his work Baruch She'amar.)that it is very difficult for one to accept responsibilities to G-d as a "yoke," since a yoke is a heavy burden. Why would one liken G-d's Royal Sovereignty to a yoke? Rabbi Nechunya Ben Hakanah explains, "Whenever a person takes upon himself the yoke of Torah..."101 This expression of "yoke" is problematic. It is stated "...there is no free man except one who occupies himself with the study of Torah."102 Commentaries ask, how does Torah make one free? Seemingly, Torah limits; it controls ones life! So many restrictions!?
The "limitation" of Torah, actually keeps a person in a medium for G-d's righteous power and healing. To be involved in any matters, worldly or spiritual, without Torah is a blindness and a darkness, even if one experiences an illusion of freedom. This false sense of freedom is an emotion of the animal soul, an expression of an ung-dly character trait which limits our true joy, pleasure, and satisfaction which our G-dly soul experiences in Torah study. Thus, the yoke of Torah study is the true path of freedom!
This teaches us that if the person perseveres in the study of Torah despite his involvement in worldly affairs, he will be freed from any false or unworthy preoccupations with worldly affairs.
However, when a person endeavors to reduce tensions by casting off the yoke of Torah study, then the yoke of worldly affairs is imposed upon him. The difficulties he faces in the world at large will increase, rather than decrease.103
Also, the "yoke" can refer to the experience of satisfaction and pleasure from serving G-d. He dedicates himself to praying with extreme kavanah (intense concentration bordering on a meditative state), taking upon himself the "yoke of G-d's kingdom."
"Accepting the yoke" is a Talmudic concept, generously amplified and highly lauded in Chabad literature. Motivations may be intellectual, products of deep study, reasoning, and scholarship. Also, emotion may be an effective stimulus; love of mitzvos for example. "Accepting the yoke," in Chabad perspective, transcends these. It engages the essence of the soul, or flows from the essence of the soul, higher than reason or feeling. He needs no rationale, for he has passed beyond the relatively external, limited state. Recognition of one's "essence-character" in the text similarly probes beyond the obvious character traits, and penetrates to the subterranean, the core, what the person is in his essence.
May You soon reign over them forever and ever,
This is a blessing to G-d, that His Kingdom should be revealed immediately, and be everlasting.
The Eitz Yosef writes that this is a request for the success of the nation.
for kingship is Yours, and to all eternity You will reign in glory,
What does for kingship is Yours mean? Do we not already know this? For centuries people have been worshiping "other gods," and they believed that the god which they worshiped was the master. In the time of the Redemption, they will know that there is only one G-d, the Almighty.104
as it is written in Your Torah The L-rd will reign forever and ever.105
After the splitting of the Sea of Reeds, when the Jews saw the greatest miracles, (e.g., the Egyptian's drowing,) they understood that "The L-rd will reign forever".106
The Ramban writes: "Just as He demolished the strength of Egypt, so may He reign forever, saving His followers from those who seek their harm."
The Sforno writes: "It means that He alone will reign forever, without any believing that any other power has strength."
The Targum Yonasan writes "Seeing the miracles that G-d had performed for them while they stood among the waves of the sea, the Israelites said to each other "Let us place a beautiful crown on the head of the Redeemer, Deliverer, and Master." He removes kings from their thrones, but as the King of kings, He will never leave His throne. "G-d will reign forever and ever." He is the King in this world and will be in the next."
Rashi explains "It is an expression denoting "va'ed," "eternity." The vov is an essential part of the root word, but "vaed," in "I am He who knows and is a witness,"107 whose vov serves as a prefix and is vowelized with a "kamatz." To note, the Gur Aryeh explains that Rashi's version is different than ours, for we say "va'ed" not "vaed.""
One of the many differences between G-d and a king of flesh and blood is that He has no dependencies, whereas a mortal king must depend on having a non-rebellious nation. When one recites the words, "The L-rd will reign forever and ever," he proclaims two things (a) That the full kingship belongs to the Almighty, and (b) that G-d is the eternal King.
However, the L-rd will reign forever and ever, only proves that G-d is the eternal King. We know the first, because in reality both are connected. If G-d's kingship would depend on what people say, or be contingent on other things, it would not be possible to speak about G-d's infinite rule. But since we are sure about G-d's infinite rule, then we are also sure about G-d being King. So, the L-rd will reign forever and ever proves both full Kingship belongs to the Almighty and He is the true One who ultimately 'makes' all of the decisions about the worlds kings.108
And it is said The L-rd shall be King over the entire earth; on that day the L-rd shall be One and His Name One.109
The Ari Zal writes that it is proper to recite this verse as a conclusion to V'al Kein. Even though it is not part of the paragraph, it speaks of the way G-d acts to the world, which is according to the actions of each individual. Now, G-d must use many names to describe His actions. There will be a time when the world will be good, for then G-d will be one, and evil will be demolished. The Maharal states that from G-d no bad can come. It may seem to us to be bad, but really, then and now, it is good. In the time of the redemption all mankind will see the kindness and greatness of G-d.110
The Radak explains: "When the nations of the world wage war on Jerusalem, the Jewish nation will see all that the Prophet Zechariah prophesied. We will understand that G-d is the King of Israel, for all is done through His will. At that time we will proclaim, "The L-rd is One and His Name One.""
The Me'am Lo'ez explains: "Even the nations of the world, and therefore all idols, etc., are called by specific names but not the L-rd."
According to our Rabbis, of blessed memory, "G-d is one," refers to before one sins. "His name is one" refers to after one sins.111 The Rosh expounds on this, saying Before one commits an act of idolatry, he must be forgiven for even having the thought of doing this act. With all other sins, the thought is not considered a deed. But in the future, idolatry will be no more, and "G-d is one, and His name one," will not be before or after the sin.112
This concludes the prayer of V'al Kein. To summarize the message it contains We express fervent hope for the "Great day" when G-d will appear in all His majesty before the whole world, so that all can see and recognize Him. This will be the day that has been prophesied as the day of the coming of the Messiah, who will be sent by
G-d to establish His rule on earth. Then all people will recognize the absolute unity of G-d.
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