L’haavir gillulim min ha’aretz, v’ha’elilim karos yikareisun. L’sakein olam b’malchus Sha-dai…
To remove abominable idolatry from the earth, and that all idols will be totally cut down (destroyed), (and then You will return Your Sh’chinah) to perfect the world with the Kingdom of Hashem (Who set a limit to the creation)…
In the beginning of Al Kein, we have expressed our hope that in the near future, we will see the glory of Hashem’s great strength, which the Avudraham explained refers to the final Beis HaMikdash. In order for that to happen, we hope to see the splendor of Hashem’s might in first removing the abominable idolatry (gillulim) from the world, and in totally cutting down (destroying) all idols (elilim).
“Gillulim” refers to man-made idols, such as those formed from stone and wood. These have no power whatsoever and simply need to be removed from the world.
“Elilim” refers to creations of Hashem like the Sun and the Moon, which Hashem infused with power. They have no independent power, but they do have the power that Hashem continually infuses them with. To man, these might appear to have independent power and, in fact, man over the years has mistakenly worshipped these powers as independent powers. Hashem will totally destroy these powers, so that no future mistakes are made.
In summary, we start off expressing our hope and trust that we will speedily witness the glory of Hashem’s great strength, as He removes and destroys all man-made idols and all powers that people mistakenly worship.
It is at that point that He will return His Sh’chinah and establish the Beis HaMikdash, to perfect the world (l’sakein olam) with the kingdom of Hashem (b’malchus Sha-dai).
Why is the Name of Hashem of “Shakai” used here?
Aleinu and Al Kein were initially inserted into the “Malchiyus” section of tefilas Musaf on Rosh HaShanah by the Anshei K’neses HaG’dolah (the Men of the Great Assembly), some 2,500 years ago, because Aleinu is an exalted tefilah for the revelation of Hashem’s Kingship in its completeness and perfection. In fact, the Chida (18th century) writes in the name of Rav Hai Gaon (tenth century) that there is no praise to our Creator that is equal to Aleinu, and Aleinu is above all praises in the world.
Avudraham (14th century) explains that the Name “Sha-dai” is used here because “dai” (literally meaning “enough”) is a word that denotes limitation or constriction. Here it means that Hashem constricts the midas ha’din (attribute of judgment) and allows us to leave Rosh HaShanah with our judgment in abeyance until Yom Kippur, so that we can return to Him (t’shuvah) and merit atonement on Yom Kippur. This specifically refers to our ability to merit the final redemption. If we were judged immediately, we would never merit the ultimate g’ulah. By allowing us the extra time to repent and return, Hashem affords us the opportunity to one day soon merit the final redemption. May we experience it speedily in our days.
[This segment is based on the sefer Rinas Chaim, by Rabbi Chaim Friedlander, and on the Pathway to Prayer Siddur, by Rabbi Mayer Birnbaum.]
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