20 Tishrei 5782 / Sunday, September 26, 2021 | Torah Reading: Sukkot
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Knocking Down the Walls    

Knocking Down the Walls

Joshua had a secret military strategy in his miraculous victory over the virtually impregnable city of Jericho with its mighty walls; the same secret strategy works today…


The Chofetz Chaim writes in the Mishna Berura that the Aleinu prayer must be said with tremendous awe and intent, because the Almighty with all of His Heavenly Legions listen and respond, "Happy is such a nation" (Mishna Berura, Orach Chaim 132:2, letter chet). There are other extremely important prayers, yet here, the Chofetz Chaim gives us marching orders of "tremendous awe and intent". Why the Aleinu prayer in particular?


Encapsulated in the Aleinu prayer is the entire Jewish faith and the Jewish People’s task on earth, nationally and world wide, as well as the secret to Jewish success and survival, as we'll soon see.


According to many early sources such as Rav Hai Gaon (11th Century CE) and Rebbe Yehuda HaChassid (12th Century CE), Joshua was the author of Aleinu, a Divinely-inspired and powerful prayer that he received in a prophecy during the conquest of Jericho.


Jericho was virtually impregnable. Its high and thick walls could not logically be breached with the weaponry of the time. What's more, its residents were fierce fighters. Joshua saw no rational chance of victory. Although many people maintain that Aleinu was Joshua's victory song after he defeated Jericho, others hold that he said this prayer seven times, each time he circled the city. And, as the Chattam Sofer explains, after he circled the city for the seventh time, Hashem personally knocked down the walls of Jericho and delivered the city into Joshua's hands.


The dark-side forces of Jericho were so great that its conquering could only be done through the miracle of Divine intervention. Jericho has therefore become the symbol of Jewish success and victory throughout our history, defying all military logic, feasibility and probability.


How so?


The Jewish People are the People of Emuna in the Land of Emuna with the task of spreading the light of emuna around the globe. Since Aleinu is the prayer of emuna, the Chofetz Chaim placed so much importance on it.


Let's now see how the Aleinu prayer is an encapsulation of the entire Jewish faith, the Jewish people’s task on earth vis-à-vis themselves and the entire world, and the secret to Jewish success and survival:


* Encapsulation of the Jewish faith: as the Rambam says in the first principle of Emuna, Hashem is Creator and Director; he alone did, does and will do every deed. Aleinu tells us that He is the "Master of all", the One who "forms all of creation," that "He is our G-d, there is none else," and that "He will reign forever and ever."


* The task on earth of the Jewish People: our individual task is to internalize the principles of our faith, which we mentioned in the previous point of "Encapsulation". Aleinu obligates this, as it says, "And you shall know today, and internalize in your heart, that Hashem is the only God, in the Heavens above and on Earth below. There is no other." Not only must we know this, we must review emuna every day, even after we internalize it.


* The Jewish People's task in regard to the world: as a  "Light unto the nations," it is our job to do everything we can so that "all living flesh call Your name." We do that by spreading emuna. This is the correction of the world, Tikkun Olam, which is our solemn responsibility.


* The secret to Jewish success and survival: we have no power on our own. A Jew must know that "we put our hope in You, Hashem our G-d, to soon see the glory of Your strength". Hashem is the source of all our strength and all our abundance. There is no one but Hashem!


Joshua's emuna and trust in Hashem, as conveyed in the powerful Aleinu prayer, had the power of knocking down the impenetrable walls of Jericho. Similarly, this prayer, when said with fervor can knock down the walls of all the negativity that imprisons any of us. Say it with all your heart and you too will see Hashem's miraculous salvation, may it be soon, amen!

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