Why do Lubavitchers spit whenever saying the Alenu Prayer?
This is a great question, but to put it in perspective, we must first analyze the Alenu Prayer and its historical development. Without a doubt, the Alenu is one of the most moving prayers of the Jewish liturgy; it calls upon all the members of humankind to accept the One and only King of Kings, as Lord and Master of all the earth. Its universal message envisions a time when all the pagan gods will cease to be as humanity unites together in soulful worship. Without going into too much detail of the prayer, we will look only at the section that is relevant to our current discussion.
Let us praise Him, Lord over all the world;
Let us acclaim Him, Author of all creation.
He made our lot unlike that of other peoples;
He assigned to us a unique destiny.
We bend the knee, worship, and acknowledge
The King of kings, the Holy One, praised is He.
He unrolled the heavens and established the earth;
The origin of the prayer dates back to the time of the third century and is attributed to the sage Rav, who was a famous Babylonian scholar. The Jerusalem Talmud also makes an occasional reference to it.Assuming that Rav is the writer of the Alenu prayer, then it is reasonable to assume he was referring to the conversion of the pagan—and not the Christian, since Christianity had not really spread into Babylon in Rav’s day. The prayer also stresses the importance of Israel, God’s chosen messenger, who introduced ethical monotheism to the world.
With this introduction, the background of the Alenu has been fairly well-established. During the 12th-13th centuries, Jewish communities in Europe often suffered because of the blood libels that were issued against them. At one famous accusation in the French town of Blois, thirty-four Jews were burned at the stake for having “participated” in the blood ritual. As they died, they recited the Alenu prayer.
Oppressed peoples who lived under the powerful hand of the Christian world often fought an ideological battle with the more powerful Christian or Muslim enemy, who oppressed them on a daily basis. Obviously, they could not openly criticize their tormentors, so they resorted to a more subtle method of expressing their anger. Like the psalmist who wrote Psalm 137, ordinary people of that persecuted generation demanded that God dispense justice for the wrongs committed against their communities. The language of this psalm is disturbing but understandable when seen through the eyes of the powerless victim.
Some rabbis ingeniously used numerology to express contempt toward the Christian and Muslim world as a form of silent protest. So, a number of scholars decided to rewrite the Alenu Prayer with a couple of lines calling on God to eradicate the oppressive religions whose devoted followers threatened Israel.