A prince began to slip off the path and spend his days and nights engaged in frivolous and foolish activities. He formed close relationships with scoundrels and criminals and was constantly seen in their company.
Word of his errant ways was soon reported to his father, with the bearers of the disturbing news taking pains to relate every detail.
“Not only does he not obey His Majesty’s commands,” they told the king. “His mind is so obsessed by frivolity that he no longer recognizes his father the king. He feels no closer affinity to his father than he would to a stranger.”
The king accepted the reports and banished his son from the palace. The prince’s enemies humiliated and even beat the disgraced prince. Soon he began to plead for mercy, enumerating his dire needs, his physical and emotional pain. He reflected on his relationship with father and reconsidered his earlier refusal to obey the royal commands. “My father!” he called out, “have mercy on me, save me! Have pity on me and draw me close to you. Bring me back to you and I will fulfill your every with and heed your every command. But first heal me from my wounds, for how can I possibly serve you with a broken heart and open wounds?”
Yet the prince’s enemies would not cease their campaign against him.
“He still isn’t recognizing Your Majesty as his father, the king!” they claimed. “He is crying from pain, rather than from a feeling of closeness or a desire for a relationship with his father.”
They also directly addressed his claim that he desired to begin listening to his father’s commands.
“In that case,” they retorted, “why does he continue to listen to his friends of ill repute and follow their foolish advice?”
Their words were successful in preventing the king from agreeing to take back his son.
One day the king passed by the room where his son was held. The prince noticed his father through the window and once again began to shout, “I am in such pain,” “I have nothing to eat,” “Bring me back, Father, bring me close to you.”
The words were identical to those he had uttered previously, but his sob-wracked voice was now far louder and more powerful. His pleas had become a shout that vibrated and could be heard in the far distance.
This time the king brushed by his entourage, and, ignoring the protests of his advisers, ran into the room and embraced his son.
“Now it is clear to me that your intentions all along were only out of hatred to my son and not loyalty to me,” the king told the prince’s enemies. “For if he is screaming only from pain and not out of recognition, that I, his father and king, can help him, then why did he start screaming so much louder and so much more powerfully when I passed by? This can only tell me that he does recognize me as his king, and his desire to return to the proper path is genuine.”
On Rosh Hashanah, as Yidden around the world gather to plead for a year of blessings, each one of us pours out his hearts with specific requests. Parnassah will be on the minds of many, as will a refuah sheleimah to the ill, and continued good health for the healthy, nachas from children, shidduchim and so on.
The prosecuting angels will try to prevent these tefillos from reaching their goal by arguing that our requests are not a true acceptance of our Father, the King, but rather an expression of the litany of woes that we suffer from on a daily basis. They will attempt to claim that it is not a true desire of return and repentance that is in our hearts, but rather a reaction to our personal challenges and tzaros.
However, the prosecuting angels will be silenced by the fact that it is now, during these days of teshuvah, that we are focusing so much of our time and emotion on tefillah. After all, we endure our challenges all year long. The fact that it is davka now, a time of closeness to Hashem, that we are pouring out our hearts to our Creator proves that we do recognize Malchus Shamayim; it is a declaration that only Avinu Malkeinu can help us and save us.
It is also means that we are actually sensing a closeness to Hashem, a closeness evoked by these powerful pleas and tefillos.
(Adapted from Eish Kodesh by the Piaseczna Rebbe, Hy”d.)
May we all be inscribed in the book of life and merit a kesivah vachasimah tovah.