Rabbi Yisrael Ba’al Shem Tov lived from 1700 to 1760 and was the founder of Hassidut. He was one of the greatest mystics known in the history of Judaism. Very few documents written by him still exist but many stories and teachings are being passed down until the present day. The following is a parable of Rabbi Yisrael Ba’al Shem Tov on the Shofar, the Jewish horn used primarily on Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), which is meant to rouse the people into leaving their sinful ways and return to G-d.
There was a King in a far-off country who had an only son who was immensely precious to him. The King wanted his son to acquire an appreciation of different cultures and to expand his knowledge. Therefore, the King sent his dear son off, equipped with silver, gold and precious treasures to a distant country. After a few years the money ran out and the son was left penniless. His distress knew no bounds and he wished more than anything to return to his father’s country and indeed, after a strained journey, succeeded in arriving at the gate of the courtyard of his father’s palace.
To his horror, he realized as he stood at the gate, that he had been away for so long that he had forgotten the language spoken in his father’s kingdom. The guards at the guard demanded that he identify himself and, frustrated, he found that he wasn’t able to. In his despair he began to cry out loudly. The King was in the palace at the time and recognized the cry of his beloved son. He ran out, brought him in to the palace, joyfully showering him with hugs and kisses.
The meaning of the parable is as follows:
The King represents G-d. The Jewish people, referred to as “Children of G-d” in Deuteronomy 14:1, is the prince. G-d sends down each and every soul into the world in order to fulfill a unique mission which he discovers through the keeping of G-d’s commandments. But down here, the soul forgets all that it was accustomed to above and gets dragged down in the long exile, forgetting its own “language”. Eventually it is left with no choice but to cry out to its Father above. This is the blowing of the Shofar. The Shofar is a pained cry from deep within, voicing regret for the past and conviction for the future. The cry causes G-d to show mercy, He shows His persistent love for His children and forgives them.
We should merit to carry this powerful message with us as we hear the cry of the Shofar on the awe-filled days of Rosh Hashanah.
Taken from an article by Rabbi Eli Friedman at www.chabad.org.