Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev lived between 1740 and 1809 and I sand was a much-loved Chassidic leader. Countless stories and poems illustrate his passionate service of G-d, unconditional love for the Jewish people and his characteristic advocacy on behalf of the Jewish nation before the Heavenly court. The following is a parable of his on the Shofar, the horn blown by the Jewish people on the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashanah and the Hebrew month of Elul that precedes it. It is well-known in the Jewish world that the Shofar represents our pleading before G-d for our sins of the past and the story is a beautiful way of actualizing this concept.
There was once a King who enjoyed taking walks alone outside of the palace grounds. He would explore places unfettered by a royal entourage, taking pleasure in the natural beauty found in abundance beyond the palace walls. One day, he got lost in the forest next to his palace. He wandered for hours until he met a man who recognized him and respectfully led him out of the forest and back to his palace. The King showed his gratefulness by bestowing the man with presents and appointing him a powerful minister.
The man enjoyed his new role but after a time he committed an act which was considered treasonous and he was sentenced to death. The King’s practice was to grant those being executed one last request. So, just before he was taken out to be executed the King informed him that he was allowed to ask for one last thing.
The man’s request was to wear the clothes that he had worn all those years ago when he had escorted the King out of the forest and that likewise, the King should wear the clothes that he had worn too.
The King granted him his request. When both this man and the King came out dressed in the clothes they had worn on that fateful day, the King turned to the man and said, “By your life, you have saved yourself” and promptly called off the execution.
The meaning of the parable is as follows:
When G-d wished to give the Torah to a nation of the world, He offered it to each and every nation individually. Every single nation refused except for the people of Israel who willfully took upon themselves the six-hundred-and-thirteen commandments of the Torah and the yoke of the fear of Heaven.
However, as human-beings we find ourselves each year on Rosh Hashanah trembling before G-, dirty from our sins and rebellious acts. This is the reason we blow the Shofar- to remember the blowing of the Shofar that accompanied our acceptance of G-d’s Torah at Mount Sinai and His coronation as King.
May we merit to succeed in tapping into this special message each time we hear the Shofar blown and to ensure for ourselves and for all the Jewish people complete forgiveness and the promise of a new beginning.
Adaped from an essay by Rabbi Eli Friedman on www.chabad.org