Vail Valley Voices: The king is in the field
Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year, when the fate of all Jews is inscribed for the coming year. It is closely followed by Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, during which we pray that all of our sins of the previous year be forgiven. These days have come to be known as the High Holidays.
Preceding the High Holidays is the month of Elul, the final month of the Hebrew calendar. During Elul, we take the time to reflect on all our deeds and misdeeds of the past year. We ask God to judge us favorably and grant us a good and sweet year.
The relationship between the Jewish people and God is often compared to that of a human king and his constituen-cy. On an ordinary day, the king is in his palace, sur-rounded by high-ranking ministers and guards. In order to gain an audi-ence with the king, one must go through many levels of bureaucracy and protocol before even being allowed to set foot in the king’s palace, let alone meet with him personally.
Occasionally, however, the king goes for a tour of the outskirts of his country, roaming the fields and villages, meeting with the common folk residing in the far-out regions of his land. It is then that anyone wishing to meet with the king can simply approach him and make a request. Gone are all the formalities and red tape. All one needs to get the king’s attention is the courage to approach the king and make oneself known.
After such a wonderful encounter with the king, the simple people from the countryside follow the king back to the capital to reap the benefits of their meeting and to appreciate the glory of the great king.
Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of the Chabad movement, compared the month of Elul to that time, when the king is in the “field.” Cer-tainly, during the rest of the year, every-one has the ability to connect with God through prayer, study and otherwise. Yet it is during this month that God is particularly accessible and available to listen to every single Jew’s wishes.
We, however, must make the first move. God is there, but we must seize the opportunity and make ourselves known. We must remind God that we care, and we request that the coming year be a year of blessing and happi-ness. We assure God that the coming year, on our part, will be a better year. It will be a year of greater observance and a year of more diligence in our Jewish behavior. We then anticipate that God will reciprocate, just as the human king would, and grant that all our wishes come true.
At that point, we all follow God back to the “palace,” to the High Holidays when we solemnly recognize God’s sovereign-ty, and truly appreciate God’s greatness. Shanah Tovah. A happy, healthy, sweet, successful, hopeful and prosper-ous New Year to you and to all members of your family.
Rabbi Dovid Mintz leads the Chabad Center of the Vail Valley.