“The Thrill of Coming Home”
(updated and revised from Yom Kippur 5761-2000)

by, Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald

There are certain times in the Jewish calendar that are regarded as propitious times–שְׁעוֹת־כּשֶׁר .

The month of Nissan, (which marks the Exodus from Egypt), is considered a propitious time for liberation and salvation. The month of Av, is a time to be wary and circumspect, since the two Temples were destroyed in that month. Candle lighting time on Friday evening is looked upon as a particularly propitious time, especially to pray for one’s family members and children. The heavens are believed to be especially receptive to the prayers of those who light Shabbat candles. Another particularly propitious time is under the chuppah, when G-d is considered to be extremely attentive to the prayers of the bride and groom. And, according to rabbinic tradition, the heavens open up on Shavuot night, exactly at Jewish midnight, and G-d listens to the prayers of petitioners with particular attentiveness. And, of course, the month of Elul and the early days of Tishrei are universally regarded as propitious times for Teshuvah, for repentance and return.

This year, on Sunday night, September 27th and Monday, September 28th we will mark the observance of Yom Kippur, the propitious time for forgiveness. There is a well-known dictum found in the Talmud in tractate Brachot 34b: מָקוֹם שֶׁבַּעֲלֵי תְּשׁוּבָה עוֹמְדִין צַדִּיקִים גְּמוּרִין אֵינָם עוֹמְדִין . This statement is often translated as: In the place where penitents stand, even the most righteous, the greatest tzadikim, cannot stand. The sages labor over this perplexing statement, explaining that since a penitent is a person who has been tempted and has succumbed to sinfulness, the temptation for the penitent to commit the sin again is much greater than the tzadik who has never succumbed, and consequently has no such temptation.

There is a beautiful alternate explanation that is based on the following metaphor. Every human is connected or tied to G-d by a tether, or a divine “umbilical cord.” When people sin grievously, this connection is severed, and they are left bereft, unattached from the Creator. However, when they repent sincerely, the connection is re-established, like a rope that is tied together again. However, now because of the knot, the connection is shorter. Consequently, when the rabbis declare that the penitent is closer to G-d than the person who never sinned, it is because after repentance their connection is closer.

Although one of the major themes of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur is the coronation of G-d as our King–a very remote and, at times, intimidating concept, we still refer to G-d in our High Holy day prayers as Aveinu Malkainu, not only our king, but Our Father, Our King.

There is a n enchanting song entitled “The Arrogant Prince”, that is found on the record Wayward Ram, composed by Chaim Salenger. The song, based on a story taken from Rabbi Isaac Blazer’s classic book “Kochav Ohr,” is used to demonstrate the meaning of the phrase, ”Our father, our King, hear our voice, pity and be compassionate to us,” found in the Aveinu Malkenu prayer recited on both Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

There once was a King
And the King had a son
And the son was a clever but arrogant prince.
And the prince would often act in open disdain.

And the King wanted hard to ignore it,
But in vain was the burden he bore,
So they banished the prince from the palace,
Though still what he wore
Were his royal robes.

Well, the prince went in search
Of somewhere to begin,
And he came to a town,
But he felt out of place,
For the men were all miners,
And he a noble man
With his long royal robes and his soft royal face.
And they made him an honorary miner,
Digging down in some forsaken hole,
But the robes that were once much finer,
Turned black as the coal
And badly tattered.

So then, thought the prince,
“I am far too elite,
I must dress and behave
Like the common folk do.”
So he let grow his hair
And he drank and he cursed,
And became like the others, though possibly worse.
But the King had a change of heart one day,
And he longed for his wandering son.
So somehow they finally found him,
But strangely enough,
He’d forgotten who he was.

Well there stood the prince
In his black tattered robes,
Waiting out in the cold saying,
“Please let me in.”
And the guard took one look
At this strange ragged man,
And said, “I know the prince,
And buddy, you are not him.”
But the King heard the noise in the palace,
And the pleading and the cries of someone,
And he called to the guard, “Let him in,
Let him in, let him in;
That’s the voice of my son.”

Aveinu Malkenu
Our Father our King,
Please hear our voice,
Please let us in.
And though we are ragged,
And though we are wrong all along,
We know it is true,
Aveinu Malkenu.

Aveinu Malkenu,
Our Father our King,
Please hear our voice,
Please let us in.
And though we are strangers,
Deep in our voice is the cry
Of your wandering son.
Aveinu Malkenu,
Our Father our King.

The the Kotzker Rebbe was once asked, “Where do you find G-d?” He answered: “Vu m’lust ehm arein,” Where you let Him in!

Let us allow G-d to enter our hearts and penetrate our very being, so that we may truly deserve G-d’s forgiveness, so that we may truly be worthy of having peace prevail in the land of Israel and in our own lives.

May we all merit, this year–5781, to be inscribed for a wonderful year, and be blessed with peace and with long, happy and healthy lives.
May you be blessed.

Please note: Yom Kippur will be observed this year on Sunday evening, September 27th through nightfall on Monday, September 28, 2020. Have a most meaningful fast. May we all be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life, and may all our prayers be answered favorably.

The first days of Sukkot will be observed this year on Friday evening and all day Saturday and Sunday, October 2, 3 and 4, 2020. The intermediary days [Chol HaMoed] are observed through Friday, October 9th. On Friday evening, the festival of Shemini Atzeret commences, and is celebrated on Saturday, October 10th. The final day of the festival, Simchat Torah, begins on Saturday evening, October 10th and continues through Sunday, October 11th.

May you be blessed.