Once upon a time, there was a very great king who ruled over an enormous kingdom. He had many loyal subjects, a splendid palace, stables filled with beautiful, strong horses, miles of flower gardens, and orchards overflowing with sweet produce. The king was happy and at peace, but he wanted someone with whom he could share all of this goodness. He decided to search for a wife.
The king searched high and low, and finally, he found her – the perfect wife, the perfect recipient of his goodness. He married her and brought her to his palace, and for a short time, their happiness was exquisite. But the new queen soon grew unhappy. She was not of royal birth, and she felt that she was not cut out for life in the palace. In the palace, she realized, the queen must always be beautiful and courteous, and she found it too difficult to live up to the king’s expectations. She loved the king, and she loved being near him, but life in the palace was simply too challenging. She decided to run away.
Disgraced and miserable, she returned to her village and tried to resume her old life. But something had changed in her. Now that she knew how much more there was to life, she saw the villagers as coarse and simple. The villagers saw how she pitied them, and they hated her and persecuted her terribly. Now what could she do? She could not stay in the village, because she did not belong here, and she could not return to the palace, because she had betrayed the king’s love.
As she considered her predicament, the king was searching for her. He traveled for many days to her small village and left no stone unturned. Finally, he knocked on the door of her little house late one night, but by the time she gathered the courage to open it, he was gone.
This moment in the mashal of Shir haShirim – the moment when the King knocks on our door, searching for us – is Aseres Yemei Teshuva, the Ten Days of Repentance. The pasuk in Isaiah tells us: “.דרשו ה’ בהמצאו; קראוהו בהיותו קרוב” Seek Hashem while He may be found; call out to Him while He is near. Do not wait too long to open the door – He will only wait there until Neilah.
Of course, this is not the end of the story. Sof sof, the king found his queen, swept her off her feet, and brought her back to his palace. The queen protested – “How can I come back to the palace with you after I betrayed you? You gave me everything that is good and beautiful, and I threw it away it for life in the village.” The king answered her, “You have forgotten about the special provision in our kesuba that no other marriage has ever had. It says that no matter how many times you betray me, I will always take you back in the end.” May we open the door wide this Yom Kippur, and may this be the year that the King takes us back once and for all.
(Mashal heard from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller.)