There was once a beautiful kingdom that was filled with a wholesome and healthy civilization. Inside the palace, lived a prince who looked out one morning onto the city, and was tired and bored with the peace that stood before him. Frustrated, the king’s son decided that the life of a prince was no longer for him. He packed a bag filled with his simplest garments, as well as some money to sustain him as he ventured towards his new life. At night, he crept from the palace without saying a word to anybody, especially his father, the King.
Once outside the palace gates, a rush of novelty and excitement filled his spirit. He said to himself, “Outside my fathers gates I’ll finally experience life!” So he wandered the streets, at times peering into shops and taverns filled with people gladly singing the praises of the King and the kingdom. The son, after hearing these words, said, “Can I not escape my father?!”
He decided that he could not stay in the kingdom. So he gave some coins to a wayfarer who was leaving town. The stranger asked the prince, “Where are you heading?” The prince replied, “Anywhere but here,” and the two ventured off far away from the peaceful kingdom.
And so the prince left. Before a year had passed, the prince had run out of money. Unfortunately, where the prince lived, they lauded the blacksmith over the teacher and the prince had to succumb to cleaning barns in order to pay for his basic expenses.
One day, knee deep in mud, he heard a messenger come and call to people to announce the annual re-coronation of the great King. The prince halted, looked at the pigs by his side, the mud on his feet, and the dirt under his nails, and thought longingly for his father. The prince decided then that he would return, but only just for the special day. He felt that it was better to labor than to savor sweetly luxuries he did not earn.
So the prince packed his muddied belongings and left. However, his travels were not without burden. His wagon broke, and he was not able to make it to the re-coronation. Yet, he decided that he had already taken one step forward.
Finally, after days of pains of traveling and returning, he made it to the palace gates. The officers saw the face and body of a soiled sack, and gave no regard to his presence. Suddenly he shouted out loud, “Father, Father! I’m here!!” The guards, angered and upset, were about to harm the prince when the King called out from the balcony, “My son! Oh I’ve been waiting for you. Come. Come!”
The guards altered their demeanor and proceeded to escort the prince to the chamber. There the King saw his child, muddied, dirtied, and somber. The King wept out of joy just at his mere presence. He took his son in his arms and embraced him, filling the void of all the lost time.
The King then drew the son a bath, clothed him in princely gear, and said, “No matter where you are, what you wear, or what you do, you shall always be my child that I love.”
On Yom Kippur, we will have this opportunity. According the words of Rabbi Aharon Walkin, shlita, we too will be lovingly embraced by Hashem. Though we may return soiled, stained, and marred by living in our world, we have the opportunity to exchange our garbage for gold. And it is only due to G-d’s compassion, mercy, but most importantly love, that such an exchange is possible.
I implore us all to feel the love. It’s all too easy to get caught up in our self doubts, negativity, and self anger. Let it be. Most important, don’t spend time languishing over your grime. But try to focus on the love that is there, and how powerfully present it has been, if only we had been open and wise enough to accept it in our lives.
My advice: Take the bath. Take the Clothes. Get refreshed. Wherever and whenever you go, just know you’re loved and always welcome back.
Be in peace