Posted on February 28th, 2012 by Rabbi
Once upon a time there lived a king in a beautiful palace in the capital city of his country. He was surrounded by many servants and nobles, who served him with great honour, devotion, and loyalty.
One day, as he thought about all the honor the people in his court showed him, the king said to himself: “It’s no wonder that my servants and nobles respect me and serve me loyally, for they know I’m their king, and all the good that I do. But what of all my subjects who live faraway from my palace, in distant towns, villages and farms; do those people know I’m their king, that I care for them and their needs?“
The king decided to go and find out for himself what the faraway people think of their king. He took off his royal robes and put on the clothes of a wanderer, and set off on his way. He went from town to town and from village to village, and everywhere he stopped and asked people what they thought of their king.
From the replies he received, he found out that few people thought of their king altogether. The further he travelled, the less interest people showed in their king, and the less they knew about him. Some people even spoke about the king in mocking tones.
Shocked and saddened, the king decided to return to his palace.
As he began his return journey, the sound of music reached his ears. Someone was playing on a flute, and the tune was so, soft and tender that it filled the king’s heart with joy and lifted his spirit. He hurried to find out who the player was, and presently he came upon a young shepherd who was playing on his flute.
Seeing there was no one around, the king asked the shepherd for whom he was playing.
“I’m playing for my king,” he answered. “Have you ever seen the king?”
“No,” replied the shepherd.
“Do you know who the king is and what he does?”
“He is a shepherd.”
“Why do you think that?“
“Because I’m a shepherd, and I love my little lambs and care for them. I watch over them and make sure they are safe from wolves or any kind of harm. I lead them to pastures where the grass is green and soft, and take them to a stream of sparkling fresh water. Now, I’m but a small shepherd, but the king is a big shepherd, looking after all the people in the country and making sure they are all provided with their needs! Wouldn’t you say he is a very great shepherd? That’s why I’m playing this melody in his honor!”
The king was overjoyed with this young shepherd and said to him:
“I am your king! From now on you’ll be my best friend. We’ll find some other shepherd to look after your sheep, and you will come with me to my palace. You will be my dearest companion and we shall be friends forever!”
When the king and the shepherd arrived at the palace, the king ordered royal robes for the shepherd and gave him the most honored place in the king’s court, next to the king himself.
Not long afterward, the shepherd, sad to say, offended the king. Sternly the king ordered him to leave his presence and return three days later for trial.
Now the shepherd realized how wicked he had been, and how ungrateful for all that the king had done for him. Not only had he not appreciated the king’s friendship and all the favors he had showered on him, but he had actually offended the king by his conduct. He felt that the king would have every reason to punish him severely.
The day of the trial arrived.
The shepherd put away his royal garments, put on the shepherd clothing he wore when he first met the king. He also took his flute with him.
Entering the king’s court, the remorseful shepherd fell on his knees before the king, saying:
“0 great and merciful king! I have no words to defend my wicked conduct. What can I possibly say to explain my inexcusable behavior toward my king who has been so good and kind to me? But, since I cannot find the right words, may it please the king to allow me to play on my flute’?”
The king nodded, and the shepherd began to play the tune which he played when he met the king for the first time. And he played it so well, and with such feeling, that the king was deeply moved. It reminded him of that day when he had felt so sad because most of his people throughout his kingdom seemed not to know, nor care, about their king, as he had discovered. Then he met this young shepherd who was the only one who gave him a feeling of joy and pride in being king… .
Filled with this heartwarming feeling, the king said:
“I forgive you, and we shall remain the best of friends as before!”
The power of prayer is beyond the understanding of many. Yet the ebb and flow of the words, melodies and devotion of the prayers can open one’s eyes to the wonder and magnificence of creation. The colors of the world come alive and a peek into the mysteries of the devine is possible.
Unfortunately too many people prayer from rote. The same old words with no feeling, no spark, just merely words on a page. One should offer their prayers and meditations not as a commandment of expectation of men learned by rote, for only prayers the express one’s own heart and mind can bring one close to the Holy One, blessed be He.
The Talmud teaches in Berachos 16b that R. Elazar, at the conclusion of his Shemoneh Esrei, used to recite the following:
May it be Your will, L-rd our G-d, that our lot should be one of love, brotherhood, peace, and friendship; that our territory should be filled with students; and that our end should be successful, so that at the end we should indeed see the things we hoped for all our lives, and set our share in Gan Eden (Garden of Eden), and set us aright with good friends and the right inclination in Your world. And may we get up in the morning and find our hearts yearning to fear Your name, and may our wants and desires come before You for the good.
Rav, upon completing the Shemoneh Esrei, used to add the following:
May it be Your will, L-rd our G-d, to grant us long life, a life of peace, a life of goodness, a life of blessing, a life of sustenance, a life of physical health, a life in which there is fear of sin, a life in which there is no shame nor humiliation, a life of wealth and honor, a life in which we will have love of Torah and fear of heaven, a life in which our heartfelt requests will be fulfilled for the good.
May all of our prayers be acceptable and bring strength of spirit, brotherhood, peace and blessing from the King above all Kings
May all your tales end with Shalom (peace)