High Holy Days

Relating to God in Elul, on Rosh Hashanah, and on Yom Kipur

The King/Servant Relationship


As we learned in the previous chapter, the father / son relationship is exemplified by the honor and recognition that the son gives his father. The king / servant relationship is different. The king does not need recognition from his subjects. It is even beneath his honor to request it. The king has a master plan. He desires to lead and to actualize, and demands of his subjects discipline and obedience.

It is specifically when we nullify ourselves to the king that we are able to be part of an endeavor that is beyond our own individual horizon — an endeavor that is a vital goal in the king's master plan. Our discipline and devotion to our lofty and admired king means that we are channeling our lives to ideals above and beyond our personal reality. We understand before whom we live, and our very existence receives meaning and stability in our dependence on the king. We no longer live just for our own narrow and disengaged affairs. Rather, our entire life has a broad and driving purpose, which will compel us to give an accounting of our successes and failures back to the king.

The Sin Against the King

To sin against God, our King, is to rebel against Him. This rebellion is the demand of our own small ego to live our limited lives without boundaries. We demand to do whatever we please without considering the "big picture" — how our actions affect not only our own lives, but the lives of those that surround us, and ultimately the Divine plan for the entire world.

Making God Our King

When we relate to God as our King, we realize that only He can extricate us from the complexities of our lives, and bring us to a plane above and beyond our small, personal desires. When we fulfill the King's directives, our lives become meaningful even when we do not grasp why certain events occur and where they are leading. Our lives have become lives of duty. Through God's directives (pekudot) to us He connects to us and relates intimately to our lives (pekidah).

"Forgive Us"

When we ask God, our King, to forgive us, we say Mechal lanu, "forgive us." To ask forgiveness of a king is to ask him to forgive a debt that was not paid. The King enters our consciousness from outside our world, demanding and commanding that we fulfill directives that do not always seem relevant to our private lives. He does not expect us to totally identify with His desires, and therefore exerts pressure and might. We ask of God to understand our difficult situation created by His pressure, forgo our debt to Him and to give us a fresh chance to serve Him.

Our relationship to God as King is intrinsically a relationship of some distance. When we ask the King to forgive us, we admit to Him that we do not have the strength or the courage to stand before Him on a constant basis. We ask Him to bear with us while we are distant from Him, and to be patient with us while we strive to serve Him with greater devotion.

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