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The king on the balcony

Friday, 21 August, 2020 - 6:20 am

 We have been living in our present apartment for more than a decade. All that time, there has been a long and narrow balcony running along the northern part of the apartment. For more than a decade we have barely used it. We considered it ugly and impractical. But then the Corona came and we were shut up in the house and the porch became necessary as a place where we could be outside and breathe some fresh air. Only then did we realize the fact that we actually have a balcony – a bit narrow, not so comfortable and maybe not pretty enough, but a balcony, nevertheless. So one fine day we went to Ikea and bought some artificial grass, an outdoor table and chairs and a chaise longue, and there we were, with a useful and comfortable porch, pleasant and bright, and used almost daily.

So, for ten years we had a balcony and didn’t know it.

Why am I belaboring you with a story about a balcony and artificial grass?

Today is Rosh Chodesh Elul. Like every chassid, I have learned and taught, since the previous Shabbat, about the month of Elul, about the light and the special Divine abundance that shines on the world during these days, about the powerful revelation that will be manifested in the world on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

We learned about the King being out in the field – how, during Ellul, Hashem is like a king who has gone out to the field to meet his subjects and greet each and every one of them with a smile. All we have to do is come close to him and accept what He gives us, and thereby prepare ourselves for Rosh Hashana, when the King will once again be seated in His royal hall.

This parable of the Admor Hazaken (the first Chabad Rebbe) is touching and wonderful, but I find myself thinking: Okay, but where does all this light touch me? Where do I feel it? Is there any other meaning to it, beyond the fact that the Admor Hazaken wrote so?

And then I remembered our porch. I remembered how it was here all this time, but we didn’t know how to experience it or enjoy it until the Corona forced us to open our eyes – literally – and our minds as well, to recognize that it exists, and as a second stage, to buy grass and a table so that we can feel, experience and enjoy this wonderful abundance known as a balcony.

Have you understood this?

This brightness that lights up the world during the month of Elul and the Yamim Nora’im – the High Holy Days – is like a porch. It’s there all the time, but for some reason we ignore it. We don’t open our eyes and hearts to see that it exists. The first step is to know to open one’s eyes, one’s heart and one’s mind.

The second stage is to prepare and organize a place within us where we can welcome this light and abundance of the “king in the field”. Yes, like the artificial grass and the Ikea table. How? When a person approaches prayer seriously and solemnly, at that moment he is enabling the King to visit him, because the feeling of wanting to improve and be close that accompanies the more solemn prayers, is in itself a visit from the King. So too with teshuva (repentance) and tzedaka (charity); when I examine my deeds and want to correct them, so the approach and the willingness to do more is the warmth of the King Who is nearby. The more we do these things, the more we experience them, feel them – the more we will be in that place. Oh, I forgot to tell you that we also bought a gas grill for the porch. Because when there is a will and willingness, one can extract much more from one’s resources than one ever thought possible.


Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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