The innkeeper was despondent. The competition fabricated tales of his
corruption, of how he swindled customers, of how he cheated the government
out of taxes. They reported these allegations to the authorities, which
accepted their word as gospel. The innkeeper was sentenced to spend the
duration of his life imprisoned, subject to back breaking labor.
The innkeeper knew he had to do all that he could to have this virtual death
sentence reversed. He hired the best attorneys and the most persuasive
lobbyists to plead his case before the courts and the well connected.
However, it was for naught, as the authorities steadfastly upheld their
sentence against the innkeeper.
His friends and family gathered together to devise some method of saving this
man from his terrible fate. After some time they had an idea. They informed
the innkeeper he really only had one option: he must get an audience with the
king himself. The king was known for being kind, reasoned, and equitable. He
did not tolerate injustice. Perhaps if he personally heard the innkeeper's
entreaties, the innkeeper would be spared.
However, it was not easy to get an audience with the king. It was even more
difficult at this time of the year. Unbeknownst to his subjects, the king, on
his yearly holiday, had a unique way of spending his time. He would dress up
as a commoner. He would experience the sights and sounds of his kingdom as
his subjects did. He would hear the word on the streets, the concerns of the
common folk, and see how people felt about having him as their monarch. He
would be on the lookout for unrest, for potential security breaches, and for
quality of life problems. It was now time for the king to take his holiday,
making the possibility of being granted an audience that much more impossible.
The king's travels took him to the countryside, to the inn of the very
innkeeper who desired so greatly to speak with him. The king, incognito,
lodged at the inn for a few days. He was not recognized, and he then moved
Not long after the king departed, word got out as to where the king had
visited on his holiday. When the innkeeper heard that the king, in the flesh
and blood, had been under the same roof as him for days, he became ashen. He
shrieked. "I needed to speak to him! I needed to plead my case before him!
Here he was, sitting at the same table with me, eating and chatting with me.
I had this awesome opportunity to pour out my heart, to plead my case, to ask
for mercy, and I lost it. A few days ago, he was right here, Now, he is in
his palace, behind a moat with armed guards and ministers attending to him.
He is protected from all those who want to speak to him, from those who have
not been called for an audience." And with that the innkeeper put his head
down and sobbed uncontrollably.
The Chofetz Chaim said that this story is truly the story of the life of each
and every one of us. When we are in this world, living our lives, G-d is
present in everyone's home. When we have difficult times, trials and
travails, He is there for us to turn to. By performing Mitzvos and studying
Torah, we get His attention and He listens to us. However, there are many
people who do not acknowledge His presence. They forget about G-d and His
proximity. By they time these people get to His palace, in the World To Come,
it is too late. The audience will not be so easily forthcoming.
"Seek Hashem when He can be found, call Him when He is near. Let the wicked
one forsake his ways and the iniquitous man his thoughts; and let him return
to Hashem and He will show him mercy . . .." These words from the book of
Yeshaya (Isaiah 55:6-7), our Sages tell us, refer to the present time period.
Hashem, during Elul, during the Ten Days of repentance, is here, He can be
found. He is in our homes. Let us not squander this remarkable opportunity.
Let us make G-d feel welcome in our homes, so that He remains with us
throughout the year, bestowing his abundance of blessings upon us.