A prayer of a pauper, when he buckles under and will pour out his words before G‑d. (Psalm 102)

“The pauper has only one prayer: that he should be able to pour out his words before G‑d.” (Baal Shem Tov)

“I don’t want your Garden of Eden! I don’t want your World To Come! I don’t want any divine revelations! I only want You, just You alone!” (Heard from the mouth of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi in the fever of his prayers)

A great and wealthy king issued a declaration throughout his kingdom that on a given day all must appear before him in person to make his or her request. All such requests would be granted.

The declaration traveled swift and far throughout the land, even to the most remote villages and unnamed hamlets. In one such village, a homeless unfortunate who had nothing to his name but the cloth in which he wrapped himself also received the news. He asked in astonishment, “The king will see even me?”

“Yes,” he was told. “Even you.”

And so, this pauper of paupers joined the throngs of townspeople, villagers and farmers streaming in from every corner of the kingdom to see their king.

By the time the people approached the capital city, they were a mighty river. The merchants of the city set forth their wares for sale, fine crafts and exotic goods that simple villagers had never known to exist. Many, if not most of the people became so distracted by bustle, trade and excitement at the marketplace that they never made it into the palace compound.

The pauper, however, found no interest in the marketplace. He had not a coin with which to buy a thing, and at any rate, had come to be seen by the king and not to tarry in the market. He simply continued moving, joining the many that now flooded into the palace courtyards.

Upon breaching the gates of the courtyard, the horde halted abruptly and gasped. Before them lay a magnificent garden of elegant flowers and wondrous trees most pleasing to the eye. Birds of multicolored feathers perched themselves upon the branches, enjoying succulent fruits unimagined in the wildest of dreams. As the people delicately stepped forward, many stopped to stretch out on the fresh, green lawn by the royal swan pond, serenaded by the music of the royal orchestra.

But the pauper was single-minded, asking another and yet another royal guard if it were true that the king would see even him, and if so, where was the entrance?

But even the royal courtyard had been no preparation for the magnificence those few who entered now encountered—the towering columns of marble bordered with silver and gold, the stupendous and intricate tapestries of many colors that hung from a ceiling that seemed to be in the heavens, and the imposing guards in shining armor that stood at each entranceway.

As they were escorted from one room to the next, each room more impressive in its grandeur than the previous, each mesmerizing its portion of people who could not move from there, the pauper insisted on asking of whomever he could enquire if it were true that the king would see all that came, even a miserable pauper such as himself.

Until, eventually, he found himself among the very few to enter the royal throne room and come before the king.

It was already late in the day, the royal clock had ticked for many hours, the royal guard had stood still in respect and the king had occasionally arisen from his throne to pace back and forth, throwing furtive glances at his watch, waiting impatiently for the masses to arrive with their requests..

Finally, that small, remaining trickle of the most perseverant did enter the throne room, and each took a turn to approach the royal throne and make his or her request.

One asked for a grand tapestry to hang outside of his cottage. His request was granted.

Another asked for some of the royal sweets that had been laid out in silver bowls in an antechamber to be served at a party she would host for her friends. Her request was granted.

Another had been forced to make avail of one of the many royal washrooms in the palace and was most impressed by the golden toilet bowl. His request was to have one such toilet bowl built into his wooden cabin. That too was granted.

Finally, our hero, the pauper of paupers, stood in awe and wonder before the king, unable to open his mouth or to even clear his throat.

“And what is your request?” asked the king.

The pauper blinked his eyes, twisted his head and glanced behind him. No one there. This was really too much. Not only he stood before the king, but the king himself had spoken to him—to him directly and to no other.

With great difficulty, he managed to bow and force out a few words, “Hello, my king.”

“Hello to you, too,” the king replied. “Now please make your request.”

By command of the king, the pauper forced his mouth to open and to speak. “Um. So what am I supposed to request?”

Before an advisor could jump in, the king replied, “Whatever your heart desires.”

There was a pause for a moment, the entire royal chamber hushed in utter silence. And then:

“My king!” the pauper replied. “I have no request. I only came to see you. And now I have this privilege of standing here before you, as your most humble servant.”

“But you must make a request,” insisted the king.

The pauper paused again, and uttered, “Then this is my request, that which my heart desires, that, if such a thing were possible, and if the king so desires, that I get to see you again, perhaps even three times a day. And then, whatever concern I have, I could pour out before my most eminent lord, the king.”

“That is all you desire?” asked the king.

“There is nothing else in my heart but this desire,” replied the pauper.

So the king had it declared to all the ministers and officers of his palace that this pauper must be allowed entry to the king three times daily and whenever else he so desires, and that he be given a free hand to take all he desires from the royal treasury.

For there was no person to whom the king felt greater kindred of spirit than to this pauper of paupers, the man who desired nothing else but the king alone.

As the people who journeyed to the palace were distracted by the attractions along the way, so we all have our distractions in life. For some, it’s the marketplace in the big city. For others, it’s the garden of the heart. For others, the palace of the mind.

But if we could strip ourselves of all distractions, we would bare a simple and singular desire—to be one with our beloved King, Master of Heaven and Earth.

And if we can do so, heaven and earth, as well, are ours.

Keter Shem Tov, #97, according to Maamar Bayom Ashtei Asar 5731.