The town was all abuzz; all wanted to know who would be part of the special delegation scheduled to meet with the king this year. They well remembered the disgrace of the king’s disappointment with the delegation sent a year previously. They had prepared a parchment with beautiful calligraphy, opening with expressions of their allegiance, followed by well thought-out petitions, closing with deep appreciation.

Thinking they were paying the king theThey sent a delegation of their finest greatest honor, they sent a delegation of their finest, all distinguished individuals. But the king had asked: “Are all your citizens so distinguished? Are there no cobblers or tailors in your town?” and refused to grant any of their petitions.

Now, a year later, the community council met to discuss who would comprise the new delegation. They decided to send a total of 10 people, and would include a cobbler and tailor, as well as some bankers and rabbis.

Yet when they arrived at the palace, again the king was disappointed. “Yes, I see you have tradesmen represented, but I would like to see your wagon driver also included; he, too, has an important function in your town. All of you distinguished individuals couldn’t have arrived here at the palace without his assistance.”

The delegates looked at each other in astonishment. Berel the wagon driver? What does he know about royalty? He can barely read from the siddur; he’ll only embarrass us all. But they had no choice. The king would not receive the delegation without him standing among them.

They quickly sent the tailor outside to call Berel, who meanwhile was taking a nice snooze on the wagon bench, waiting patiently for their return. The tailor shook him so hard, Berel fell off the bench.

“Quick! The king is waiting for you to come!”

“The king? Waiting for me? How can that be?”

After Berel joined their group, the king listened closely to their petition.

This is exactly G‑d’s demands of us, as we see in this week’s Torah portion, as the Jews gathered to listen to Moses on the final day of his life:

You are all standing this day1 before the L‑rd, your G‑d the leaders of your tribes, your elders and your officers, every man of Israel, your young children, your women, and your convert who is within your camp both your woodcutters and your water-drawers...2

Before we stand before Him in judgment on Rosh Hashanah, G‑d wishes to see all the different types of Jews join in true unity—the leaders together with the lay people; born Jews and converts, men, women and children. This unity guarantees our achieving complete acquittal on Rosh Hashanah.

All told, 10 categories of Jews are enumerated, including “your woodcutters and your water-drawers.” Why were these professions singled out? Just who were these woodcutters and water-drawers?

A short 40 yearsWho were these woodcutters and water-drawers? earlier, all the surrounding nations witnessed G‑d’s wondrous miracles defeating the mighty Egyptian empire. More recently, Moshe defeated the powerful Amorite kings, Sichon and Og and annihilated their nations. As the Jews were now poised to cross the Jordan, all the Canaanites shook in fear.3

According to the midrash, a small group of Canaanites decided to deceive the Jewish people. They pretended to have come from a distant country, wanting to convert to Judaism.

When they were discovered, Moses subjugated them, making them woodcutters and water drawers, a lowly social standing whereby they served the rest of the nation.4 Nonetheless, when standing before G‑d as a people, complete Jewish unity demands that even such seemingly undeserving people be included, even those who converted to Judaism with impure intent.

The Jewish nation is compared to a human body; our leaders serving as our mind and heart. Nonetheless, those leaders are themselves in need of tailors and bankers, as well as lowly foot soldiers who carry out the leader’s visions. Only when we are ready and able to embrace every single Jew—regardless of his or her background, level of knowledge, social standing or even purity of thought or action—only then do we deserve G‑d’s blessings for life and plentiful bounty in the coming New Year.