Before reciting the prayer, Hear our voice,” in the penitential collection captioned Zekhor Brit (“Remember the Covenant”), Rabbi Meshullam Issakhar ha-Levi Horwitz of Stanislav related with tearful supplications before the open ark:
“A king, blessed with an only son, reared him lovingly from tender childhood in the path of rectitude and rejoiced in witnessing his sacred wedlock. His fondest aspiration was to have his son cultivate a life-pattern of integrity and virtue; but he was doomed to bitter disappointment. The young man became a wastrel, a good-for-nothing prodigal, like the desolate vine to which the prophet had committed sinful Israel: ‘And he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.’ (Isaiah 5:2)
“The son made a shambles of the ideals and the noble standards his regal father had sought to inculcate in him. He deserted his young wife and attached himself to an alien slut. This wanton behavior converted the father’s love into hostility which prompted him to banish his errant, miscreant son.
“For many years the young man wandered from city to city, from village to village. His clothes were worn to shreds. His features became haggard beyond recognition. Finally, weary and surfeited with wandering, he recalled his father and the palace and the circumstances which led to his banishment. A poignant yearning to return to his former status and to make amends possessed him more and more each day.
“At long last he wended his way back to the palace, threw himself at his father’s feet and implored forgiveness. But the king did not recognize his son because of the withering metamorphosis that had scarred his features. ‘Father, father,’ he cried out in anguish, ‘if you do not recognize my face, surely you must remember my voice, which has not changed.’ At that moment the king perceived it was truly his son and, after a tearful reconciliation, he was restored to the royal household.
“So it is with us. We are children of the King of Kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, who, in His love, has selected and exalted us above all peoples. He entrusted unto us the sacred Torah that brings spiritual enrichment to man and leads to the pathway of righteousness and truth. But we have strayed from this pathway He set before us. We departed from His commandments. We were removed from our land; our iniquities distorted and corrupted all these things. As a result, our whole appearance has been altered. Our glory has been mutilated into a destructive void. And now, with the advent of our Holy Days, we become remorseful over our misdeeds. We cry out to Him, ‘Hear our voice! If You do not recognize our appearance, at least You must remember our voice, for we are Your children. Be gracious unto us and receive our prayer with merciful favor.'”
We wonder if the congregation at Stanislav had the slightest inkling that Rabbi Horwitz was using the New Testament account of Luke 15:11-32.