Love of the Land

For the week ending 23 November 2002 / 18 Kislev 5763

Yonah The Prophet of No Escape

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

When the Prophet Yonah was told by G-d that he had been chosen to deliver a message of repentance to the capital of the mighty Assyrian Empire he attempted to evade this mission. He was afraid, say our Sages, that the positive response of the sinful Assyrians to his call for a return to G-d might serve as an indictment of the Jewish People who showed less interest in heeding the calls of their prophets.

What did Yonah do? As we are reminded each year at Mincha on Yom Kippur when the Book of Yonah is read as the Haftarah, he hired a ship at the port of Jaffa to take him to the foreign port of Tarshish. His logic was that since G-d bestows prophecy only on people in Eretz Yisrael he would be exempt from a prophetic mission if he were outside of the Holy Land.

His attempt to escape his Divine mission was, however, an exercise in futility. A Heaven-sent storm threatened to wreck his ship and, aware that he was the cause of the trouble, Yonah asked to be cast overboard. Swallowed by a giant fish and eventually regurgitated the prophet returned to his land and embarked on his mission.

This dramatic chapter in the history of Jews and the world is read on the holiest day of the year to remind all of us that there is no escape from G-d.

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