October 11, 2016 · 2:37 pm
art by Laya Crust
I love the image above- the image I painted for Shabbat Shuva. I used this painting (based on artwork by Ben Shahn) for last week’s reflections on the Shabbat preceding Yom Kippur.
It exemplifies the grandeur of Yom Kippur. The shofar is a central and defining sound of our supplications to Gd. Jews of all colours and races, Jews with different traditions and approaches to life gather and recognize Yom Kippur in their own way. The menorah represents the religious objects that guide us through our observances. Above all we see the hand of Gd, immersed in flames. The strength and power of Gd are beyong our simple understanding but still we strive to get closer to Gd.
art by Laya Crust
The second day of Yom Kippur, during mincha (the late afternoon prayers) we read the Book of Jonah. It’s a great adventure story. Jonah warned the inhabitants of the town of Ninevah that they would be destroyed if they didn’t change their evil ways. Evreryone- from the King to the animals(!) fasted and prayed in order to avert the punishment. They did repent and change their behaviours and Gd pardoned them.
The text refers Gd’s attention to all living things. Gd cared for the inhabitants of Ninevah who weren’t Jewish. The message is that we, who are created in the image of Gd, also are to care for all living beings around us and treat all living beings with compassion and understanding.
The story of Jonah also shows each person’s struggle with him or her self.
That is Yom Kippur. A conversation between oneself and Gd. It is an accounting of behaviour and motivation. Each person’s path and value is different and we must each examine ourselves- not judge others.
I hope you have – or had- a meaningful fast and meaningful prayer. May this year be one of health, peace, love, and joy for you, your family, and the world.
גמר חתימה טובה וצום קל
September 11, 2013 · 10:30 pm
Book of Jonah ; Prophet-either 8th C. BCE or 4th C. BCE
Micah 7:18 -19
Yom Kippur Mincha
We read the Book of Jonah in its entirety on Yom Kippur in the afternoon. It’s a great story, one of those that can be used as a bedtime adventure story to tell the children. From storms at sea to getting swallowed by a “whale” to a gourd that blossoms in one night, there are many exciting events. The best known of the adventures is depicted in the lyrical painting above. We see two sailors in a merchant ship. They have thrown Jonah over the side of the boat and he’s being swallowed by a giant fish. It is based on an illustration from the Kennicott Bible, Spain, 1476, painted by Joseph ibn Hayyim.
But of course this is not just an adventure story. The narrative consists of the prophet Jonah disregarding God’s orders to warn the sinning people of Ninevah of the forthcoming punishment from God. He runs away a few times and each time is rebuked. Ultimately the people of Ninevah repent and God pardons them. Jonah is very upset that the people of Ninevah were forgiven. It appears that Jonah felt those who sinned should be punished, so that it was unjust that the people of Ninevah were exonerated.
Jonah says, “I know that you are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in kindness, renouncing punishment. Please, Lord, take my life for I would rather die than live.” God recognizes Jonah’s anger and his inability to understand God’s forgiveness.
There are a few lessons taught in this haftarah. One is the lesson of true repentance. The people of Ninevah put on sackcloth and ashes. Then they fasted and prayed, and vowed to turn from their evil ways. They were forgiven because their prayers were sincere. We learn that when true repentance for past deeds involves sincerity and honesty.
Another lesson is that of forgiveness. God created humankind and is waiting to see the goodness and uprightness of humanity. Jonah was upset and had a sense of loss when “his” gourd withered up- even though he had slept under it for one night. The gourd was a metaphor for God’s relationship with humanity. If Jonah was sad at the loss of “his” gourd- which he didn’t create, how much more would God be bereaved by the destruction of an entire community. The lesson of the gourd as a metaphor for an entire community can also teach empathy and forgiveness- or the concept to picture ourselves in someone else’s shoes. Jonah had to realize that the people of Ninevah had as much right to repent and live as he, Jonah had. Once we remember that we are equal to others in the world we can move on and sympathize with, empathize with and, and help others we may have formerly ignored.
On Yom Kippur we have 25 hours in which we pray, reflect and think. We have the time to consider our relationships and our behaviours. Yom Kippur is a gift for thought and an opportunity for forgiveness and acceptance.
This is a great opportunity to speak to our children or friends and reflect on how, if we are a little more forgiving, patient, and understanding, we can make the world a better place.
Have a meaningful day in synagogue and G’mar Chatima Tova- may the coming year be one of health, peace, and blessings.
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Tagged as Book of Jonah, empathy, fasting, God, Jews, Jonah, Jonah and the whale, Judaism, Ninevah, repentance, Spain, Twentieth Century, Yom Kippur