08.10.2011 10.Tischrei. 5772 Jom Kippur
‘And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land which is cut off; and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness’ (Leviticus 16:22).
One of the highlights of the Yom Kippur liturgy is the reading of the Book of Jonah – a small book which contains a world of philosophy. The major message of the Book of Jonah is likewise the major message of Yom Kippur, so that the proper understanding of the former will most certainly illuminate the latter.
God comes to Jonah, son of Amitai, sending him to call the people of Nineveh to repentance. Jonah refuses to do so, and believes he can escape the God of the heavens and earth by putting to sea. Why did the prophet find a mission to Nineveh so objectionable? Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, the archenemy of Israel. Indeed, in the eighth century BCE, Assyria defeated the Ten Tribes and banished them into exile. Jonah cannot understand why God is interested in Assyria’s repentance. After all, as long as the Jews have more merits than the Assyrians, the chances of an Israeli victory in battle are far greater. Hence Jonah seeks to escape God by boarding a ship bound for Tarshish. A raging storm develops at sea, and a drawing of lots demonstrates that Jonah is responsible for the storm, and he is cast overboard….