Thursday, September 24, 2009

R' Chaim Shmulevitz on Yonah

Yonah did not want to deliver his prophecy to Ninveh because if Ninveh would do tshuvah it would make Klal Yisrael look bad for their lack of repentance. We all know the story of Yonah's attempt to flee, the storm that follows his boat, his being swallowed by a fish, and his eventual delivery of the message. Why, asks R' Chaim Shmulevitz (Sichos Mussar, Shoftim 1971), did Hashem "need" Yonah? Why try to force him off the boat, why miraculously keep him alive in a fish (actually there were two different fishes that swallowed him), why keep after him alone to go to Ninveh? Surely Hashem could find another prophet willing to deliver his message if Yonah refused!

R' Chaim Shmulevitz answers that it was precisely because Yonah fled that no substitute could fill his place. The sensitivity shown by Yonah in trying to avoid any action that might cast the Jewish people in a bad light is what endeared Yonah to Hashem. Who could be more deserving of being Hashem's prophet than someone who evinces such caring?


  1. Anonymous4:30 PM

    So how many nevi'im does that make that didn't want the job?
    Moshe, Aharon (who got scared when he saw the mizbei'ach looking like the Eigel), Yirmiahu, and Yonah. Who else?

  2. Anonymous6:48 PM

    And therefore it stands tru for all of them

  3. In those cases they didn't want the job because they personally felt unworthy. Yonah didn't want the job because he did not want to find Klal Yisrael unworthy.

  4. A navi is bound to spread the word as ordered. It's not a matter of choice. It is something that cannot be evaded because it is his destiny (Star Wars references aside).

    Nevim had to speak up even when doing so resulted in threats to their lives. Yeshayahu was even killed by Menashe (who should have been his own grandson).

  5. My fault for summarizing to get to the message in the post. R' Chaim asks your question even more sharply: there is an issur d'oraysa for a navi to not deliver his message!

    A navi does not get nevuah in chutz l'aretz. R' C.S. explains that receiving and interpreting nevuah is not a matter of intellectual ability, but depends on spiritual level. It is impossible in chutz la'aretz to reach the necessary level to deliver prophecy.

    Yonah ran specifically to chutz la'aretz so that he would fall from the madreiga he was on and be unable to understand and deliver his own prophecy. He created an "ones" that exempted himself from prohibition.

    (One thing that bothers me: since Yonah had already received the nevuah in eretz yisrael and understood what it demanded of him, how did running to chu"l help? More iyun needed on this point.)

  6. Anonymous3:00 PM

    >One thing that bothers me: since Yonah had already received the nevuah in eretz yisrael and understood what it demanded of him, how did running to chu"l help?<

    I think that it's clear from above, and other places as well, that Hashem Himself isn't that interested in us following 'Halacha' when conditions are such that it's logical to override them. And yes, I know that it's a very slippery slope!

  7. You mean to say that when Hashem says to Yonah, "Go tell Ninveh X", Yonah has a right (or obligation?) to say, "X is illogical so I'm going to ignore that instruction"? Doesn't the example of the akeidah demonstrate the exact opposite -- commitment to follow the dvar Hashem even when it runs counter to both logic and preconceived morality?

  8. Or do you mean Yonah was doing an aveirah lishma?