Saturday, September 23, 2023

Four lessons from Yonah

1) Lesson #1 posted back in 2009 here.

2) The passengers aboard the ship with Yonah being tossed in the storm cannot understand the cause of the calamity that has befallen them.  Sailors are not known to be the most righteous folks, and one can safely assume that the other passengers were ovdei avodah zarah, but it is Yonah alone who raises his hand and takes full responsibility for the unfolding disaster.  

The Brisker Rav explained that society around us may be wicked and debased, but it's not our job to point the finger at their wrongdoings as the cause of evil in the world.  It's our job to look at ourselves, our own failures.  Relative to what the rest of the world does our wrongs may be trivial, but we have a Torah to learn from and therefore the bar for us in higher.

3) Why did Yonah tell the sailors to cast him into the sea?  He could have quelled the storm by tellimg them to turn around and bring him back to Eretz Yisrael so he could deliver the prophecy he was charged with?  

R' Chaim Kanievsky in Taama d'Kra (based on a Chazal) writes that Yonah knew that if he would deliver that prophecy and Ninveh would do teshuvah, it would look bad for Klal Yisrael.  Therefore, he preferred to be tossed into the sea, to be moseir nefesh rather than go back. Great leaders are those who are willing to give up everything for the sake of the people.

4) When the storm hits, the navi  tells us וַיִּֽירְא֣וּ הַמַּלָּחִ֗ים (1:5) that the *sailors* were afraid.  Yonah then tells them that he is a Jew fleeing G-d and it is because of G-d's anger that they are in danger.  The navi then tells us again of their fear, but this time it says וַיִּֽירְא֤וּ הָֽאֲנָשִׁים֙ יִרְאָ֣ה גְדוֹלָ֔ה, the *people* were afraid.

Malbi"m explains:

מ״ש תחלה וייראו המלחים היתה יראת הסכנה. אבל יראה זו היתה יראת ה׳ שהיא גדולה למעלתה לפי גדולת העצם שהתיראו ממנו

At first, the fear felt by the unsophisticated sailors was simply a fear of the storm.  That type of fear is the same fear even an animal has when it detects a threat.  However, after Yonah spoke with them, the sailors then understood this storm has a cause, that G-d is behind what is taking place.  Their fear them became a fear felt by אֲנָשִׁים֙, people, i.e. thinkers, not just the gross reactive fear of an animal facing danger.

Life has many challengers, some of which are frightening to deal with.  That fear can be elevated to yiras shamayim, to appreciate that there is a cause, that there is purpose to everything.

1 comment:

  1. Sailors are not known to be the most righteous folks This doesn't seem to have been true in the time of Chazal. The Mishna Kiddushim 82A says הַסַּפָּנִין רוּבָּן חֲסִידִים but that same mishna also says an opinion earlier not to teach your children to become one because it is among the jobs that have dishonesty and theft involved) Either way the sailors in the Yona story seemed to have been very righteous.