the book of jonah is read on yom kippur, the day of atonement, in the afternoon service.
the story is of irony. jonah, the prophet’s “toxic” mentality serves as a wrecking ball for morality. essentially, jonah dislikes his job as a prophet. upon receiving an assignment to go to niniveh and warn them of the need to atone, he runs away. to do so, he books passage on a boat. god, not having any part of it, acts to prevent jonah from getting away. the ship become beset with rough waters and the crew struggles to save the boat and its passengers. jonah, unconcerned, goes below and sleeps.
the ship’s crew acted morally. they did not rush to judgment that jonah, the “hebrew” was the source of the troubling waters. rather, they pulled lots among them to determine who was the cause of their ship’s problems. arguably, the lots were perhaps a polite way to obtain a confession.
jonah, of course, draws the lot and is exposed as the source of the ship’s woes. at that point, immorally, jonah offers to be cast into the waters. the ship’s crew perhaps impresses by trying to fight the storm waters rather than conduct a human sacrifice. the crew’s behavior is admirable. after their efforts failed, jonah is cast into the water.
jonah then acts to bring immorality to the crew. “and he said to them, “pick me up and cast me into the sea, so that the sea may subside from upon you, for i know that, because of me, this mighty tempest is upon you.” and the men rowed vigorously to return to dry land, but they could not, for the sea was becoming stormier upon them. and they called to the lord and said, “please, o lord, let us not perish for the life of this man, and do not place upon us innocent blood, for you, o lord, as you wish, you have done.” and they picked jonah up and cast him into the sea, and the sea ceased storming. and the men feared the lord exceedingly, and they made sacrifices to the lord and made vows.”
jonah, rather than speaking to god to resolve the issue, forced these crew members to engage in the act of human sacrifice. the crew was commendable as far as their efforts to avoid the situation. they, however, did not have the moral aptitude akin to abraham and moses to avert the need for the sacrifice.
jonah’s “toxic” behavior caused others to act in an immoral fashion. the master of the universe ironically scolds jonah in saying that he is willing to take pity from people who do not know their right hand from their left. jonah 4:11. the master of the universe’s door for forgiveness is open to all.
in sum, jonah’s selfishness and “toxic” attitude leads to the last tale of human “sacrifice” told during the high holidays. the tale relates to modern times as to how respected leaders “toxic” acts can wreak havoc upon those who need moral direction.
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