My question is about Jonah.
Why was he so angry with G-d that he would not go to Nineveh? Here is a man so stiff-necked that he would rather drown than obey G-d? Here is a man who kept himself in the belly of a sea giant for three days before he repented and agreed to do as G-d instructed him. After preaching in Nineveh, he sat down and again was angry.
Like you, we are fascinated by the book of Jonah. In fact, it has been the topic of at least four Thought Tools as well as one section of our audio CD, Day for Atonement: Heavenly Gift of Spiritual Serenity. (Go here and type Jonah in the search box to find the relevant Thought Tools.)
This correctly suggests that the topic is too large for an Ask the Rabbi answer. However, we wanted to focus on one of your sentences. You write: “Here is a man so stiff-necked that he would rather drown than obey G-d.”
We would like to suggest that you can go to any mall, airport or university and find that the majority of people there fit that description as well. Sadly, you can go to many churches and synagogues and find the same. Obeying God is easier in theory than in actuality. We all tend to resist being told to do things we don’t want to do or to refrain from those things that we do want to do. We often rationalize and intellectualize our refusal; sometimes we simply pretend that God has nothing to say about the issue at hand.
Don’t you know people who are drowning in unhappiness rather than obey God’s vision for family and society? There are pieces of Jonah in all of us. Studying him should encourage us to look in the mirror.
Wishing all of us Bible study that makes us uncomfortable,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin
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We hope you had a chance to read our annual AAJC letter.
If you missed it, you can see it HERE.