In Jewish tradition, the entire Book of Jonah is read on Yom Kippur. We recently focused our Amitim– Fellows webinar on this book and were challenged by Dr. Micha Goodman to think whether Judaism is first and foremost a religion or a nation. David Ben Gurion writes about this topic in one of his essays (In the book Netzach Israel, 1964): “The Book of Jonah is dedicated to the idea that the mercy of God is given equally to all people, including idolatrous nations such as the people of Nineveh. God said to Jonah: “You have been concerned about the castor plant (the plant that God erected to give shade to Jonah and then the next day the plant was attacked by a worm) though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people? (The Book of Jonah, chapter 4, 10-11.) The concept of God in Judaism signifies the essence of good, beauty, justice and truth. Human life is important and holy. Human beings who were born in the image of God were created equally. And this is why the Bible rests on one main idea: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus, 19:18.) It does not apply only to Jews. It is a universal concept that begins from times immemorial as in the words of King Solomon when he inaugurated the Temple:
“Moreover concerning the foreigner, who is not of your people Israel…when he shall come and pray toward this house… that all the peoples of the earth may know your name, to fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house which I have built is called by your name.” (Kings 1, Chapter 8, 41-42.)
As it seems the world needs a lot of healing during this holiday season, let us derive from the Book of Jonah the lessons of humanism and acts of love and kindness.
Gmar Hatima Tova and Shana Tovah!
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