Yom Kippur is approaching, and the story of Yonah features prominently in the day’s theme. I’ve already mentioned Rav Mattisyahu’s beautiful remarks on how Yonah teaches us about the meaning of life. But like everything else in the Torah, there is a deeper meaning to the simple story.
The Vilna Gaon explains the whole story of Yonah is but a mashal of the neshama of man which is sent into the world to fix others, and not only does it not fix others but it ruins itself and is forced to return as a gilgul again and again. On the boat Yonah realizes he is heading in the wrong direction, but still insists on not completing his mission. Only inside the fish, where he sat helplessly trapped does he realize the futility of running away from Hashem’s word.
Actually, inside the fish Yonah was comfortable. Chazal tell us that he had food, drink, and spiritual revelations that are beyond the scope of ordinary human comprehension. Nevertheless, it was there inside the fish that Yonah fully realized the futility of his actions, not while still on the boat. His life could be in trouble, but he only realized the truth when he was stuck in a situation where he was completely powerless to act.
Everyone suffers from the Yonah syndrome. We go through life with the attitude of life-isn’t-perfect-but-lets-just-get-by. There is a unique G-d given mission to every single person, and that is the reason why we exist on this world. For some of us (a very few), the mission is to sit and learn day and night in kollel plumbing the depths of the holy Torah. For others, their mission is to teach children. Others have a mission to go out and start a business that produces products or services that help other people while making money as they do so, and then turn around and help even more people with the money they earn.
The trouble with today’s kollel system – which is what the essence of this blog is all about – is a mashal as well. Feeling stuck and unfulfilled can be happening equally to someone learning in kollel or to a high powered Wall St. Attorney. How do you know if you are having these feelings? Just look at the story of Yonah. Do you feel that your daily activities are not leading you in the direction you want to go? Are you feeling completely powerless over your own life? These are the telltale signs that you aren’t working on your specific mission in life. When is a good time to start fixing this? On Yom Kippur – yes, the holiest day of the year – make a commitment to change direction.
Don’t be forced to come back again in order to fulfill your purpose. It’s a lot easier to change direction while you still can.Tweet
Filed Under: aseres yemei tshuva