Friday, August 08, 2008


Early Yom Kippur Blogging

I decided my response to this was just too long, so I'd blog it rather than leave it as a comment:

Actually the point of Jonah is that, masculine depictions aside, God is a Jewish Mother. I can just imagine if I were ever as whiny as Jonah, my mom giving me the same verbal smackdown as God gives Jonah.

More seriously, isn't the point of Jonah -- I never thought of the tie-in with Daniel ... that's a good point -- almost in the end the same as that of Koheleth as well as Daniel?

Jonah didn't make that tree ... yet he mourns for it as if he did? Mistaking his own selfish needs for the order of the universe is pretty much the reason why he gave to God for fleeing his call -- Jonah needs vengeance as much as he needs shade. Which is actually an interesting comment on the human condition, isn't it?

But back to Koheleth -- why does Jonah need vengeance? Why does he feel the tree is his? He has this almost childish need for "fairness" (note how kids always whine about "you're not being fair" ... and isn't, as many have pointed out, the apocolyptic mode one of wanting God to come down in his divine kingliness and make everything "fair"?). But Koheleth warns us that life is not fair -- "the race does not go to the swift, nor wealth to the wise", etc.

It's interesting that we Jews read Jonah on Yom Kippur. The standard explanation is that the lesson of Jonah is one of the importance of repentance and forgiveness. But the Book of Jonah at a more basic level teaches us that God is not just Malkeinu -- our tough, but just King -- but also is our Parent. And that part of life is accepting that not everything works out according to our human needs for the sinners to get punished and the good to do well.

It's interesting that many think of God, Our King as being the "tough" aspect of God and God, Our Parent as being the loving aspect. Now, you'll never get more loving parents than my own, but when I think of how my parents raised us, there was a certain toughness. A king might hear one of his subjects say "that's not fair -- he took my watch" and the king -- the police, etc., would investigate the matter and, in a truly just kingdom, the kind, or his agents, would punish wrong-doing. OTOH, what would my parents say if I whined to them "that's not fair -- he took my watch"? They'd say -- "if you can't work this out, neither of you gets the watch".

Jonah thought that the tree was his, even though he did nothing to make it come to be. He thinks that he is owed a just universe in which sinner get punished -- on an apocolyptic scale. But God, like a Jewish Mother, knows how Her universe is ... that the arc of justice is very long, perhaps too long: to thousands of generations. And this is the lesson of Jonah ... and Daniel ... and Koheleth ... isn't it?

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