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The Guttenberg Press: Yom Kippur-Yona

Rabbi Shaye Guttenberg, Head of School

During the Mincha Tefilah on Yom Kippur, we read the fascinating book of Yona, which tells the story of the prophet, יוֹנָ֥ה בֶן־אֲמִתַּ֖י’s, attempt to run away from G-d when asked to perform a task. There is so much to discuss in this sefer; the most exciting is typically the miraculous incident of Yona inside the fish.  However, I would like to focus on Yona’s prayer at the end of the story to help illuminate a different aspect of Yona’s journey. Chapter 4 verse 2 states: 

וַיִּתְפַּלֵּ֨ל אֶל־יְהוָ֜ה וַיֹּאמַ֗ר אָנָּ֤ה יְהוָה֙ הֲלוֹא־זֶ֣ה דְבָרִ֗י עַד־הֱיוֹתִי֙ עַל־אַדְמָתִ֔י עַל־כֵּ֥ן קִדַּ֖מְתִּי לִבְרֹ֣חַ תַּרְשִׁ֑ישָׁה כִּ֣י יָדַ֗עְתִּי כִּ֤י אַתָּה֙ אֵֽל־חַנּ֣וּן וְרַח֔וּם אֶ֤רֶךְ אַפַּ֙יִם֙ וְרַב־חֶ֔סֶד וְנִחָ֖ם עַל־הָרָעָֽה׃
He prayed to the LORD, saying, “O LORD! Isn’t this just what I said when I was still in my own country? That is why I fled beforehand to Tarshish. For I know that You are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in kindness, forgiver of the bad.

It appears that Yona is beginning to evoke the famous 13 Ikarim (attributes of G-d) that were told to Moshe after the sin of the Golden Calf.  These 13 Middot appear in our Selichot prayers daily from the week before Rosh Hashana until the end of Yom Kippur. Yet, Yona deviates from the usual word אמת (truth) and instead changes it to וְנִחָ֖ם עַל־הָרָעָֽה (forgiver of the bad).    

Thought to Ponder:
Why is Yona reluctant to use the character trait of אמת in this prayer to G-d?  As I spoke about in my introduction to the Lead Like A Warrior campaign, our relationship with G-d is symbolic of a relation between a parent and child. This is an idea that’s threaded throughout all the Torah readings of the holidays. In looking at the question through the lens of parent/child relationships, perhaps an interpretation could be found in thinking about just who was this person  אֲמִתַּ֖י, Yona’s father?

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