As we prepare for Shabbat Shurah and Yom Kippur, there are many themes that connect the last few weeks in which our world saw natural disasters and devastations, with the famous Haftara which we read on Yom Kippur that tells the story of Yonah.
In the Haftarah, G-D instructs Yonah to spread the message of repentance to the people of Nineveh or bad things will happen. This goes on for a bit and Yonah hesitates at first. Towards the end, Yonah is fed up and essentially tells G-D to go ahead and punish the people harshly. One of the last scenes is that of Yonah and the Kikayon plant. G-D rebukes Yonah for caring about a tree that he had no part of creating but still feels such anger when G-D takes it away. At that point G-D asks Yonah why he cares deeply about something in which he invested nothing, but regarding an entire mass of people he quickly gives up hope and is "content" if G-D wants to wipe them off the earth?
After the recent devastations across the world with hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and even volcano eruptions, one can see how the scene must have been during the time of Yonah when G-D wanted the people to repent. When G-D resorts to destruction, it seems to be one of the final forms of communications with mankind. By seeing how much G-D cares about his own creations, we must never take natural disasters lightly. For G-D to destroy, it must mean all other options were considered and weren't enough.
As we enter the holiest day of our calendar we must view these signs as signs of love, because from the story of Yonah we see how G-D reacts when humans feel at ease about destruction. G-D is not at ease when there is destruction, but if it's happening, we need to answer G-D the way he answered Yonah. We need to enter Yom Kippur by asking G-D, "You created this world and all that is in it, and just like that - earthquake, hurricane, or a flood you want to wipe them out?" I think it's an obvious no, but I know that because of these recent events everyone will have something meaningful to think about during Yom Kippur.
Gmar Chatima Tova!
Rabbi Aharon Assaraf
Assistant High School Principal