Today is July 25, 2021 /
I have a new hero, and it’s a bit embarrassing.
Embarrassing to admit that I’ve studied and taught this character for decades and always assumed he was the anti-hero, the person we shouldn’t become, the epitome of someone who was impelled by a mistaken zeal to lead a mistaken life.
My anti-hero has become heroic.
I’m talking about Jonah.
We read the Book of Jonah in the afternoon service of Yom Kippur. Jonah is the image in our minds’ eye as we plea to God for our lives, watching the gates of life closing, at the Ne’ila service.
Why did I think Jonah was the anti-hero? God tells Jonah to go to the great city of Nineveh and implore the people to repent – and Jonah says no thanks, he won’t do it, he disagrees with God’s wisdom. He doesn’t want to give the people an opportunity to repent because he doesn’t believe their repentance will be sincere and authentic. God’s plan does not align with the plan of Jonah, the prophet.
Rather than follow God’s assignment, Jonah runs away, boards a ship, and eventually tells the sailors to throw him overboard. He will do anything to escape what God has chosen and commanded him to do.
I always thought the message of the book of Jonah was: You cannot and should not run away from God. You need to surrender to God’s program.
Now I’m not so sure.