Mincha Yom Kippur
The Reading of the Haftarah
The Book of Jonah
Introduction: The Book of Jonah is a book of the Prophets which tells of a prophet named Jonah, the son of Amittai, who is sent by God to prophesy the destruction of a city called Nineveh. Set during the reign of King Jeroboam (786-746 BCE), Jonah tries to escape this divine mission by sailing from Jaffa to Tarshish but is unable to do so. This well known story is read on Yom Kippur to emphasize God's desire to forgive those who repent.
Summary: With the exception of the poem in chapter two and unlike other prophetic books, the book of Jonah is almost entirely written as a narrative. Jonah, the central character, is commanded by God to go to the “wicked” city of Nineveh to announce its approaching destruction. Instead, Jonah attempts to flee from "the presence of the Lord" by going to Jaffa and sailing to Tarshish. A huge storm soon arises and Jonah’s fellow sailors discover that Jonah is to blame for this extraordinary storm. Jonah, despite the protest of the sailors, states that if he is thrown overboard, the storm will cease. Reluctantly, they throw Jonah overboard and the seas are immediately calm.
Jonah is miraculously saved by being swallowed by a large fish in whose belly he spends three days and three nights. While in the great fish, Jonah prays to God whereupon God then commands the fish to vomit Jonah out onto the dry land.
God again commands Jonah to travel to Nineveh who does not dare to disobey God a second time. Jonah enters and crosses the city, crying, "In forty days Nineveh shall be overthrown." Following Jonah’s announcement, the people of Nineveh proclaim a fast. The king of Nineveh puts on sackcloth and sits in ashes, proclaiming a day of fasting, prayer, and repentance. God acknowledges their sincerity and repentant hearts and spares the city.
Jonah then leaves the city and stops, along the way, to relax under a plant for shelter and shade from the sun but God causes the plant to wither. Jonah, now totally exposed to the full force of the sun, pleads for God to kill him. Instead, he is rebuked by God for his insensitivity to the people of Nineveh who acknowledge God in full repentance.
The Message: The primary message is that God is compassionate, caring, merciful and forgiving to all his creatures - from a simple plant to cattle to people.