Teen Divrei Torah: Yom Kippur 5778/2017

Posted on September 29, 2017





By: Shore Goldberg

VP Education, Albany

Would you rather stay with what you know, or would you rather move on when it’s time to move on? Throughout life many people need to face this question in some way or another, there doesn’t seem to be an easy answer to it. On one hand you could stay with what you know, and keep your life that way. Staying the same can feel comfortable. On the other hand, at some point a person will need to move on to something new in life just because of the natural course of time or because of certain circumstances.

The thing I’ve noticed about these situations is that whenever I personally attempt to move on when I know it’s time to move on, I usually feel as if I’m being held back in some way, and from what I have heard from others, other people feel the same way. I’ve always wondered why people feel this way, and the truth is, it’s not just when people need to move on that they feel this way. People also tend to feel this way when they’re directly told that they need to go and do something challenging. Someone who was in a similar situation to this was Yonah.

Yonah was told by Hashem to leave his home and go tell the people of Nineveh to repent or else they would be destroyed. Instead of listening to Hashem, and following his directions, Yonah ran away. He went on to a boat hoping that he would escape from Hashem. Of course, you can’t escape Hashem, so Hashem sent a great storm to Yonah and the boat he was on. Knowing that this storm was because he ran away, Yonah tells the captain of the ship that the storm was because of him. So the crew threw Yonah overboard, Yonah got swallowed by a giant fish, realized what he did wrong, and eventually found his way to Nineveh where he told the people of the land they needed to repent, and they did.

The thing I want to focus on is this: why did Yonah run away? What happened to him that made him try to run away from Hashem? Part of it could have been a fear of leaving and going to the unknown, but then again, he did run away from home, and he did go to the unknown, just… a different unknown than the one Hashem told him to go to. Rashi gave an interesting reason for why Yonah ran away. Yonah felt that if he went to Nineveh and told the people to repent, and the people repented as soon as they could, it would have made Jewish people look bad, since they usually did not repent for their sins as fast. Yonah wanted to protect his people, because if Hashem saw that the people of Nineveh were so quick to repent, Hashem might start to wonder why he was giving the Jews so much attention when they wouldn’t repent as fast as the people of Nineveh. So Yonah ran away, hoping that he would be able to avoid Hashem, since the kedusha outside of Israel was at a lower level than the kedusha inside of Israel (where Hashem first communicated to Yonah).

Rashi also compared Yonah to a different story. A slave of a Kohen once ran away to a cemetery, making it impossible for the Kohen to retrieve him, but then the priest simply informed the slave that he has more slaves, whom he could send to go retrieve the slave that ran away. There aren’t that many more details in this story, but the slave chose a similar path to Yonah. For some reason, the slave seemed to have some kind of issue with the Kohen, so the slave ran away to a less holy place (a cemetery), hoping the person he was running away from would not follow, since the Kohen wanted to stay holy. Both Yonah and the slave ran away from a higher power. They both ran away to a much more negative environment, hoping that they would be able to “hide” from what they were running from, but life doesn’t work that way.

People are always going to be put into situations they don’t want to be a part of. They might not want to be part of those situations because of fear for themselves, fear of others, or for some other reason. Lots of people are going to try to run away from that. The truth is, running away from difficult situations is just going to prolong any situation and make you feel held back. That feeling of being held back is what will cause people to not want to move on with certain situations. The truth is, people aren’t going to be as likely to want to move on unless they are willing to actually face their worries or fears, and accept the reality of what they need to do. This is really the only way for us to grow and mature and live full lives.