On the Day of Atonement we read the story of Jonah, the prophet whom the Creator had instructed to travel to Nineveh in order to awaken the people there to do good deeds. However, Jonah decided to run away from the Creator. He boarded a ship and decided to sail far, far away. But the Creator made the sea stormy, and when the sailors on the ship learned that Jonah was the cause of the storm, they threw him into the sea. A whale swallowed Jonah and brought him to shore, to the city of Nineveh.
Jonah went into the city and after he spoke to the people, they turned away from evil and attained love for one another. That is how Jonah carried out the Creator’s decree against his own will.
Jonah, boarding the ship, is a soul descending into a human body because a person in this world is like a ship in a stormy sea. A soul comes into a body in order to reach its correction by connecting with other souls. It is exactly through the egoistic desire to receive pleasure that it can correct itself by using egoism and the inclination to reject others specifically to connect with others and love them. That is how the soul develops from the “point of bestowal” to the Creator’s level and greatness.
This “point of bestowal” gradually connects greater egoistic desires to itself. The desires that are not yet able to be used for the sake of bestowal are left unused (restricted). This happens gradually, 125 times, until the point transfers all the desires to receive pleasure to itself.
The Creator sends the “point of bestowal,” the root of the soul (the prophet Jonah) into this world and into the desires of a person (the ship). The sailors and the captain are angels, meaning the Creator’s agents that surround man.
Jonah needs to awaken his desires for correction, connect with all the souls (the city of Nineveh), and awaken them to correction. He must turn their evil inclination into goodness and love for one another. Otherwise, they will fall into egoism and hatred, which will bring them to death.
In order to do this, we need to attract the help of the Light. This is what we mean by asking or screaming for help. Depending on how "loud" we scream, the Light elevates a part of our desire to receive pleasure and connects it to the action of bestowal.
In this way, we transfer all our desires from our world, from the desires “for our own sake,” to the world to come, the desires “for the sake of others.” By doing this we enter the Creator’s world where we perceive ourselves and the world through the quality of bestowal, experienced as eternal and perfect existence.
The story of the prophet Jonah speaks of how the Creator will force us, either through the good path or the path of suffering, to disseminate Kabbalah around the world, the method of the world’s correction. That is why it is written, "Therefore choose life," which is what the Day of Atonement is about.
From the 4th part of the Daily Kabbalah Lesson 9/17/2010, Selected Excerpts for Yom Kippur