From my column in Ynet, “The Secret For A Successful Year”
Why is it customary to read the Book of Jonah on Yom Kippur? Did the whale really swallow Jonah or is it only an allegory? What is the secret of how to atone for our actions and block all the arrows of hatred directed toward Israel? Rav Laitman’s guide for the perplexed for Yom Kippur.
Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why you fast on Yom Kippur; why you go to the synagogue on Yom Kippur; why you ask a friend or someone you have wronged to forgive you? We have been used to keeping these customs since our childhood, and it seems the main reason for that is that we all want to be found innocent, at least to some degree, on Yom Kippur.
Those who have the means even compete with the sum of money to pay for the right to read the Book of Jonah in public, a well-known merit for wealth and success in business in the coming year. The sums go up from year to year, but do they understand what they are paying for?
The story of the prophet Jonah begins with a mission he receives from God; he is to warn the gentiles, the people of Nineveh, to repent their evil way, from unfounded hatred to love of others. Just like in the past, just like Jonah, so do we, the people of Israel today have a role that we cannot avoid. The same role that accompanies us since the time of ancient Babylon when Abraham united us into a nation on the basis of love of others—to establish among us the unity that will serve as an example for the whole world. Fulfilling this role is our right to exist.
We have experienced how this law operates throughout our history: when we are united, we prosper and the world prospers too. When we fall into unfounded hatred, we receive blows and the world deteriorates. With time we have failed to build the connection between us to such extent that we don’t believe we can re-establish the good relations between us again. We are repulsed by hearing that our role is to be a Light unto the nations of the world. We have forgotten our role and when we escape from it the storm arrives….
Jonah escapes his mission, boards a ship and sails overseas. His escape generates a storm, and the sailors realize that the reason for their suffering is the Jew who is onboard their ship. Throwing him overboard into the sea soon follows.
In today’s global world, the nations of the world also blame us for every crisis there is. The fate of the nation of Israel is unavoidable. The sailors in the story change each time, but our fate is the same. If we don’t awaken from our deep sleep and agree to fulfill our mission, the time will come when we are thrown into the sea is sure to come.
Jonah was thrown into the sea and swallowed by a whale. At the end of his self-examination, he agrees to fulfill the mission he was given, and only then does the fish bring him to a safe shore, to Nineveh.
Like Jonah, we carry within us a method to connect. This is the national genome that binds us into one nation and we cannot escape it. When we connect, we will serve as an example of unity for all the nations. The only question is whether we will be responsible enough or whether, God forbid, we will be thrown into the depths of the ocean so that we will agree to fulfill our destiny.
Our role is to turn the unfounded hatred into love of each other, yet instead of being a Light unto the nations, we do everything in our power to be like all the other nations. But the steamroller of development makes more and more people and nations subconsciously feel that the Jews are responsible for all their troubles, and so the nations will not change their attitude toward us for the better until we discharge our duty.
The purpose of Yom Kippur is to allow us to do some deep introspection, and it is an opportunity for us to take on our mission and come to the decision to connect and be Light unto the nations of the world. Only then will the global turmoil around us quiet down and all of humanity will live in peace, and a Sukkah of peace will be spread over all of us.
A good New Year and may all of Israel be signed and sealed in the Book of Life!
From Ynet 10/10/16