4/21/20231 min read

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Jonah and the Whale Spiritual Ripple Effects

Nearly everyone knows the famous story of Jonah and the whale, one of our Bible classics. Jonah was a Jewish prophet circa 750 BCE who was commanded by God to go and warn the inhabitants of Nineveh, the Assyrian metropolis to repent. Jonah for various reasons did not obey God’s command and tried to escape Him by embarking on a ship in the Port of Jaffa and sailing across the Mediterranean Sea to Tarshish - ancient Carthage according to some. God knew exactly where Jonah was and caused a storm in the area and the ship containing Jonah and many others started to sink.

Jonah admitted to the captain that he was the cause of the storm having incurred God’s wrath for not obeying His instructions to go to Nineveh and instead fleeing from God. Jonah advised the captain to throw him overboard to pacify God and by doing so save the ship. The captain a decent person and his crew were extremely distraught at the idea of throwing Jonah overboard but due to the extreme conditions acquiesced and fulfilled his wishes. Unbeknown to them Jonah is swallowed by a whale and is spit out on dry land after he repents.

According to Jewish tradition - the Midrash the captain and crew were shocked by these events and decide to convert to belief in the God of Israel whose awesome power they had witnessed.

There are a multitude of moral lessons we can learn from this story:

1. You cannot run away from God;

2. It is possible to gain God’s grace by repenting;

3. People should be more aware of the company they keep…etc.

The Zohar in Parashat Nasso stresses ‘the power of one’ that one evil person can cause the sinking of a whole ship with many innocents on board. Or as we see at the end of the Book of Jonah one person i.e. Jonah caused the repentance and deliverance of the hundreds of thousands of inhabitants of Nineveh.

Each one of us has tremendous power both for good or evil that is well known. The Zohar adds that each one of us also has the power to affect the destinies of others. This is known as the spiritual ‘ripple effect’.

Let us ensure that we cause only good ripple effects with our deeds.