Yonah's communication with Hashem grows richer and more complex as the
story unfolds. As a withdrawn child is taught to listen, then speak and
then converse, Yonah's conversation with G-d starts with a command that he
disregards, proceeds to prophet praising G-d but not speaking to Him,
continues with a complaint that G-d answers without acknowledgment on the
other end, and finally develops into a true conversation and exchange. To
demonstrate progression, every one of these four instances of attempted
communication repeats and adds on the language if the previous one. The
device of restating and repetition focuses us on the stepwise development
of the conversation.
In 4, 1 Yonah's prayer to G-d is described with the same words as in
This was a great evil to Yonah and he prayed to the Lord…(4,2)
And Yonah prayed to the Lord from the belly of the fish (2,2)
G-d responded to Yonah but Yonah did not answer.
The Lord replied , "Are you deeply troubled?' (4,4)
This is exactly where the conversation picks up again next time.
And G-d said to Yonah, "Are you deeply troubled about the plant?" (4,9)
This time, however, Yonah answers, "Yes, so much that until death" (4,10)
Finally Yonah is willing to open himself to the possibility of hearing, to
the probability of rebuke. No longer does he dismiss his opponent with
silence; by responding he has now engaged in a conversation and committed
himself to listen to what his interlocutor may say next. He has opened
himself to the unexpected and there is no greater sign of growth than
that. Finally G-d can get through to Yonah and He does not miss the
What is amazing about the entire process of Hashem bringing Yonah to the
stage where he is ready to hear, is His patience and persistence. He
pursues the prophet and sends after him a messenger after messenger,
hoping and waiting for a response.
And G-d cast a great wind…
The Lord appointed a great fish
The Lord G-d appointed a ricin plant…
G-d appointed a worm…
God appointed the east wind…
Finally Yonah answers and when he answers the curtain is ready to fall
and the story of Yonah will soon be completed. Although we are not
prophets, we can also hear G-d's call, "today if to his voice you hearken"
(Psalms 95,7). Perhaps events of our lives are not quite as dramatic and
miraculous as those described in this book and we, of course, never merit
a direct revelation; however, would we have been able to make use of it,
if it came? It took Yonah, an experienced prophet and an exceptional
servant of God, a really long time and several near-death experiences
before his mind and heart was open. Can we honestly say that we would do
any better? Is it any wonder that prophecy has ceased?
However, though we are not prophets we are still "sons of prophets"
(Pesachim 66a). To us also G-d speaks in the language of every day trials
and tests. He repeatedly delivers messages that He thinks we are capable
of perceiving. Ours is to open our hearts and ears, listen for the message
and then respond - to a kindness with appreciation, gratitude and
intensification of prayer and Divine Service and to, G-d forbid, a
misfortune, with repentance and sincere soul searching.
Funny thing about conversations - they require a great deal of work and
preparation before they can even begin.