Yonah: Fleeing From G-d?

Before anything, we will answer the first question that stands before us: how is it at all possible to flee from Hashem?

Tags:
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner

Judaism לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Before anything, we will answer the first question that stands before us: how is it at all possible to flee from Hashem?

The answer given by Rabbi Yehudah Halevi (Kuzari 2:14), the Radak and other early sages [Rishonim] is that the prophet Yonah certainly knew that it is impossible to flee from Hashem. If we look closely at the text, we see that it does not say that he wanted to flee "from Hashem" rather "from before Hashem." (Yonah 1:3) The prophet Yonah wanted to flee from the place of prophecy. It is only possible to receive prophecy in the Land of Israel, and therefore, if he fled from the Land of Israel, he would not be able to receive the prophecy (Abarbanel and Malbim).

The Radak writes: "And how would he be able to flee, when David said (Tehillim 139:7), 'Or where can I flee from Your presence?,' rather 'from before' is like 'before'. Since the prophet was full of wisdom and knowledge, how then could he consider fleeing from Hashem? Rather, he thought 'from before Hashem'. Because the explanation of 'from before' means that he was before Hashem, and this is the spirit of prophecy, because he thought that if he left the Land of Israel to outside the Land, then the spirit of prophecy would not rest on him."

The Master of the Universe is found in all places. He is called "The Place of the World": "He is called the Place of the World but the world is not His place." (Bereshit Rabbah 68) He does not have a place, He is the place! (See Nefesh HaChaim 4:1-4) He establishes all experience. Divine supervision, divine knowledge, divine intervention is in every place, but prophecy is not in every place.

Question: How do we learn this from the verses?

Answer: Our early sages explain that "from before Hashem" means that the essence of divine supervision, that this level of the Divine Presence, only occurs in the Land of Israel. Nevertheless, it is written that when the Nation of Israel is exiled, the Divine Presence is exiled with it. "The Divine Presence is exiled," (Megillah 29a) but there are levels of the Divine Presence. Our sages say, "Ten people who sit and engage in Torah, the Divine Presence rests amongst them... even five... even three... even two... even one..." (Avot 3:7) If so, is it not possible to initially state that the Divine Presence rests with even one person who learns Torah? Rather, there are levels; ten is more than five, and so on.

The Divine Presence of prophecy is only in the Land of Israel. There is no prophecy outside of the Land. It is said about the Land of Israel: "A Land that... the eyes of Hashem, your God, are on from the beginning of the year until the end of the year." (Devarim 11:12) The Land of Israel is the Land of prophecy. The sages were surprised by the verse, "It was that the word of Hashem came to Yechezkel the Cohen, son of Buzi, in the land of Kasdim...." (Yechezkel 1:3) How did he prophecy outside the Land? The answer: "'[It] was' [means] 'it already was,'" (Moed Katan 25a); he was already prophesying in the Land of Israel and continued to prophecy in the exile.

The Rambam explains that there is no prophecy outside of the Land because there is no joy outside of the Land, and prophecy only rests among happiness (Moreh Nevuchim 2:36 and Shemonah Perakim, chap. 7). Rabbi Yitzchak Abarbanel explains that prophecy is part of the special characteristics of the Land of Israel. The deficiency is not that outside of the Land there is a different spiritual state that prevents the absorption of the prophecy, as explained by the Rambam, rather, the prophecy is experienced in the Land of Israel alone (Rabbi Abarbanel's introduction to the book of Amos). Therefore, they ask: if there is no prophecy outside of the Land, how did the prophet Yechezkel prophesy on the River Kevar? And the answer: Yechezkel began to be a prophet in the Land of Israel, and he related outside of the Land the prophecies he received in the Land of Israel (Moed Katan 25a). But it is impossible to receive prophecy outside of the Land.

Therefore, Yonah rushed to depart the Land of Israel to outside the Land, to the sea, to Tarshish, to a place where he could not receive prophecy. We still have not answered the question of how a righteous person like Yonah could try to evade prophecy, but we explained the meaning of fleeing "from before Hashem" - from the possibility to receive prophecy.

Question: It seems that he already received the prophecy; if so, what benefit was the fleeing?

Answer: According to the Radvaz and the Malbim (from Rabbi Yitzchak Abarbanel), he still had not received the definite words to relate, it is only written: "Call out to her." (1:2) There still were no specifics as to what he was to call out. Only after he was spit out of the fish was the prophecy related: "You should arise to Nineveh, the great city, and call out to it the announcement which I tell you." (3:2) The Radvaz, Rabbi David ben Zimra, brings a proof from Targum Yonatan: "And Yonah arose to flee to the sea before he prophesied." He also suggests the possibility that this was the first prophecy of Yonah - before the prophecy in the matter of Yerovam ben Yoash (see Kings II, 14:25). Even regarding Moshe Rabbenu, master of all of the prophets, our sages say that at the beginning of his prophesying he was a novice in prophecy (Shmot Rabbah 3:1). Sometimes, in the beginning, the prophecy is not completely clear to the prophet (Sanhedrin 89b, Derech Hashem of the Ramchal 3:4:7), as we see with the prophet Shmuel (see Derech Hashem 3:4:3 and Shut HaRadvaz, vol. 2 #842).

Question: How did Moshe Rabbenu prophecy in the Land of Egypt and in the desert?

Answer: Rabbi Yehudah Halevi provides two answers to this question. One is that it is possible to prophecy in the Land of Israel or regarding the Land of Israel: "in it or regarding it." (Kuzari 2, 14) The second answer is that that particular area is attached to the Land of Israel. There is a dispute regarding the border "the riverbed of Egypt" [nachal Mitzrayim], whether this is the Nile or Wadi El-Arish. Nevertheless, the region of Yamit according to all opinions is the Land of Israel, since it is located on the other side of Wadi El-Arish. But according to the opinion of Rabbi Yehudah Halevi that "the riverbed of Egypt" is the eastern offshoot of the Nile, called Pelusium - the Land of Goshen is the Land of Israel.

If so, then why did we leave Egypt? Rather, all understand that also in the Land of Israel there are levels and it is not fitting to remain there (in Egypt). The Radvaz, Rabbi David ben Zimra, who lived in Egypt four hundred years ago, relates a story about a Torah scholar in Egypt who was asked why he did not ascend to the Land of Israel. He responded, "Here, too, is the Land of Israel." But before his death, he requested that, in any event, they should bury him in the Land of Israel. It appears that he did not even really convince himself (Shut HaRadvaz vol. 6, 2, 2206).

In the Land of Israel there are levels, there is the interior and the outskirts. One should enter into the interior, the center, and from there spread out to the outskirts. Moshe Rabbenu himself pleaded to cross the Jordan (Devarim 2:25), even though the eastern side of the Jordan is the Land of Israel. The Jordan River is located in the middle of the Land of Israel, and the Eastern Side belongs to the tribes of Gad, Reuven and half of Menasheh. Moshe Rabbenu is buried on Mount Nebo (Devarim 32:49-50), which is in the territory of Reuven. But the Land of Israel on the western side of the Jordan is holier than the Land of Israel on the eastern side. There are levels.

The Divine Presence in exile is weak, but Hashem also does not abandon us when we are outside of the Land, and within the Land of Israel itself there are also levels. The eastern side of the Land of Israel is not like the western side. The Land of Israel is not like Jerusalem. Jerusalem is not like the Temple Mount, and above it is the Temple, the Holy and the Holy of Holies. There are levels in holiness.

[Translated by Rabbi Mordechai Friedfertig]


top