Once upon a time, there was a prophet named Jonah. God sent Jonah to warn the Ninevites that their persistent selfishness would lead to their ruin. However, Jonah was a disobedient young man. Foolishly, he went in the opposite direction when he heard God’s instructions, got into a boat and set sail.
YOM KIPPUR – The Story of Jonah
When the boat’s crew learned that Jonah was to blame for the great storm that the Creator sent after him, they threw him overboard.
Immediately, a huge fish appeared and swallowed him whole. Jonah remained in the belly of the great fish for three days, surrounded by the two conditions necessary for transformation: solitude and darkness.
On the day of Yom Kippur, when we face the darkness within and consider all our undesirable behaviors and habits, the story of Jonah is often told.
We become more receptive to the benefits by considering every instance in which we have harmed someone, every transgression and every selfish behavior (deliberate or not). We cannot change who we are if we do not examine our harmful practices.
It is an opportunity to raise our level of consciousness and absorb enough Light for the coming year. On Yom Kippur, the amount of Light we can receive depends on the size of our “vessel”.
And how do we enlarge our vessel so that it can absorb the most Light? Through the cleansing procedure.
Yom Kippur allows us to be reborn
In Days of Connection, Michael Berg comments as follows:
“Yom Kippur is an immersion that can purge any negativity we have clinging to us, similar to a Mikveh (a spiritual cleansing bath). But only when we are fully immersed can we let go of the negativity.”
This implies that a thorough study of ourselves is necessary. Half-hearted efforts will not be able to purify us. We can only purify ourselves and prepare for the Light after completely letting go of the desire to obtain for ourselves (fully immersing ourselves in the Light).
On Yom Kippur, the Zohar states that the bad deeds we remember will be forgotten and the deeds we forget will be remembered. Remembering and eliminating every trait of ourselves that we wish to improve is in our best interest.
Jonah in the belly of the fish
Jonah had the opportunity to reflect on his evil deeds while in the belly of the fish and at the bottom of the sea. He felt cleansed after three days of contemplating wrongdoing, much like Yom Kippur or immersing in a Mikveh.
In his book Days of Power, Rabbi Berg speaks of the importance of solitary thought as a crucial step in the cleansing process:
“Sitting quietly for a moment and isolating the exact desire that gave rise to any mishap, harm, or suffering we have inflicted on others is one of the simplest methods of canceling the desire to receive for ourselves.
We must accept responsibility for these events and decide to prevent them from happening again by eliminating and canceling the desire that gave rise to them. When we decide to do this, we shift to a different level of consciousness.”
Jonah was eventually freed once his consciousness reached this degree.
Jonah’s reincarnation occurred after the huge fish spat him out on the shore. He succeeded in carrying out the initial task God had given him, which was to motivate the Ninevites to turn from their sin and lead a better life.
Even more amazing than Jonah’s survival is the moment when the population hears Jonah’s word.
“Let them all turn from their evil conduct and from the violence that is in their hands,” the monarch said (3:6-8).
The conscientiousness of the whole city moved the Creator, who abandoned the punishment he had planned and decided to leave Nineveh in peace. Every soul that devotes itself to reflection and purification on Yom Kippur has the potential for true transformation.
We are all Jonah on Yom Kippur
Boldly entering into what could be a point of no return, into the depths of our negativity and the recesses of our consciousness.
But we return…
Each of us experiences the most beautiful transformation when we want to get rid of negativity and unhealthy habits. Our prayers can be heard if Jonah’s prayers could be heard from inside a whale.
Yom Kippur allows us to elevate and improve the physical and spiritual quality of life for all people, not the ability to practice a particular religion.
With information from the Kabbalah Centre