Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Escaping Fate

I saw this comment, and felt that I had to share it with you not only because it's a great comment but also because I thought it would spark some interesting conversations.

"I skimmed over everyone's comments and they all seemed to be saying what first came to my mind: the exceptions of Pikuach Nefsh. But to me, there seems to be a greater message/issue in Hashem's disapproval of Yonah's actions.

According to some Meforshim, a.k.a the Malbim and Rashi, Yonah ran away for the good of the Jewish people. He was trying to stop Ninveh from destroying the Jews, according to Malbim, and from making teh Jews look bad, according to Rashi.

Yet, God clearly says this is the wrong thing to do. No matter what his intentions were, Yonah was wrong for thinking he could escape God and the Nevuah.

This reminds me of the plays some of us are reading in AP lit: Oedipus and Anigone. In each, fate plays an extremely important role. The characters try to deny/escape their fate, but in the end this action really only ends up screwing them over, and causing their fate to happen anyway. The gods in these plays have a clear message: your fate is set, and you can't escape it; trying to escape it would be wrong, no matter the intentions.

Yet, in history, God has made it possible for jews to escape fate many times.Their fate was set; Haman had picked the day where they were to be killed. In esther , for example, God positions Esther in such a way that she can convince Achashverosh to kill Hamna and save the Jews. Then again, Esther tried to avoid her fate when she argues with Mordechai because she doesn't want to risk her lfie for the sake of the Jewish people.

Here, i think we can see the distinction. God allows for changes in fate when it benefits people/the Jewish people; but when it does not benefit them, or rather harms them, he does not allow for anyone to avoid their fate.

Yet, we still have the problem of Yonah having good intentions, and wanting to help the Jews.

I think the problem with Yonah was not the actual running away or avoiding the Nevuah. i think it was his lack of trust and faith in God. He believed God would allow Ninveh to destroy the Jews flat out; they would be extinct from the world. This shows a clear misunderstanding of God and his relationship with Bnei Yisroel. hte persecution by Ashor is just part of the bigger plan god has in store for the Jewish people.

THerefore, the difference between Yonah and everyone else is that Yonah didn't understand God or his intentions, while everyoenn else did."

12 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, I see we have another AP lit student in the house...

I find the connections between "Sefer Yonah" and the Greek tragedies very interesting. These two cultures with such different religious beleifs came to the same conclusions: You cannot escape the fate God has planned for you.

This may be true (that's an argument for another day); but we have so much free will in how we handle the fates given to us. Think of Oedipus. Why did he pluck out his eyes when he realized what he had done? I like to think it was his rebellion to fate. He plucked out his eyes so he could no longer gaze upon the horror of of his actions. By doing this, he essentially said, "Fine, Fate, you win. Do what you want with me. But I'm not going to sit back and accept my actions. I still did them. They are still concrete. I can't sit back and accept it, because that would make it okay. Which it completely isn't."

We knew from the beginning of "Sefer Yonah" that Yonah would eventually bring the message to Ninveh. But would he have been as noble if he's just gone ahead and done it right away? I think Yonah knew deep down that he couldn't escape Hashem's plans. But he also disagreed with them. By fleeing God, he essentially said, "I'll lose in the end, but I can't sit back and accept the bad actions I have to do. What kind of person would that make me?"

Imagine you are walking down the street, and you get caught up in the middle of a crazy water balloon fight. You are wearing your nice clothes, and you are on your way to a job interview. You really don't want to get wet. One young man involved in the fight throws one in a slew of water balloons at you. After yelling your head off, you slump off to you interview, wondering how on earth you can explain this to your future employer.

Rewind: You are walking down the street when you get caught up in a water balloon fight. This time, that same young man realizes you might not want to get wet, so he drops his balloon and jumps in front of you when his friends all throw their balloons. But in the end, you are still soaking wet. It's exactly the same outcome.

Or is it?

October 17, 2006 10:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(The above post is by Miriam, by the way... kind of forgot to sign my name there.)

October 19, 2006 4:33 PM  
Anonymous Tova said...

ok so, good point made by the person who posted this blog. it is true as you proved through many spans of history that u cant escape fate. if god plans on something thats what goes b/c god has everything planned out. and clearly this is what yonah misunderstood becuase he tried to fully run away from god however that is impossible b.c delviering the nevuah was god fate. however fate and free will aslo are two completely different things as u can clearly see through yonah. yonah tried to run away from fate (which was impossible) however the mere fact that he didnt go straight to ninveh as god wanting and attempted to run away cealry shows that he had free will, for iff he did not have free wil he would have been unable to do what he did in the first place

October 19, 2006 10:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with tova in that the story of Yonah deals with free will vs. fate. Yet i think that there is a deeper message. God tried to show Yonah that though Hashem gave us free will, we are destined to a certain fate. Though some think that free will and fate are the opposite, and that free will can change one's fate, i think that free will can CAUSE one's fate to unravel. For example, it was destined for Yonah to have "free will" and pray to god in a whale because clearly, as wev'e seen in class, there is much to be learnt from his prayer etc. Hashem lets us have free will because that is part of our destiny.-arella

October 23, 2006 8:28 PM  
Anonymous Becky said...

I dont want to sound negative but maybe we dont have free will, or fate....God just gives us the image that we do. Like i can choose weather or not i want to wear a blue or green skirt today and that seems like free will..but what if God actually had in "his plan" that we were going to choose the blue skirt...then we choose the blue skirt (bc God said so) therefore making us happy because we have "free will" I dont fully belive this however it is definatly a possibility because instead of hearing you must choose this....we arent hearing anything...we are just sort of being made to do it....any1 get me?

October 23, 2006 8:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At the risk of also sounding negative, I agree with Becky's comment. Because we can't see the world from G-d's perspective, we will never really know if we have free will or not. Maybe we have complete control over what we do at all times. On the other hand, maybe G-d made us believe we have free will; how would be operate without believing that we could make our own decisions? We learned in AP MEH last year that one of the reasons why the concept of predestination became problematic was that people were then able to violate rules and do as they pleased because G-d already had a plan for them. So, to believe that we have no free will whatsoever can be immensly problematic.
I think maybe one of the reasons why the book of Yonah is so important is that it illustrates mans limited form of free will. Man picks the options he is given from G-d. [Personally, I have always struggled with the book of Job which seems to send the exact opposite message of Yonah. It seems as if man has no free will, and we are merely being used in G-ds plans.] I suppose we will never really know, although it is comforting to think that we each control our own destiny.
As always, sorry for my cynicism!
- Rebecca

October 23, 2006 9:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not that Yonah didnt undertsand God, bcause clearly, being that he IS a prophet, he must have some deeper insight than most other people. I think tht it is totally legitimate for him to desire to save his nation, fate or no fate. If i had a chance to save 6 million jews, even for one day before theyd be executed, i would do anything in my ability to save them, even for that one day, because human instinct causes us to want immediate security, even though we might be destined for a bad fate. Additionally, it's very tricky to say "everyone else", because i dont see clear proof that every other prophet understood Hashem's "intentions". What about eliyahu-he was clearly way too zealous and Hashem told him that and was thus upset with him. I dont think that eliyahu was a clear reflection of what Hashem wanted. And that is just one example out of many, such as moshe........but thats a whole other discussion. Therefore, i dont think that Yonah had trouble understandin Hashem's intentions less than any other human being. i think his problem was that it was simply hard for him to accept Hashem's harsh jugdment on the Jews. - arella

October 23, 2006 9:08 PM  
Blogger Sara Laya said...

My big issue with comparing Yonah with Odeipus is what started the outcome it always has bothered me that if Odipus parents never heard the prophecy it never would have come true because they wouldnt have sent him to be killed, and the same with Yonah (by the mefrashim) if Yonah never saw the future that ninveh's repentence would lead to the destuction of the Jews would he have ever not wanted to bring the nevuah? Im always bothered by this... Anyways on the fate issue I feel that Yonah does have free will and choice but his mistake was thinking he could escape God's presence in order to prevent the future, I think if Yonah's actions were diffrent rather than trying to escape God maybe he would have chosen to speak with God (although I doubt that wouldve worked) Or speak to bnei yisroel to prevent their fate... its all ifs and buts so well never really know

October 23, 2006 9:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i agree with Rabbi Krestt, fate can change if it benifits the jews,and also when it will not get in the way of a future "plan". i always thought of yonah as someone who had the perfect intentions, he didint want to help ninveh do teshuva because he knew it would make bnei israel look bad, but now that its been analyzed more and yonah has been compared to charachters like esther, i can see clearly that even though bnei israel's fate was changed b/c of esther, it wasnt changed in regards to yonah. on the other hand, Rabbi Krestt mentioned that yonah (omg his namesake!!!) lacked beleif in hashem, and thought he might wipe out bnei israel completly. first of all, i dont think thats true, b/c he would never have run away from that kind of burden. second of all, how come avraham argued w/ hashem bout those saving that city if there were ten, nine, eight....jews left. didnt he have enough faith in hashem to beleive that he would not destroy all the jews.? just a thought...
aviva

October 29, 2006 2:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i agree with Rabbi Krestt, fate can change if it benifits the jews,and also when it will not get in the way of a future "plan". i always thought of yonah as someone who had the perfect intentions, he didint want to help ninveh do teshuva because he knew it would make bnei israel look bad, but now that its been analyzed more and yonah has been compared to charachters like esther, i can see clearly that even though bnei israel's fate was changed b/c of esther, it wasnt changed in regards to yonah. on the other hand, Rabbi Krestt mentioned that yonah (omg his namesake!!!) lacked beleif in hashem, and thought he might wipe out bnei israel completly. first of all, i dont think thats true, b/c he would never have run away from that kind of burden. second of all, how come avraham argued w/ hashem bout those saving that city if there were ten, nine, eight....jews left. didnt he have enough faith in hashem to beleive that he would not destroy all the jews.? just a thought...
aviva

October 29, 2006 2:30 PM  
Anonymous shira m said...

ok so I definently agree with whoever wrote this blog because obviously Yonah's intentions were good but he still should have realized that he should have listened to Hashem. I mean if a person thought that it was better to go with their own thoughts than to listen to Hashem, they obviously dont trust Hashem. I also agree that a person cannot change their fate. Even with Esther I do not think any fate changed. Yes Haman had made the date and it looked as though Bnei Yisroel was going to be distroyed, but I think that the real fate was that Haman was going to be destroyed. Hashem knew all along what would end up happening and even though it seemed as though Esther was making up her mind if she wanted to go to the king or not, Hashem knew that in the end she would go. I think we do have free will, but Hashem knows what we are going to choose. He doesn't change what we choose but he knows it. (But with Paroah he did "harden his heart" so im not sure about that part...) I just do not think Yonah chose the right way. He did something wrong by not listeining to Hashem. He might have had good intentions, but he should have known that what Hashem said was right.
-shira m

October 29, 2006 5:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There has been some talk about not really having free will. To me, this seems like an empty discussion. There doesn’t appear to be a way to convince someone that we are given free will. Throughout Tanach, it seems like we are shown the opposite- that man does not have free will. One could interpret Yonah in this way. God manipulated the situation so that Yonah would be forced to deliver the prophecy. First He sent the boat back to the shore so that Yonah could travel, then he put Yonah in the situation where he didn’t really have any other choice. He had to deliver the prophecy. At the same time- Yonah did have the option to run away and he took it. Had he not had any free will, he wouldn’t have had this option in the first place and would’ve been forced to go to Ninveh from the start. Yonah’s problem was indeed not listening to Hashem. God tells us to follow his ways and if we don’t, we must suffer the consequences. Yonah had to suffer his. He ended up doing what he was supposed to- I believe- out of choice. He chose to not die a terrible death but to do what God had originally told him to do. It is very easy to say that Yonah was crazy for not listening to God. I mean come on- who in their right mind wouldn’t listen to the voice of God. But we weren’t in that situation and can’t judge him. He had good intentions, but God’s plan overruled him.
Naomi Z

October 31, 2006 8:40 PM  

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