Does This Smell Fishy to You?
by Rabbi Aron Moss
My favourite biblical story is Jonah and the whale. I always understood it to be a fairy tale, not a real story: Jonah the prophet flees on a ship after refusing to pass on the G-d's message for the people to repent, he is thrown overboard and swallowed by a fish, spends three days in the belly of the fish and is then spat up on dry land, whereupon he decides he had better do what G-d asked. Nice. This obviously didn't happen in real life, right?
Wrong. The story did happen. It happens all the time. It may have even happened to you.
The Kabbalists understood the Book of Jonah as a treatise on reincarnation: living, dying and living again. It is the ultimate story of the second chance.
Jonah had a mission to fulfill, a message to bring the world. But he ran away from his destiny. And that never works. You can't escape the person you are meant to be.
So he died. When he was cast overboard he drowned, with his mission incomplete, and his soul falling short of its potential. The Zohar says, "The fish that swallowed Jonah is the grave."
But the story didn't end there. When a soul doesn't achieve what it needs to achieve in one lifetime, it is given a second chance in another lifetime. Jonah's soul was "spat up on dry land" and reincarnated to live again. This time he wasted no time, but went straight to do his mission, and inspired an entire city to change its ways.
We read this story on Yom Kippur, to remind ourselves that we each have a mission to fulfill and we each have untapped inner powers to change the world we live in. Most of us have been here before, and are back to sort out our unfinished business. So let's get it right this time round, before things get fishy.