These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem


Posted on September 18, 2013 by Hannah Joy

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From my blog:

947384_10151396857501536_68437029_nIn the days leading up to Yom Kippur, we spent a lot of time at Pardes learning about the book of Jonah. The concept that has stuck most in my mind is something we discussed in a lecture given by Judy Klitsner: that of human’s desire and ability (or lack of ability) to change.

Throughout the story, Jonah is constantly running away from his job, trying to avoid what he thinks is the “inevitable”: he sees that God always forgives the wicked when they repent, and resents the fact that as a prophet, he is stuck in the middle of this unfair system. He even expresses his frustration to God about the lack of justice in this world, and his inability to do anything about it. In the end, in fact nothing is changed by his attempt to run away: the people of Ninveh repent because of his prophecy, and the city is saved.

On the other hand, the other characters in this story act very differently. Upon the onset of the storm, the sailors immediately try to figure out what they should do to try to save themselves. Similarly, upon hearing Jonah’s decree that their city will be destroyed, the people of Ninveh immediately declare a fast and repent. And in the end, they both succeed and are saved.

This teaches us something very powerful about human nature. People can only change if they have the will to change, and believe that change is possible. Not to say that things will always go your way just because you believe they will. But, if you’re of the mindset that it’s useless to try because things will never change, guess what? They won’t.

“I’d never be able to stick to a diet.”
“No way could I run a 10K!”
“It’s impossible not to gossip.”

Sound familiar?

By saying these things to ourselves, we make them more true. They become self-fulfilling prophecies.

But, if we change our attitude, starting with the things we say, and allow ourselves to believe that we are able to change… who knows what we can achieve?

I hope this year for you is a year full of growth and achieving your goals, whatever they may be!

“Im tirtzu, ein zo agadah.” If you will it, it is no dream. ~Theodore Herzl