Jonah and the Whale in the Eyes of Writers and Rabbis

On the afternoon of Yom Kippur, which begins Wednesday evening, the book of Jonah is traditionally read in its entirety. Stuart Halpern surveys the way the book’s famous scene where the title character is swallowed by a “great fish” has been imagined and employed in Anglo-American culture—from Herman Melville to George Orwell. In an anatomically explicit poem, Aldous Huxley imagines the prophet “seated upon the convex mound of one vast kidney.” The talmudic sages, by contrast, were much less interested by the biological details:

The ancient rabbis, too, couldn’t help but imagine what it must have been like for Jonah to offer his devotion from the depths, but, unlike Melville and Huxley, they did not picture what it would be like to be caught in the viscous confines of a fish. Neither did they think, as Orwell did, of Jonah’s confinement as an allegory about the individual and society. Rather, the midrashic work Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer describes Jonah entering the fish’s mouth “just as a man enters the great synagogue.”

“And he stood inside,” [the rabbis explain]. “The two eye-windows were like windows of glass giving light to Jonah. Rabbi Meir said: One pearl was suspended in the belly of the fish and it gave illumination to Jonah, like the sun that shines with its might at noon; and it showed to Jonah all that was in the sea and in the depths, as it is said ‘Light is sown for the righteous.’”

In this rabbinic rendering, the belly of the fish is a shul in which Jonah prays for forgiveness just as the congregation does on Yom Kippur when the book of Jonah is read.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: George Orwell, Hebrew Bible, Herman Melville, Jonah

As Hamas’s Power Collapses, Old Feuds Are Resurfacing

In May, Mahmoud Nashabat, a high-ranking military figure in the Fatah party (which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority), was gunned down in central Gaza. Nashabat was an officer in the Gaza wing of the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist outfit that served as Fatah’s vanguard during the second intifada, and now sometimes collaborates with Hamas. But his killers were Hamas members, and he was one of at least 35 Palestinians murdered in Gaza in the past two months as various terrorist and criminal groups go about settling old scores, some of which date back to the 1980s. Einav Halabi writes:

Security sources familiar with the situation told the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that Gaza is now also beleaguered by the resurgence of old conflicts. “Many people have been killed in incidents related to the first intifada in 1987, while others have died in family disputes,” they said.

The “first-intifada portfolio” in Gaza is considered complex and convoluted, as it is filled with hatred among residents who accuse others of killing relatives for various reasons, including collaboration with Israel. . . . According to reports from Gaza, there are vigorous efforts on the ground to contain these developments, but the chances of success remain unclear. Hamas, for its part, is trying to project governance and control, recently releasing several videos showcasing how its operatives brutally beat residents accused of looting.

These incidents, gruesome as they are, suggest that Hamas’s control over the territory is slipping, and it no longer holds a monopoly on violence or commands the fear necessary to keep the population in line. The murders and beatings also dimension the grim reality that would ensue if the war ends precipitously: a re-empowered Hamas setting about getting vengeance on its enemies and reimposing its reign of terror.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Fatah, Gaza War 2023, Hamas