OU TORAHDedicated by the Jacobs and Chill Families in Memory of Harold and Pearl Jacobs
Dora Bas Rivka Silver O'H
Out of his Gourd
Jonah was grieved that the Assyrians responded so readily to G-d's warning, because the Jews were typically obstinate when it came to such things. (Also, the people of Nineveh gave up robbery and other unjust interpersonal behavior, but they still worshipped idols. G-d forgave them nonetheless, and even used them as His instrument to punish Israel, which seemed unfair to Jonah.) Jonah was so despondent that he prayed to G-d that he should die, rather than see the evil that would befall the Jews for not repenting. G-d said, "My, you are upset, aren't you? Come here, I want to show you something."
Jonah left the city and lived in a hut to see what would happen in the city. G-d made a plant called a kikayon grow and shelter Jonah from the hot sun. (The kikayon was possibly a gourd, but there are other translations.) Jonah rejoiced over the kikayon. Then, G-d had a worm eat into the kikayon, which withered, allowing the hot sun to beat down on Jonah. Again, Jonah said that he preferred to die.
G-d replied to Jonah, "You're so upset about a gourd that you didn't even grow yourself! You got it for nothing and it went away just as easily! Shouldn't I give at least as much consideration to a great city of people and animals?" As far as their continuing idolatry, G-d said that the people were childlike, not knowing their right from their left; since they couldn't tell the difference between the real G-d and false "gods," He was not going to punish them for that.
The Book of Jonah is read in its entirety on Yom Kippur afternoon.