|Jonah 1:3 by Mordechai Beck|
Jonah is read during the afternoon of Yom Kippur. The Hebrew word gadol or gadolah - big - appears 13 times in Jonah. Each use of the word brings us closer to the tekiah gadolah, the big blast of shofar at the end of Yom Kippur.
I learned about the repetition of gadol from "Reimaging Jonah", an essay by visual artist Mordechai Beck that appears in Sh'ma. (The emphasis is added in the following excerpt.)
When I began to create a modern graphic interpretation of the book of Jonah... I wondered how I would depict the prophet... What I had discovered in reading the text again was the repetition of one word that seemed to point to the nature of the hero’s quest, his reluctance to do what he had been asked, his turning to suicide, and why God reacted the way He did. The word is “great” (gadol/gadola), and it appears thirteen times in the short text...this very greatness is what Jonah was lacking. He feels small, incapable of doing what God asks him to do. His fear of inadequacy leads ultimately to his desire to commit suicide. He doesn’t believe in himself.Here are the thirteen verses:
Suddenly, Jonah is a modern man. He rushes away from God, from religion, from the obligation to help his fellow human beings...
To all of this, God says: “No. You can do it if you want. I am here to help you.”... This was my artistic peg. My Jonah is mainly a cipher, a small figure hounded by large fears — mainly of his own making. One etching shows Jonah bent over like a fetus, in the darkness of his soul, desiring eradication — not believing in his ability to renew himself... This is the world we live in. This is the world that, we learn on Yom Kippur, we can change, can elevate — even though we’re small and vulnerable to the storms of uncertainty.
2 'Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim against it; for their wickedness is come up before Me.'
4 But the LORD hurled a great wind into the sea, and there was a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship was like to be broken.
12 And he said unto them: 'Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm unto you; for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.'
16 Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly; and they offered a sacrifice unto the LORD, and made vows.
1 And the LORD prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah; and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
2 'Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and make unto it the proclamation that I bid thee.'
3 So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city, of three days' journey.
5 And the people of Nineveh believed God; and they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.
7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying: 'Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing; let them not feed, nor drink water;
1 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry.
6 And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his evil. So Jonah was exceeding glad because of the gourd.
11 and should not I have pity on Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand, and also much cattle?'