Kevin Smith (director of Clerks, Chasing Amy, Dogma, etc.) was once asked to do a documentary about the musician Prince. Prince requested that the opening sequence of the film start with the words:
THERE IS A GOD
DEAL WITH IT
While that movie never happened (because apparently Prince is insane), the story of Prince’s declaration of faith did make me think about how to talk about the Torah portion for Yom Kippur: the book of Jonah.
We all know that Jonah was the guy who got swallowed up by the whale, but there’s a little more to it than that.
The story starts with G-d telling Jonah that he has to go to the city of Nineveh because they are a sinful bunch and G-d is going to destroy their town. Jonah’s job is to let them all know about it.
Jonah’s not having any of that. So he runs off to the sea and that’s when the whole fish-swallowing-thing happens.
G-d spares Jonah who finally goes to Nineveh. He lets everyone know that some stuff is about to go down, and they all freak out and start repenting. G-d says, “OK, no worries, you’re spared.”
Jonah gets a little mad. G-d told him that he was going to get all Sodom and Gomorrah on everybody, but G-d didn’t. The conversation between Jonah and G-d goes something like this:
G-d: What’s up?
Jonah: Yeah. Noticed that Nineveh is still kinda OK. Looks like there hasn’t been any fire and brimstone stuff.
Jonah: Don’t give me that Yiddish talk! You lied to me.
Jonah: And by the way, didn’t I say that you were a merciful G-d and would spare them and that there was no reason for me to leave town and go through all this mess?”
So Jonah sits under a tree and chills out. Then G-d sends a worm to destroy the tree. Jonah gets sad about this tree and G-d profoundly says…
G-d: Hey, this is just a tree and you’re crying like a little baby. But I just spared two hundred thousand people from dying and you act like it’s some kind of moral crime against YOU!
What does this have to do with Prince? Well…there is a G-d. Deal with it! Deal with the fact that sometimes, this G-d doesn’t make a lot of sense. Deal with the fact that sometimes in life, you’re gonna get swallowed up by the whale. That sometimes in life, you have to get off your couch and do something you’re not really that interested in doing. I’m not thrilled about going hungry for the entire day and hanging out in a synagogue…but you know what, if pleasing G-d is good enough for Prince, it’s good enough for me. Maybe then I’ll be able to be a Guitar Hero.