Yom Kippur: Why does God forgive us? ‘Jonah’ holds a clue


BP Drawing by Sara Adatto

FORGIVENESS: Yom Kippur starts tonight at 6:41. The fast ends tomorrow at 7:35 p.m.

By Zane Mendelson, 10th Grade

The holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur. This is the day when we as the Jewish nation repent knowing God will forgive us. This is the meaning of Yom Kippur, right? 

On Yom Kippur, the Haftorah that is read is Jonah, a story about a prophet who disobeys the word of God, going on a journey in hopes that he can eventually evade God. After some days of running, at the climax of his hardships, he finally realizes he is wrong to disobey God, and prays to Him. Yet not once in the midst of prayer does he ask for forgiveness, not once does he say to God, “I am sorry,” not once does he truly repent. 

Instead of apologizing to God, Jonah is asking him —  begging him — to relieve him of his hardships, to save him from them. And what does God do? He saves him, and He forgives him — even though Jonah didn’t apologize, not even once. But why? Why did God save him? Why did God acknowledge him as though he was repenting? 

Throughout this story, Jonah is constantly trying to avoid God, so for him now, even if it is in a desperate time, to acknowledge that God is there, this is enough. God takes that as his repentance, and forgives him. God understood how difficult it was for Jonah to truly accept he was wrong, and because he saw the internal struggle Jonah was going through, he forgave him for just trying to overcome it — which Jonah does in a way, just not by repentance. 

So why is it read on Yom Kippur? A holiday so fixated on the importance of asking for forgiveness, yet not once does the main character of this story actually repent. 

Because God wants to forgive.  We learn that here. Jonah never apologizes, but God still forgives him. 

Even though Yom Kippur is a holiday centered around atonement and asking for forgiveness, we must remember it is also a holiday not just for us, but for God. It is God’’s day to judge, decide, and most importantly forgive. That is the meaning of Yom Kippur, not only for us to ask for forgiveness, but also for God to give it. 

As the new school year gets under way we must take a look at the year prior, we must remember all the hardships and struggles we went through and we must recall all the mistakes we made. When Yom Kippur is around the corner we usually focus on the decision God has to make. But what we should be focusing on is the decision we have to make. We know God will forgive us, the question you have to answer is who do you want to be, when you’re forgiven.