The Jewish Eye
Vilna Gaon on Yonah: Part 1 - More Than Meets The Eye
The book of Yonah is read in Shul every Yom Kipur. The simple meaning of the story contains the theme of repentance. However, as is known there are 4 main dimensions of interpretation in the torah. They are 1) "Pshat" (simple, literal meaning), 2) Remez (allusion, hinted), 3) Drosh (not explicit interpretation), 4) Sod (secret meaning, which form the acronym PaRDeS (orchard). The Vilna Gaon on Mishlei (verse 1:6, commentary "chemda genuza") explains: "The 4th level of torah, called "Sod" (secret) is the inner and primary meaning. The other lower meanings, are also true, but serve primarily for the purpose of straightening a man in order that he be sufficiently spiritually developed to understand the Sod". These four dimensions of interpretation exist certainly in the 24 books of the bible and even in the mishna and in the talmud.
Very few people can delve properly beyond the pshat. Only one who has attained mastery in the four levels can be capable of deciphering the hidden code. The Vilna Gaon was such a rare person and offers us a spectacular view of a parallel book of the Yonah story in the realm of "Remez". Note that the simple meaning of the book is also true as we see, for example, that the Midrash Raba lists the "special fish" which swallowed Yonah as one of the creatures created before the creation of the world. Yet in the Vilna Gaon's "remez" version of the story, the fish is not real but is only symbolic of the grave of Yonah.
This parallel story of Yonah is one of a human being who got caught up in materialism, dies, goes through Gehinom, and returns in a Gilgul, reincarnation. Chazal teach that the vast majority of people alive today are reincarnations, who are sent back down because they did not complete their previous "mission". So this book, can very well speak personally to many of us. (In Perek 4 Pasuk 3 the Vilna Gaon gives us a sign into how to see what went wrong in our previous lives.)
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