This new conception opposed by jonah but advocated by

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This new conception, opposed by Jonah but advocated by his biographer gained a foothold in Judaism. "God wants not the death of the sinner, but that he turn away from evil and live," as Ezekiel (18:23), followed by the High Holiday Mahzor, puts it. God explains his feelings to Jonah by means of the withering plant: God cares for man, whom He created and cultivated. Men fall into sin out of moral ignorance. Shall he not spare them if He can?
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This new conception never entirely pushed aside the older one of strict justice. The two have lived side by side, in creative tension within Judaism ever since. The Book of Jonah, fol- lowing Jeremiah and others, proved that at times God does pardon. What, now, was to be done with the list of divine attributes, enshrined in the Torah, which declared that God naqqeh lo yennaqqeh , surely does not pardon? Just as the evolving standards of society have demanded reinterpretation of the United States Constitution, so it now became necessary to reinterpret the crucial attribute "He surely does not pardon." The Hebrew phrase means literally "pardoning He does not pardon." The rabbis solved the problem by reading the phrase literally and dividing it into two parts: "pardoning" applies to the penitent, "He does not pardon" to the unrepentant. But the latter quality, and the other attributes of strict justice which follow it in the Torah, have no place in the prayers of the repentant, and so they were omitted from the liturgy. Those who wish to transform their lives want only to recall that such a transformation is possible and acceptable. The Book of Jonah, recited on Yom Kippur afternoon when the verdict of the Heavenly Court is drawing near, encourages that effort with the assurance that success is possible. 24 NOTES 1. "Pardon" is used in the sense "release from punishment" or "leave unpunished," a meaning clear from such passages as 1 Kings 2:9; in the nif'al, niqqah often means "remain unpunished," as in Exod. 21:19, 1 Sam. 26:9. 2. On the concept of deferred punishment see Jacob Milgrom, "Vertical Retribution: Ruminations on Parashat Shelah," Conservative Judaism 34/3 (January/February, 1981):11-16. 3. These observations are based primarily on the following studies: E. J. Bickerman Four Strange Books of the Bible (New York: Schocken, 1967), pp. 3-49; H. L. Ginsberg, ed. The Five Megilloth and Jonah (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1969), pp. 114-16; S. D. Goitein, Iyyunim Bamiqra , 2d edition (Tel Aviv: Yavneh, 1963), pp. 80-87 (= "Some Observations on Jonah," Journal of the Palestine Oriental Society 17 [1937]:63-77); A. J. Heschel, The Prophets (New York and Evanston: Harper & Row, 1962), pp. 286-87; Y. Kaufmann, Toldot Ha'emunah Hayisre'elit (Jerusalem-Tel Aviv: Bialik Institute and Dvir, 1955), 2:279-87 (= The Religion of Israel, trans. M. Greenberg [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960], pp. 282-86); Ellen J. Rank, The Book of Jonah in Modern Scholarship (M.A. thesis, University of Pennsylvania, 1981). 4. Cf. Bickerman, p. 3; T. H. Gaster, Myth, Legend and Custom in the Old Testament (New York and Evanston: Harper and Row, 1969), p. 655.
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