Being Better Jonahs: Adult Education Lesson created and led by Franny Silverman for Kolot Chayeinu Yom Kippur 5777 / 2016
**NOTE FROM FRANNY: If you are planning to use this lesson, I would love to know about it! Please contact me with questions and comments - firstname.lastname@example.org**
90 min session
100 copies of Being Better Jonah Texts
Computer with PowerPoint slides
- Experience the story of Jonah in a new way
- Investigate what happened to Jonah between God’s initial call to him (1.2) and running away (1.3)
- Unpack their own relationship to calls to action, naming calls to action in their own life and assessing their responses and why?
- Embody the feelings associated with receiving a call or multiple calls and responding by answering or responding by not answering
Who calls to us: “PLEASE GET UP AND ACT”
- Whose calls do we hear?
- Whose calls do we listen to?
- To whom do we respond and how?
- To whom do we turn aside and run in the other direction?
Who is crying out that we ignore, dismiss, erase the emails, turn off the channel, run away from... What issues? What people? Why do we turn aside? Run away? Overwhelm, information overload What do you need to support: balance of self-care with desire to push progress and answer and not run away to catch the first ship outta town?
Before session begins (10 minutes)
Playlist + Slide 1
Entering the story… + 4 Corner (25 min)
I want you to imagine…
It’s the middle of an average day. Not too busy, not rushing anywhere-- maybe you’re at work or home or coffee shop, nothing too stressful or special. (If we New Yorkers can imagine such a day.)
And.. you feel a buzz in your pocket or you hear a quack or ring or whatever your phone does, and pick up your phone and you notice you have a text. And the message is really urgent. “I need you to get up and act. Now. Lives are at stake.”
Obviously more detailed instructions follow: Go where? Do what? Whose lives?
Context is everything right?
So first, let’s take a step back:
I want you to imagine who is sending this text.
It should be someone you trust who has some measure of authority. It may be someone you love, and who also drives you nuts. Or maybe not even an individual, maybe a group whose humanitarian or social justice or political efforts you deeply respect, let’s say. Or maybe it’s like one of those amber alerts.
Do you have someone in mind?
Now, knowing that’s the person, let’s go back and we’ll do this again as a visualization. If you want you can close your eyes, you don’t have to.
It’s the middle of an average day. Not too busy, not rushing anywhere-- maybe you’re at work or home or coffee shop, nothing too stressful or special.
And.. you feel a buzz in your pocket or you hear a quack or ring or whatever your phone does, and pick up your phone and you notice you have a text. “Get up! Act. Now. Lives are at stake.”
Notice how you feel reading that urgent plea. Where in your body do you feel your reaction? If you can, I want you to just place a hand on the part of your body where you feel yourself react to this urgent demand.
Maybe it’s hard for you to hone in on where you feel it physically, but maybe you can put a word to the emotion you have reading that text: “Get up! Act! Now! Lives are at stake!”
What’s the one word, you can put to the way you feel?
If you haven’t yet, you can open your eyes.
And now, everyone, where you are, from in your seat, when you hear the singing bowl ring, I’m going to ask you each to make physical gesture, strike a pose, expressing and maybe even amplifying the physical and/or emotional feeling you identified.
Don’t think about it. Just do it.
One section hold while others break and watch.
Ring again and another section does it.
Ring again and another section does it.
In a minute, I’m going to ask you to get up and silently, without speaking, go to one of these four corners. Each of these corners represents a different response to the text.
- Absolute Yes: I will drop everything and act. No questions asked.
- Absolute No: No way. 100% not happening. It’s not that I don’t want to help, I just can’t take this on.
- Hesitant Yes: You’re saying yes, you’re going to do it...you think, but you have reservations…
- Hesitant No: You no you’re not doing it. Maybe you wish you were the kind of person who could do it, or maybe you think, if only the timing were better, but…
Notice similarities/differences in size, gender, age, etc… demographics of folks in corners.
Pair share in corners about why you are where you are. (3 min)
Facilitator interview folks in corners post pair share -- what did you learn, hear? Bridge to larger group with hand-raising questions, etc... Context? Feeling word? Gesture? eg: “Participant: I was embarrassed to admit it, but I imagined I was receiving the text from Gd. I shared this with my partner and turned out they imagined the same thing. Facilitator to Participant: (Some affirmation/echoing) Facilitator to Group: Hands up if a divine presence was who you also imagined texting you..
Intro text - chant and translate (10 min)
Chant, pause at || then translate, continue...
וַֽיְהִי֙ דְּבַר־יְהוָ֔ה || אֶל־יוֹנָ֥ה בֶן־אֲמִתַּ֖י|| לֵאמֹֽר׃
And poof or buzz or ring: the word of god
Came to Jonah, Yonah, also meaning Dove, Jonah ben Amittai, Son of Amittai, or more poetically, son of my truth
Here’s what the word said:
ק֠וּם || לֵ֧ךְ אֶל־נִֽינְוֵ֛ה|| הָעִ֥יר הַגְּדוֹלָ֖ה|| וּקְרָ֣א עָלֶ֑יהָ|| כִּֽי־עָלְתָ֥ה רָעָתָ֖ם לְפָנָֽי׃
Go to Nineveh
That great big city
And call out to her
Because her bad behavior is flaring up right in front of me.
וַיָּ֤קָם יוֹנָה֙ || לִבְרֹ֣חַ תַּרְשִׁ֔ישָׁה|| מִלִּפְנֵ֖י יְהוָ֑ה || וַיֵּ֨רֶד יָפ֜וֹ וַיִּמְצָ֥א אָנִיָּ֣ה ||׀ בָּאָ֣ה תַרְשִׁ֗ישׁ|| וַיִּתֵּ֨ן שְׂכָרָ֜הּ|| וַיֵּ֤רֶד בָּהּ֙ לָב֤וֹא עִמָּהֶם֙ תַּרְשִׁ֔ישָׁה מִלִּפְנֵ֖י יְהוָֽה׃
And Jonah got up
To flee to Tarshish (not Nineveh)
Right in front of god,
And he went down to Jaffa and found a ship
A ship going to Tarshish
And he paid the fare
(Just to reiterate) And he went down to Tarshish with the others going to Tarshish (away from Nineveh) right in front of god -- (in other words, away from the service of god and god’s request.)
It’s very easy to judge Jonah in this moment. He immediately, seemingly without question, defies God who comes to him specifically to help God right the wrongs of the world.
There’s much more to this story, more magical, exciting stuff, the whale, the kikayon...
But I wanted to focus on this, far less magical, but critical moment.
In this age of information, when there are cries from all corners of our lives and from the world calling on us to act, how and when are we like Jonah, and why? And also how and when do we say yes and take some measure of action?
I’m going to ask you to get into groups of 3-7 people and look at the Jonah text and answer some of these questions with each other.
Small group text study (30 min)
Halfway through- Slide 3
- Jonah 1.1-1.3 (Original session had this projected not on text sheet. You may want to offer it on text sheet.)
- Midrashim, commentary, on why Jonah left
- Contemporary calls to action from People of Color, Jews and non-Jews
- Questions: Why us?
- Whose calls do we hear? Whose calls do we listen to?
- To whom do we respond with action? To whom do we turn aside and run in the other direction?
- Considering our individual and collective answers to the question of “Why?” – How can we be better Jonahs?
Theatrical Compositions (25 min)
Guide participants to create mini theatrical compositions in their small groups. Share these guidelines or create your own. (Original session shared guidelines on projected slide -- handouts work well to, but DO NOT only share this info orally -- should be written out in some way so participants can work in their groups and refer back.)
•Person A: Create a gesture of "I can't do this it's too much I have to run away”
•Person B: Create a gesture of “Yes, I’m doing this”
•Teach these gestures to everyone in the group
•As a group, create a tableau (frozen image) of commitment to self and each other to heed the calls and support each other
•Put Gesture 1, Gesture 2 and Tableau together in sequence, moving fluidly throughout.
•If you have time: Add a bit of text from our text source sheet
If there is time, great to have groups share with each other.