Yonah is the anti-hero of Yom Kippur. The story is so deep and multi-layered that it can take up several days and themes of this Elul project. But one miniature item appears, ignored by most. When he’s on the boat as the storm rages all about it, the sailors ask him who he is, what he does for a living etc. and he answers “Ivri Anochi”, “I am a Hebrew”. I am a Jew. Journalist Daniel Pearl answered that to a group of Iraqi insurgents, and they were the last words of his life. This happened, in the twenty-first century. It so affected Ed Koch, former mayor of NYC, that he instructed that this quote appear very prominently on his tombstone when his time came. Below this quote are the opening sentence of the Shema. (Google it. It’s quite a sight.)
The idea here is “This is what I am.” Identity is bigger than “This is what I do, and what I have done.” It’s such a big deal, and why IMO FFB’s so often have a leg up on BT’s and Geirim, despite the latter groups having more individually generated commitment. The latter groups can say “This is what I believe, and here are the mitzvos I’ve done”, while the former can hopefully say that, and also have an inner sense to add, “This is what I am” with more ease. When we face Elul and Rosh Hashana, we should think that this is what we are.