During Minchah we read a portion of the Torah and conclude with a Haftarah which consists of the story of Yonah. The Book of Yonah is one of T’rei Asar — the Book of Twelve Prophets — whose prophecies spanned over three hundred and fifty years, from the middle of the first Beit Hamikdash era to the early years of the second Beit Hamikdash. Yonah was the son of the widow of Tzarfat, the young boy whom Eliyahu brought back to life (I Kings 17:17-24; Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer 33). He was a complete tzaddik, and the Jerusalem Talmud (Sanhedrin 11:5) says that he was a navi emet” — “a true prophet.” The entire book of Yonah consists of only four chapters and forty-eight verses. Besides this there is very little recorded about him in the books of the Prophets except for one casual mention (see II Kings 14:25).

Why was the story of Yonah selected as the Haftarah for Yom Kippur afternoon?

Yonah was ordered by Hashem to go to Nineveh and warn the people that if they did not repent, they would be punished. He refused this mission with good intention. If the people of Nineveh, who were not Jewish, would have heeded him, it would have had an adverse result upon the Jewish people, who had defied the warnings and exhortations of the prophets. Yonah meant well, but our Sages tell us that he was wrong to defend the honor of the child (Israel) rather than the honor of the Father (Hashem) (Michilta, Shemot,12:4).

To accomplish his goal, he decided to flee Eretz Yisrael and run away to Tarshish, which some identify with the city of Tunis or Tartesus in ancient Spain beyond the Rock of Gibraltar. He chose a destination out of Eretz Yisrael because there Hashem does not reveal Himself to prophets (Radak, Yonah 1:3).

Hashem thwarted his endeavors, and made it necessary that he be cast into the sea. There he was swallowed by a large fish, then spewed out on dry land. Ultimately, he went to Nineveh and warned them of their imminent destruction as a result of their bad behavior.

Yom Kippur is the day in the year when all shuls are best attended. People who unfortunately don’t come Shabbat and Yom Tov, let alone weekdays, appear in shul on Yom Kippur. In fact, a story is told of a shul where on Yom Kippur before the conclusion of the services, an announcement would be made informing the people of the date and time for Kol Nidrei the following year.

Minchah is the last prayer of the day before Ne’ilah — the closing prayer. As we prepare to part with this very holy day, we read the story of Yonah, which conveys the powerful message that there is no running away from Hashem. Hashem, in His miraculous ways, can find us wherever we are, and our endeavors to flee Him are to no avail. The Haftarah serves as a call that we should not run away from Hashem during the year, but rather we must resolve to adhere tenaciously to Hashem and Torah throughout the entire year.

(עי' שו"ע אדמוה"ז סי' תרכ"ב:ד)