We’ve all heard of Jonah and the whale, but have you ever heard of Jonah’s wife?

Jonah is the prophet whom G‑d charged with the task of rebuking the city of Nineveh for their evil ways. Jonah fled, thinking that he could escape his calling. Eventually he was swallowed by a huge fish, and in the depths of the fish’s innards Jonah realized his mistake and called out to G‑d. Jonah was miraculously saved when the fish spit him out alive. Repenting his error, he then proceeded to Nineveh, where his words were taken to heart and the city repented.

The Talmud relates that Jonah’s wife used to join the pilgrimage ascending to Jerusalem during the three festivals of Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot. Thus she fulfilled the positive mitzvah of aliyah le-regel (traveling to the Temple in Jerusalem for the holidays).1

Now, women aren’t obligated to perform mitzvahs that are time-bound, including aliyah le-regel. (There are many reasons for this, including the fact that a woman may be occupied with caring for her family, which is considered a more essential responsibility. Additonally, a women doesn’t need the extra spiritual powers of these timebound mitzvahs, because her connection to G‑d is inherent.) Why, then, did Jonah’s wife choose to perform this particular mitzvah?

The Torah instructs the Jewish people to pilgrimage three times a year during the festivals in order to become more connected to G‑d. Jonah’s wife recognized that her husband was somewhat deficient in his efforts to become closer to G‑d; after all, Jonah had initially refused to fulfill G‑d’s directive. By voluntarily joining the pilgrimage, Jonah’s wife served as an example for her husband to constantly strive to become closer to G‑d’s will.2