Said Rabbi Abba: "It is written, 'But Jonah rose up to84b flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord' (John I. 3). Jonah 1:3 Woe unto him who thinks to hide himself from the Holy One, of whom it is said, 'Can anyone hide himself in secret places, that I shall not see him; do I hot fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord' (Jer. XXIII. 24). Knowing this, how came Jonah to flee and go down to Tarshish thinking he could hide from the All-seeing? The explanation lies in the esoteric meaning of the words, 'My dove (Ionathi) is in the clefts of the rock, in the secret receptacles on the stairs' (Cant. II. 14). 'My dove' here signifies the congregation of Israel; 'in the clefts of the rock' refers to Jerusalem, elevated above all parts of the world as a rock is above the plain; 'in the secret recesses on the stairs' denote that part of the temple called the Holy of Holies, the heart or center of the world; for there is the Schekina concealed from view like a faithful and virtuous wife who never quits the abode of her husband, as it is written, 'Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine in the recesses of thy house' (Ps. CXXVIII. 3) .
"Such was the congregation of Israel when living happy and blessed in the Holy Land with the Schekina in their midst. After her captivity and exile, the Holy Spirit departed and took up its residence amongst other nations and peoples who abound in plenty and peace. Observe, at the time Jonah dwelt in the Holy Land, everything went right, right worship and service prevailed throughout and thus Israel was the only people in the world that could cause the earth to be blessed and fruitful, owing to the divine presence in their midst. For this reason idolatrous nations dared not attack Israel and were unable to gain domination over it as at present, because all the world received through Israel their needful supplies of food and sustenance.
"If it be objected that kings ruled and dominated Israel up to the destruction of the first temple, note that during its existence and as long as Israel polluted not the Holy Land, other nations had no power over it. When, however, by their sins and idolatrous practices, they drove away the Schekina, thus compelling it to seek another residence, they lost their protection and shield against foreign nations who were thus able to conquer and subdue them, through their foolish offering
and burning of incense to other strange gods. Whilst Israel dwelt in the Holy Land and was faithful and true in its worship of the Holy One, the Schekina as a virtuous woman, in her own house remained with them and never left them and was the great inspirer of all the distinguished prophets who lived during the existence of the first temple. Jonah fled out of the Holy Land because he had not become endowed with the gift of prophecy and therefore was unwilling to become a servant and messenger of the Holy One. If it be said that the Schekina manifested itself to Israel when in Babylon, which is far away from the Holy Land, our reply is, the Scripture states, 'The word of the Lord came expressly (hayo, haya)85a with Ezeckiel the priest, son of Ruzi in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar' (Ez. I. 3). By the repetition here of the word haya (was) is indicated that from the time that the temple was erected in Jerusalem, the word of the Lord or the Schekina did not manifest itself elsewhere save in the Holy of Holies. 'By the river Chebar,' it is intended to convey that it had previously appeared in that locality before the building of the temple, as it is written, 'And a river went out of Eden to water the garden and from thence it was parted and became into four heads, one of which was the river Chebar,' by which the Schekina occasionally appeared there, but only in times of Israel's need and distress. Therefore it was that Jonah fled out of the Holy Land to avoid its manifestation to himself; and the sailors, we are informed, knew this, for he had told them.Jonah 1:10
"Observe that as the Schekina appears only at a time when it is needed, and in a suitable place, so it manifests itself only to persons qualified by some special or peculiar gift to receive its communications. From the moment the desire arose in the heart of Lot to return to his former worldly state of living, the Holy Spirit departed from Abraham, but immediately returned to him when Lot had separated and betaken himself from his intercourse with Abraham, and thus it is written, 'The Lord said unto Abraham after Lot had separated from him . . ." Observe when Abraham learned of Lot's apostasy in the faith and worship of the Holy One, he greatly feared, and said to himself, is it because of my intercourse and relation with Lot that the divine life and light within me has become bedimmed and obscured? After the separation of the two kinsmen had occurred it is stated, 'God said to Abraham: Lift up now thine eyes and look for the place where thou now
art.' These words meaning that by separation from Lot he had returned to his former state of spiritual illumination and inward assurance of the actuality and certainty of the divine presence with him, and therefore the Lord further added,85a 'Northward and southward, eastward and westward,' referring to his previous journeyings, and then gave him to understand that he would be a shield unto him and that his presence henceforth should always abide with him, and added further, 'All the land that thou seest, to thee will I give it and to thy seed forever.' The words, 'which thou seest,' in their esoteric meaning, refer to the higher degrees of the divine life that had been manifested unto him, when, as it is stated, 'He built an altar unto the Lord who appeared unto him.' This degree includes and is the synthesis of all other degrees and therefore it was said unto him, 'all the land which thou seest.'