Jewish Song of the Week: A new musical take on Jonah and the big fish


Joanie Leeds and Matt Check

Eric Berger, Associate Editor

On Yom Kippur, we read the book of Jonah, which tells the story of how the prophet fled after God called upon him to warn the people of Nineveh of their impending destruction if they did not repent for their evil ways. Jonah, of course, ends up in a giant fish — often described as a whale — from which Jonah apologizes to God and says he will follow his instructions. explains that we read Jonah’s story on Yom Kippur for a couple reasons, including because “The story of Jonah teaches us how no one is beyond the reach of G‑d‘s hand. Just as Jonah’s endeavor to escape G-d’s providence was unsuccessful, so, too, we are incapable of eluding divine justice for transgressions we may have committed.”

Joanie Leeds and Matt Check, a pair of Jewish musicians who perform as Joanie and Matt, also have something to say about Jonah’s tale, and Rick Recht, the executive director of JKids RadioJewish Rock Radio and Songleader Boot Camp, picked their song on the subject as our latest Jewish Song of the Week.

Recht explains below:

“The story of  ‘Jonah and the Whale’ is a big part of Yom Kippur, but we mostly think of it as a way to teach our children about owning their mistakes,” Recht writes. “My friends Joanie Leeds and Matt Check (a.k.a. Joanie and Matt), however, took this story and turned it into a modern folk rock song told from Jonah’s perspective. You’ll hear the story with new ears, and learn a thing or two about keeping promises and finding hope.”

And here is a video of them performing their song, “Coming Up.”