Rabbi David Walk
There's a controversy in rabbinic circles (Isn't there always?) about which Haftora to read this week. Usually when weekly Torah readings are doubled we read the Haftorah from the second parsha, but this week we read from the first. This makes me happy. First of all it's shorter, always a cause for joy. But also because it's from the book of Amos. I have a special warm spot in my heart for Amos, and not just because of the fifties television show. My oldest daughter, together with her marvelous husband and six wonderful children, lives in Tekoa, which was his home as well. It's an enchanting place. Tekoa sits on the divide between the Judean Hills and the desert. The vistas are amazing and the harshly beautiful terrain calls for a special breed of people to succeed there. Amos was just such an individual. He was one tough cookie. He declared that he was neither a prophet nor son of one. He was a simple hard working hand eking out a livelihood as a shepherd and fig farmer. Nevertheless he presented his message of morality and social justice eloquently about 750 BCE. He was an admirable and courageous messenger of God.
The Haftora itself opens with an enigmatic phrase. Amos addresses the Jewish people as 'like the children of Kush (
Let's (at least this year) accept the position of the Malbim. This brings us to the central question, namely, what is the message of Amos which makes this section relevant to both parshat Achrei Mot and Kedoshim? Let's deal with Achrei Mot first. The central idea in the Haftorah is: And I will bring back the captivity of My people of
In many ways Kedoshim is the most beautiful parsha in our pantheon of readings. It contains many of the most famous expressions of Jewish morality and ethics. Contained in our parsha are the following mitzvoth: the obligation to leave portions of the harvest for the poor, not to withhold wages, not to pervert justice, not to give harmful advice, to not give preference to a wealthy litigant, not to hate a fellow Jew, to honor Torah scholars, not to embarrass others, not to stand idly by while another is in danger, not to bear a grudge, to give the benefit of the doubt, and, of course, Rabbi Akiva's favorite, to love your colleague like yourself. This is very much the heart of Amos' message throughout his book. He castigates the Jews for believing that rituals can replace kindness and justice. God is not interested in your
This brings us back to the Malbim. We Jews should want to stand out. We should always desire to be counted on by others for kindness, charity and fair play. This is what God told the Jewish at
The point of Amos' metaphor is that Jews stand out. Please, let it be for good.