Haftarah Parshat Aherei Mot-Kedoshim (outside Israel)
May 5, 2012
13 Iyar 5772
Amos was the earliest of the literary prophets of the Tanach. One of the major theme of his prophecies was God’s concern for the wellbeing of His people and, in particular, the pursuit of justice and righteousness. God’s ultimate interest was to set things right! This redemptive message is expressed at the end of this week’s haftarah (which is also the end of his book): “A time is coming, declared the Lord, when the plowman shall meet the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who holds the [bag of] seed; when the mountains shall drip wine and all the hills shall wave [with grain]. I will resolve my people Israel. They shall rebuild ruined cities and inhabit them. They shall plant vineyards and drink their wine. They shall till gardens and eat their fruits. And I will plant them upon their soil, nevermore to be uprooted from the soil I have given them, said the Lord God.” (9:13-15)
When the time comes, and the nation has been cured of its ills through chastisement and exile, God will redeem the nation, set it in its ancestral land and provide it with security and prosperity. What more could one ask for? In an expanded reading of this passage, the following midrash adds another condition to this redemptive picture: “’A day is coming, declared the Lord, that the plowman shall meet the reaper, etc’. (Amos 9:13) ‘The plowman shall overtake’ alludes to Judah; \’The reaper’, to Joseph, as he said, ‘For, behold, we were binding sheaves, etc. (Gen. 37:7). ‘And the treader of grapes’ (ibid) alludes to Judah, as it says, ‘For I have trodden Judah for Me’ (Zech. 9:13); ‘Him who holds [the bag of] seed’ (Amos 9:14), to Joseph who drew his father\’s seed and brought them down to Egypt. ‘And the mountains shall drop sweet wine, etc.’ (ibid) alludes to the tribal ancestors.” (adapted from Bereishit Rabbah 93:5 Theodore-Albeck ed. p. 1153-4)
This midrash incorporates the idea of communal reconciliation into Amos’ prophecy. It is not enough for the disparate parts of the Jewish nation to have prosperity. The midrash recalls that the Jewish people were not always at peace with each other. In Amos’ day, there were civil wars. The nation had broken into two separate parts – Judea and Israel that were often at odds with each other. What is property and external security without fraternal peace! If Amos’ prophecy was to be worth anything, thought the author of this midrash, it must include reconciliation.
This is no less true in our day when different ideological pictures of how the Jewish world should look tear both the State of Israel and the Jewish people apart.