Weekly Torah Section: Vayeshev Genesis 37:1-40:23, Haftorah: Amos 2:6-3:8
Amos lived in the mid 8th century BCE in a small village near Bethlehem named Teoka. There is a modern Jewish settlement by the same name on the site of this ancient village. He delivered his message at Beit El. What importance does Beit El have and who have we read about that also used this place as a platform? Beit El was the place of Jacob’s dream. It was also used by many prophets including Obadiah.
The book of Amos, Chapter two, opens with the prophet using a specific pattern to prophesy about what was coming to Moab and then to Judah. No doubt the people would have been really behind this message since it was about someone else and not them personally. Also, these were people who had been a problem for Israel. Then Amos brings charges against Israel. I would imagine a hush fell over the crowd. For now G-d was speaking about them. This three and four pattern that Amos used was a common Hebrew pattern. “If you think three sins are bad. Four are really bad.” Where before, he had listed only one or two sins of Moab and Judah, here he listed seven sins of Israel.
Amos 2:6 says they sell their righteousness for money and the needy for sandals. In fact, this verse is the connection between the Torah portion and this section of Amos. Who had been sold for money? Joseph was sold by his brothers for money and Yeshua was sold for money as well.
So how would we summarize these sins of Israel? They oppressed the poor and needy living among them. They had no concern for anyone but themselves.
In verses 9-11 G-d reminds them of all He had done for them. Yet they repaid Him by oppressing the prophets and Nazarites among them. G-d, in verses 13-15 tells them that He sees what they have done. It is not hidden from Him. His judgment is coming like a loaded down cart that can’t be stopped. It cannot be out run, even the mighty cannot stand before it.
In Amos 3:2 G-d gives His reason for this judgment. They were the chosen of G-d. Therefore He punishes those whom He has chosen when they turn from Him. I Peter 4:17 states the same principle. The early Christian community had a problem with this verse. It seemed to confirm that Israel was G-d’s chosen. This caused a problem. In their theology much like some today, the Christians were the chosen – not Israel. Israel had forfeited that placed with their rejection of Yeshua and were now cursed by G-d.
Then Amos goes through seven rhetorical questions. What is the point of these questions? G-d does not punish unless there is a reason to punish. And He usually reveals this punishment before it happens. Again in the Torah we see this with the dreams of Joseph and of the two men in prison with him. G-d does not let us continue in sin without revealing to us the outcome of that behavior. In this He gives us a chance to turn around, to repent. He is merciful and will forgive us. May we always have ears to hear and eyes to see when we sin. As Amos says here, punishment does not come without cause. Amos ends here with an explanation of his burden as a prophet. He has no choice but to tell what G-d has given him to say.
In the Torah portion, Genesis 37:1-40:23 what parallels can we see here between the story of Tamar and Judah with things in Judah’s earlier life? It happened at “Patach Eynim – which means open your eyes. G-d was allowing Judah the opportunity here to change his life patterns. He was giving him the opportunity to take responsibility for his actions. Judah learns this here with Tamar and later with his offer to take his brother Benjamin’s place when he met with Joseph in Egypt.