Haftarah for Vayeishev

We said in the previous chapter that G-d will forgive the nations three sins, but not four. Israel, the northern kingdom of the Ten Tribes, also has an irredeemable fourth sin: their courts were not just. They accepted bribes to condemn the innocent. They spend their time conspiring to cheat the poor out of their possessions and to defile girls. They take the collateral of the poor who have borrowed from them and use it to make couches for their own comfort; they fine people and buy wine with the money - all in the service of their idols!

It was G-d who destroyed the mighty Amorites and brought the Jewish nation out of Egypt to inherit their land. He gave the Jews prophets to lead them on the proper path and teachers who devoted themselves exclusively to the study of Torah. (Here the prophet uses the word nazir, Nazirite, but not in its usual sense.) You gave these Nazirites wine to drink (forbidden to literal Nazirites) and stopped the prophets from relating their prophesies. G-d will oppress the people like a wagon full of sheaves is oppressed. (What does it mean to oppress a wagon full of sheaves? The wagon is figuratively oppressed by the heavy weight of the sheaves.) The fast will not escape by running, the strong will lose their strength, and the mighty will not even be able to save themselves. Archers, runners and the cavalry will all be useless. Brave warriors will run away empty-handed on that day, says G-d.

Chapter 3

The Jewish nation is told to listen to what G-d has to say about them. He brought them out of Egypt, saying that He loved them more than all the other nations, but they rebelled against Him and now He must pay them for their sins.

Amos now asks a series of rhetorical questions, leading up to a point:

*If two people are walking along together, wasn't it pre-arranged?

*Does a lion roar when there's no prey around?

*Does a young lion rejoice in its lair if it hasn't captured anything?

*Does a bird just fly into a net on the ground without some lure?

*Does the net jump up from the ground unless there's something caught in it?

*Can a shofar be blown in a city without alarming the people?

And now, the point:

*Can something "bad" happen unless G-d wills it?

The purpose of these rhetorical questions is to demonstrate cause-and-effect. If a lion is roaring, it has prey. If a net is jumping around, there must be a bird in it. And if the Jews are punished, it's because of their sins. These things don't "just happen."

G-d doesn't take these steps without first sending a warning through His prophets. Now that the lion (G-d) has roared (sent a prophecy), how can the recipient not be scared? Who could stop a prophet from delivering his message?