Photo Credit: Jodie Maoz

The choice of the selection of Amos for our haftara at first glance seems unusual, although the opening passages clearly reference the episode from the parsha when Yosef was sold by his brothers into slavery. The bulk of the haftara addresses a recalcitrant nation of Israel who refuses to acknowledge the love and kindness shown throughout the ages by our Father in Heaven. The commentary of the Rokeach on the haftara demonstrates how the language of the navi echoes the warnings of Moshe in the desert of blessings and misfortunes that were fated to befall us. The navi Amos is rebroadcasting this message for the people of his generation and also, according to the Rokeach, encoding a similar message for future generations.

The navi describes seven ways in which the mighty or the erect are to be brought low and crippled. (Amos 2:14-16). These correspond to the section of “warnings” in the book of Devarim (chapter 28) where Israel is told that we will flee our enemies in seven directions. This is followed, for much of the duration of the haftara, by another seven descriptions of the emergence of manifestations of divine power into the world of events. These, in turn, correspond to the subsequent passage in Devarim describing how, if we are worthy, our enemies will flee us in seven directions.


Israel is compared to a bird caught in a snare – the snare is Pharoah. At other times we fall into a trap such as Haman, who is described in Maoz Tzur as “a snare and a trap.” But Hashem breaks the snare, the trap is opened, and the bird goes free (Tehillim 124). At the conclusion of the haftara, the voice of Hashem is compared to a lion roaring in a jungle. All of these historical events occur, strange and terrifying for those who experience them, and very few can understand their significance at the time. The navi wants to express that the voice of the lion causes terror just as the sound of the shofar will do in a crowded city. However, the voice is also the voice of Hashem calling to His people – through the events of history, in the occurrences of a particular moment in time.

When a person – or for that matter, a people – is endowed with the gift of prophecy, then the message of these voices can be properly understood, just as Yosef was able to understand the dreams of his cellmates. And when someone is properly attuned to the voice of Hashem who is speaking to them, then they cannot help but become a navi, Amos says. Then the voice of Hashem will also speak through them.


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Avraham Levitt is a poet and philosopher living in Philadelphia. He writes chiefly about Jewish art and mysticism. His most recent poem is called “Great Floods Cannot Extinguish the Love.” It can be read at He can be reached by email at