In the haftarah1 for Vayeishev, our prophet Amos delivers G‑d’s words of rebuke to the 10 northern tribes, the Kingdom of Israel. He chastises them for their corruption of those in power over the common folk and for not listening to the prophets.

The connection to the parshah is that the haftarah speaks of the sale of “a righteous person for silver and a poor man for a pair of shoes.” This resembles the sale of Joseph as a slave to Egypt, spoken about in our parshah. It also speaks about corrupt judges falsely charging innocent people for their personal benefit. Joseph, full of integrity, did not take advantage of his position, but was thrown into jail on false charges. His strength of character led him to become the viceroy of Egypt. Then the haftarah continues with the truth of prophecy, and that it is directly from G‑d. This alludes to Joseph’s dreams and his ability to interpret them, which was clearly prophecy from G‑d. And finally, the haftarah mentions the Exodus from Egypt, which was the end of an exile that had begun with Joseph being sold to Egypt.

The haftarah begins with G‑d saying that He could forgive us “for three” sins, (idol worship, inappropriate relations and murder), “but for four” (the perversion of justice), He “will not forgive.”2 This verse speaks for itself. To G‑d, taking advantage of people is the worst thing. G‑d is ready to forgive the most heinous crimes, but not this one.

G‑d goes on to say that after all He has done for us—He brought us up out of Egypt, fought wars for us, and gave us prophets and teachers—but those in power silenced the voice of decency and truth. Then they used their authority to take from the powerless and use for their own pleasures. He spells out what will be the consequences for these deplorable actions.

Then G‑d says: “I only loved you, from all the families of the earth. That is why I punish you for all your transgressions.”3 This love of G‑d to us is from His essence, where He is one with us, beyond any reason. It is therefore an essential bond that cannot be broken. And precisely because of this great love, our actions matter to G‑d, and that is why he punishes us for our wrongdoings.4

Then the haftarah continues with rhetorical statements that demonstrate that the consequences are a direct result of our actions. These verses have alternative meanings. I will touch on a few.

“Do two walk together, without it being arranged?”5 The word for a farbrengen (“gathering”) in Hebrew is hitvadut. It comes from the word noadu (“arranged”) in this verse. The idea is that when two or more Jews come together in unity, it is very powerful, especially to strengthen each other with regards to keeping Torah and mitzvahs, and with their connection with G‑d. This verse is also telling us that when we meet another Jew, we shouldn’t take it for granted, thinking that it is by chance we you met. Rather, G‑d arranged for us to meet, and we must use the opportunity to help each other, learn something from each other or see what we can do to help another.6

“Does a lion roar in the forest, if he has no prey?”7 The lion’s roar represents the greatest expression of its strength.8 On a spiritual level, this refers to when we are as strong as a lion and overcome our evil inclination, which then becomes our prey.9 The excitement felt inside is amazing because G‑d has so much pleasure and pride in us, causing His light shine on and in us.

“If a shofar is sounded in a city, can the inhabitants fail to be terrified?”10 The simple meaning of this verse is that a shofar was sounded when enemies were converging on a city, which was terrifying. Alternatively, this refers to sounding the shofar in the month of Elul.11 The sound of the shofar reaches the core of every Jew—even those who seem distant and cold to Judaism are affected by the shofar. In this verse, no reference is made of the one blowing because no matter who is doing it, the sound that enters us is from G‑d. This is the reason why it’s so powerful.12

“When a lion roars, who does not fear?”13 In Hebrew, “lion” is aryeh, and if you rearrange the letters, you get yirah, which means “fear.” The Shaloh Hakadosh14 tells us that aryeh is an acronym for Elul, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Hoshana Rabba. The fear and awe of G‑d is upon us at those times because He is close. The Yakult Shimoni tells us that aryeh refers to the month of Menachem Av because its mazal (zodiac sign) is the lion. So G‑d is close then as well, which is reason to praise G‑d and be joyous on Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av.15

It is in the merit of honesty, strength of character and integrity—especially from those in positions of power—and the belief in the words of our great prophets that we will hear G‑d sounding the Great Shofar of freedom, announcing that Moshiach is here. May he come soon!