by Rabbi Dovid Siegel
This week's haftorah presents the Jewish nation in a most unique context.In his last words of prophecy the prophet Amos describes the Jewish peoplein a very peculiar manner. He says in the name of Hashem, "Aren't youlikened to the Kushites, to be Mine?" (9:7) Who are Kushites and in whatway are the Jewish people compared to them? Chazal in the Yalkut Shimoni(157) interpret the term Kushites to refer to the Ethiopian communitywhose skin color is distinctly different than all other nations. Thisphysical distinction renders it virtually impossible for the Kushites tointermingle with anyone without maintaining their national identity.Chazal continue that in this same manner the Jewish people are distinctlydifferent than all other nations. The moral and ethical code of theobservant Jewish people inhibits them from intermingling with the nationsof the world. The drastic skin color contrast of the Ethiopians serves asa striking analogy to the drastic ethical contrast between the Jewishpeople and all other nations.
The prophet continues and reminds the Jewish people that it is thisdistinct ethical conduct which renders them Hashem's chosen people. Afterlikening the Jewish people to the Kushites, the prophet completes hisanalogy with the profound words, "to be Mine". The Metzudos Dovid (9:7)explains this to mean that we are Hashem's people exclusively because ofour distinguished ethical conduct. He adds that we will remain Hashem'sspecial nation as long as we possess elevated ethical standards. Theprophet then draws our attention to our earliest origins and says, "Didn'tHashem bring you up from the land of Egypt?" (ad loc.) Malbim explainsthat these words allude to the distinguished qualities of the Jewish peoplein whose merit they were liberated from Egypt. Although they existed fortwo hundred years in the corrupt and immoral Egyptian environment theyremained a distinct and distinguished entity. Their moral code of dressand speech reflected their pure attitudes about life which madeintermingling with the Egyptians a virtual impossibility. For the mostpart, their Jewish values were not corrupted or distorted which allowed theJews to remain distinguished and elevated.
The prophet concludes our haftorah with this theme and promises ourultimate redemption from our extended exile. Amos says, "On that day Iwill establish the kingdom of Dovid.... so that you, upon whom My namerests, will inherit Edom and all nations." (9:11,12) Our identity withHashem as a nation upon whom His name rests, will play a significant rolein our final redemption. The Jewish people will inherit their archenemyEdom soley because of their identity with Hashem. Our elevated standardsof morality will truly earn us the title of His people and in this meritwe will be finally liberated from the world's corrupt influence andenvironment.
This special lesson reflects the essence of this week's parsha, Kedoshim,which embodies Hashem's lofty call to us for spiritual elevation. TheTorah begins and says, "Be holy for I, Hashem, am Holy." (Vayikra 19:2)Nachmanides (ad loc.) shares with us his classic insight into this mitzva."Be holy", says the Ramban, "refers to the introducion of sanctity andspirituality into every dimension of our lives." Even our physical andmundane activities should be directed towards Hashem. We are forbidden toexcessively indulge in worldly pleasures and are expected to limit ourpassions and pleasures to productive and accomplishing acts. Moralityand spirituality should encompass our entire being and our every actionshould ultimately become the service of Hashem. This philosophy isdiametrically opposed to that of the nations of the world. To themphysical pleasure and enjoyment have no restrictions or limitations andreligion does not govern their passions or cravings. As said, ourstandards of morality are truly unique and it is this factor that elevatesus and distinguishes us from amongst the nations of the world.
The parsha concludes with this message and says, "And you shall be holyunto Me for I am holy and I have separated you from the nations to beMine." As stated, we are Hashem's people because of our holiness -elevated moral and ethical standards - which truly separate us from thenations of the world. And in this merit we will soon experience our finalredemption and be a nation unto Him, privileged to remain in His presencefor eternity.
Text Copyright © 1998 Rabbi Dovid Siegel and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is Rosh Kollel of Kollel Toras Chaim of
Kiryat Sefer, Israel.