and I will bring my people Israel back from exile.
“They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them.
They will plant vineyards and drink their wine;
they will make gardens and eat their fruit.
I will plant Israel in their own land,
never again to be uprooted
from the land I have given them,”
says the LORD your God. — Amos 9:14–15
The Torah portion for this week is a double reading, Acharei Mot-Kedoshim, from Leviticus 16:1—20:27. Acharei Mot means “after the death,” and Kedoshim means “holy.” The Haftorah is from Amos 9:7–15.
In 1867, Mark Twain visited the Holy Land. This is what he saw: “A desolate country . . . given over wholly to weeds . . . a silent mournful expanse . . . a desolation . . . we never saw a human being on the whole route . . . hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.” The land that Mark Twain saw was the way that the land looked for more than two thousand years. As foretold in the Bible, once the children of Israel were exiled, the land ceased to blossom.
In this week’s Torah reading, God gave the command to “Be holy” (Leviticus 19:2). The reading was filled with a host of do’s and do-not’s that would lead the people on the path of holiness. When God gives a command, it is not to be taken lightly. As this week’s Haftorah demonstrates, failure to heed God’s Word can lead to disastrous consequences.
The Haftorah is taken from the book of Amos. In it, the prophet addresses a wayward nation and tells the Israelites that they will be exiled from their land. As the Torah reading warned: “Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out” (Leviticus 20:22). Once the children of Israel failed to keep the laws of the Lord, it was only a matter of time before they would be spit out. And indeed they were.
For two thousand years, the nation of Israel was exiled from the land of Israel. During that time, it was as if the land itself was in mourning. This is how Mark Twain found the land in 1867. But history was about to advance to the next stage mentioned in the verses from Amos: “ . . . I will bring my people Israel back from exile. They will rebuild the ruined cities . . .” God promised to return the people of Israel to their land. And indeed He has.
Reading the rest of the verses from Amos, one can hardly believe that the prophet is talking about the same land that Mark Twain had seen. He describes cities with vineyards, plentiful wine, abundant vegetation and fruit. Yet, this is a perfect description of Israel today. Miraculously, the “silent mournful expanse” was transformed into an abundant garden!
Friends, we are living in miraculous times and watching biblical prophecies unfold before our very eyes. Join us here at The Fellowship as we do our part in contributing to God’s purposes. In the end, God’s Word will be fulfilled, but we can choose to play a part in the unfolding of His plan.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President