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The Lion's Roar

The lion has roared—
    who will not fear?
The Sovereign Lord has spoken—
    who can but prophesy? — Amos 3:8

The Torah portion for this week, Vayeishev, which means “and he lived,” is from Genesis 37:1—40:23, and the Haftorah is from Amos 2:6—3:8.

The connection between the Torah portion of Vayeishev and its Haftorah are in the similarities described in the beginning of the reading. The prophet Amos described the people of Israel as immoral, unethical, and unjust. To prove his point, Amos gave the example of the people selling out the needy for a pair of shoes – a clear allusion to the ten brothers who sold Joseph and used the money to buy new shoes for themselves.

In both readings, there is a severe lack of brotherly love. The prophet warned the people that their behavior would ultimately lead to everyone’s destruction – just as the brothers’ cruel act toward Joseph eventually landed them all in slavery. This is one of the powerful messages of the Haftorah.

But there is another message – one taken from a verse at the end of the selection. The prophet asked, “Does a lion roar in the thicket when it has no prey?” (Amos 3: 4). And then, “The lion has roared—who will not fear?” The first message of the Haftorah may have been about sin and deserving punishment, but the second part is a warning that punishment is on its way.

God sends us many warnings, like the roar of a lion, which warns other predators that prey has been taken — move on or face the consequences. When the enemy roars, said Amos, we had better listen.

And this is why this verse has my undivided attention. Israel’s enemies are roaring, right now. As our prime minister has often said, “History has taught us that when our enemies threaten to destroy us, we ought to take them seriously.” But are we?

Iran has repeatedly declared its intention to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. America would be next. The clock is ticking, the lion is roaring, “who will not fear?” But the world sits and waits. Friends, the time to take Iran’s threat seriously was yesterday.

But here’s what we can do today. We need to make drastic changes, inside and out. We need to re-commit our hearts to the Lord and repair our shortcomings. And then, we must do whatever is in our power to cage the roaring lion. What every person can do is different, but it will take each one of us for change to happen.

God has given us the lion’s roar as a warning. We would be foolish to turn a deaf ear to it. It would be wise to heed the call for action.

With prayers for shalom, peace,

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President

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