The Path to Redemption

February 23, 2024

In this verse, the prophet Amos is condemning the ancient Israelites for their sins. According to most commentators, he is alluding to the fact that they were guilty of idolatry, bloodshed, sexual immorality and corruption. The prophet is rebuking the people for their behavior, and particularly highlighting the corruption of the judges who would be swayed by bribes as meager as the price of shoes, perverting the course of justice.

The sages, however, understood this verse differently. According to the midrash, this verse is a reference to the narrative in Genesis 37:25-28, when Jospeh’s brothers, consumed by envy, sold him into slavery. The sages explain that the brothers sold Joseph for twenty pieces of silver which they divided between themselves so that they could each buy a pair of shoes.

According to the medieval commentator known as the Abarbanel, the sin of selling Joseph not only signified a grave moral failure on the part of the brothers but was also the reason for the Israelites’ subsequent bondage in Egypt. The selling of Joseph into slavery in Egypt is mirrored by the brothers’ own descent into slavery in Egypt, a poetic justice for their hatred and betrayal.

We know that all prophecies that were recorded in the Bible are relevant to all generations. When Amos gave his prophecy, he was not only reflecting on the previous sins of the nation, he was talking to the people of his own generation and he is speaking to us as well. The sin of hatred, exhibited by Joseph’s brothers, has continued to plague the Jewish people throughout the generations. It was not only the cause of the slavery in Egypt, but the sages say that it was the cause of the destruction of the Temple as well. Unfortunately, as a nation, we have not yet taken the lesson to heart and we continue to be guilty of this same sin.

Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaKohen Kook, the first Ashkenazi Cheif Rabbi of Israel, taught that the antidote to baseless hatred is baseless love. The path to rebuilding and redemption, therefore, lies in our ability to love one another unconditionally.

Rabbi Kook himself embodied the essence of what he termed ahavat chinam, or baseless love. The story is told of how he was once speaking publically when someone who disagreed with some of his positions and opinions began shouting at him. Though the interruption must have been highly embarrassing, Rabbi Kook continued speaking, seemingly unfazed by the rude interjection.

Later that year, as Rabbi Kook was preparing to distribute charity before the holiday of Passover, he instructed his secretary to include the man who had publicly shamed him among those to receive charity. The secretary was taken aback, saying, “I can’t give him the money! How can you reward someone like that after his disrespect towards you?” Rabbi Kook firmly replied, “If you won’t do it, then I myself will ensure he gets the money.” He then shared his reasoning: the sages teach that the Temple fell due to senseless hatred among people. Therefore, the path to rebuilding the Temple lies in fostering baseless love.

Rabbi Kook elaborated, stating that loving every Jew is a commandment from the Torah:

This kind of love, therefore, is not baseless. True baseless love is shown when you’re wronged by someone, you have every right to retaliate or ignore them, but instead, you choose to treat them with kindness and support them in their time of need. That is the essence of baseless love.

The path to rebuilding and unity is forged through unconditional love and forgiveness. In a world that often feels divided, the ancient wisdom found in the book of Amos offers a timeless lesson on unity, justice, and the power of brotherhood.

This idea of baseless love is as relevant today as it has ever been. In the months leading up to October 7th, Israel witnessed unprecedented divisions. Protests against the government and judicial reforms and tensions between secular and religious Jews highlighted the fractures within Israeli society.

However, since October 7th, a shift towards unity has been palpable in Israel, reminiscent of a collective yearning to repair the sin of Joseph’s brothers. Countless stories of brotherhood and love have emerged, signaling steps toward healing and the ultimate redemption.

Each act of solidarity, each moment of coming together across divides, echoes the ancient lessons of our forebears, reminding us of the power of brotherly love to transcend differences and heal rifts and fractures. As Rabbi Kook taught, unity and baseless love bring us one step closer to repairing ancient sins and toward a world filled with love, peace, and ultimate redemption.

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Shira Schechter

Shira Schechter is the content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. She earned master’s degrees in both Jewish Education and Bible from Yeshiva University. She taught the Hebrew Bible at a high school in New Jersey for eight years before making Aliyah with her family in 2013. Shira joined the Israel365 staff shortly after moving to Israel and contributed significantly to the development and publication of The Israel Bible.

Shira Schechter

Shira Schechter is the content editor for TheIsraelBible.com and Israel365 Publications. She earned master’s degrees in both Jewish Education and Bible from Yeshiva University. She taught the Hebrew Bible at a high school in New Jersey for eight years before making Aliyah with her family in 2013. Shira joined the Israel365 staff shortly after moving to Israel and contributed significantly to the development and publication of The Israel Bible.

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