In The School of the Prophets

In The School of the Prophets

Amos 8:4-10 +9:13-15

By: Hakham Dr. Yosef ben Haggai

 

Our Ashlatamatah for this week covers four Petuchot (Pericopes/Paragraphs): )1Amos ;8:4-8 )2Amos ;8:9-10)3 Amos 8:11 – 9:12(divided into two sections –Amos 8:11-14and ;)9:1-12and )4Amos .9:13-15

Rabbi Dr. S. M. Lehrman,45 divides the contents of these Petuchot (Pericopes/Paragraphs), and to which we have added further subdivisions, as follows:

  •  Amos 8:4-14 –The Fourth Vision: The Coming Judgment of the Northern Kingdom of Israel
    1. (i)  Earthquake –vv. 4-8
    2. (ii)  Eclipse –vv. 9-10
    3. (iii)  Famine –vv. 1-12
    4. (iv)  Drought –vv. 13-14
  •   Amos 9:1-4 –The Fifth Vision: G-d’s Sentence on the Northern Kingdom of Israel
  •   Amos 9:5-6 –The Might of G-d
    1. (i)  Judgment Begins in the Sanctuary
    2. (ii)  There are No Privileges When Righteousness/Generosity and Justice are Abandoned
  •   Amos 9:7-15 –Final Message of Hope

    The Primary Verbal Tally between the Torah Seder and our Ashlamatah is as follows:

    Torah Seder (Deut. 15:7 –:)16:17 Deut. 15:7

    ֶאת-ְלָׁבְבָך, ְתַאֵמץ ָׁלְך–לֹא ֹנֵתן ֱאֹלֶהיָך ֶשר-ְיהָׁוה ֲא,ְשָׁעֶריָך,ְבַאְרְצ ְבַאַחד ַאֶחיָך, ֵמַאַחד ֶאְביֹון ְבָךִּכי-ִּיְהֶיה הֶאְבין. ֵמָׁאִּחיָך, ֶאת-ָׁיְדָך, ִּתְקֹפץְולֹא

    7If there be among you a needy man, one of your brethren, within any of your gates, which the LORD your God gives you, you will not harden your heart, nor shut your hand from brother;

    Amos 8:4

    ָׁאֶרץ. ֲעִּנֵיי-) ְשִּבית,ענוי-( ַל ְו ֶאְביֹון; ֲאִּפים ֹש ַהִּשְמעּו-זֹאת, 4Hear this, O you that would swallow the needy, and destroy the poor of the land,

    TheHebrewword Eb’yón–translatedas“Needy”isalsoequatedinourfirstverseofourAshlamatah–ֶאְביֹון

    (Amos )8:4as: ֵיי ִּנ ֲע –Aniyei –translated as “poor” and from the Hebrew root –עניOní (Strong’s #H6041), and from which the Matsa (unleavened bread) for Pesach (Passover) receives the name of “Lechem Oni –Bread of the Poor.”

    Now the Hebrew word ְביֹון ֶא –Eb’yón (Strong’s #H34) at one time in history also became the name (i.e. Ebionites)46 by which Nazarean Jews were identified –since the word means: destitute, beggar, needy, poor (man). And the reason they were called by this name is because of the strong persecution that Nazarean Jews went first by the hands of the Romans and then even more fierce persecution at the hands of the Christian Church, so that they were left literally “destitute” and needing to “beg” or remain poor and wondering from place to place in order to survive. In the end, between the Christian Church and Islam succeeded, but only for a time, to exterminate this important group of Jewish people. There are some who erroneously claim “that their name suggests that they placed a special value on voluntary poverty.” This is nothing but a cover-up and an obfuscation of the relentless extermination by the Christian Church of the Nazarean Jews.47

  • Wikipedia48 correctly states:

    Since historical records by the Ebionites are scarce, fragmentary and disputed, much of what is known or conjectured about the Ebionites derives from the Church Fathers, who wrote polemics against the Ebionites, whom they deemed heretical Judaizers. Consequently very little about the Ebionite sect or sects is known with certainty, and most, if not all, statements about them are conjectural.

    Many scholars distinguish the Ebionites from other Jewish Nazarean groups, e.g., the Nazarenes., others consider them identical with the Nazarenes.

    Small historical pointers of the extermination of the Nazareans/Ebionites do exist, and one such of them is mentioned in Church History, the so called “Quartodeciman Controversy” between the Roman Bishop Victor and the “so called” Bishops of the East regarding the exact date and whether to celebrate or not the Jewish Passover.49 The reading of this Ashlamatah (Lesson from the Prophets) when viewed in connection with the history and mass extermination of the Nazarean/Ebionite Jews in the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine as head of the Christian Church is most apt for this season as we are preparing in this coming week to celebrate Chanukah whereby the Greek King Antiochus IV Epiphanes profaned the Temple by sacrificing a pig in the Holy Altar, enacted laws to forbid circumcision and the study of Torah, etc. and how the Maccabees in a long revolt regained and cleansed the Temple precincts.

    The festival of Chanukah for us, has a very special meaning, since in our generation we are seeing a small but miraculous revival of the Jewish Nazarean movement albeit with many other sects around it trying to asphyxiate it and prevent it from attaining its goals, but G-d, most blessed be He, is the owner of this work, and He will see to it that it prospers, and becomes a trustworthy instrument in His hands to achieve the final redemption, amen ve amen! We cry from the bottom of our heart together with the Psalmist: “We are small and despised; We have not forgotten Your commandments.” (Psalm 119:141).

    In suma, the pericope of Hakham Tsefet (Peter) by the hand of his scribe Mordechai (Mark) shows that what happened to the Master also happened to his “real” Jewish disciples in the first four centuries of the common era, and to the Jewish people in general as his body even to this very day. But the time is near whereby these crimes will be punished most severely by G-d as He did to the unfaithful Northern Israelite Kingdom, as it is said:

    Amos 8:7 The LORD who gave greatness to Jacob swears; “None of their deeds will ever be forgotten.” Amos 8:8. Will not the land be laid waste for this, and all that dwell in it be desolated? A king will come up against it with his army which is great like the waters of a river, and he will cover it all and drive out its inhabitants and it will sink like the river of Egypt.{P}

    People can hide behind their theologies, vain imaginations, and as Hakham Shaul puts it: “strong delusion,”50 but our G-d, most blessed be He, can’t be fooled or permit righteousness/generosity and justice to be abandoned. We know that in many instances human history has been doctored in what is called “revisionism” to favour the guilty and dress them as righteous. But the prophecy in our Ashlamatah (Lesson from the Prophets) and the coming festival of Chanukah testify that true and genuine history is but His (i.e. G-d’s) Story in His dealings with the universe, mankind, and His chosen people, and in His Story the Psalmist sates: “There is great peace for those who love Your Torah in this age, and they have no stumbling-block in the age to come”” (Targum Pslam 119:165).

    Another question that rises from this Ashlamatah is: Why are there poor and needy amongst G-d’s people? This very poignant question should give us much to think about. The best answer to this most profound and soul searching question, and which amongst us perfectly judges in G-d’s eyes those who are “genuine” and those who are “fake” is found in last week’s Torah Seder in Debarim (Deut.) 15:4 and in the first verses of our Torah Seder for this week (Deut: 15:7,11), according to the translation of Targum Pseudo Jonathan:

    15:4 “If you will only be diligent in the precepts of the Law, there will be no poor among you;” 15:7 “But if you be not diligent in the precepts of the Law, and there be among you a poor man”

    15:11 “But forasmuch as the house of Israel will not rest in the commandments of the Law, the poor will not cease …”

    I remarked in my last Sunday Table-Talk on the Torah Seder and allied readings, that “being diligent in the precepts of the Law” amounts to having a heart full and overflowing with Chessed – (Heb. for: “loving-kindness”). I further remarked that in Acts 4:34-35 we read:

    Acts 4:34 For there was not even anyone needy among them, because all those who were owners of [surplus] plots of land or houses were selling them and bringing the proceeds of the things that were sold Acts 4:35 and placing them at the feet of the apostles (Nazarean Hakhamim/Rabbis). And it was being distributed to each as anyone had need.

    This was neither communism nor the abolishment of private property amongst Nazarean Jews of that time, as some so called Scholars want us to believe. No! Never in a million years! G-d forbid! What we are seeing here is that as the Jewish people were being filled with the Ruach Ha Qodesh (Heb. for: “Spirit of Holiness”) the Nazarean Jews developed a keen awareness of the needs of the community and were selling any surplus possessions and “placing them at the feet of the Nazarean Hakhamim/Rabbis” so that the command of Deut. 15:4 “If you will only be diligent in the precepts of the Law, there will be no poor among you;” be fulfilled among them – such was their love and zeal for G-d’s Torah/Law!

    Hakham Yochanan (John) in a passage that we will read for Chanukah elucidates this further when he writes:

    “But whoever has the world’s material possessions and observes his brother [in need] and shuts his heart [overflowing with Chessed – loving-kindness] against him, how does the love of God reside in him?”

    Therefore, from a Jewish perspective, whether Nazarean or non-Nazarean, “Shomer Mitzvoth” (Heb. for “keeping/ guarding the commandments”) without Ahavah Yisrael (Heb. for “love of the Jewish brothers”) that is a heart overflowing with Chessed (Heb. for “loving-kindness”) cannot be considered a proper “Shomer Mitzvoth” (Heb. for keeping/guarding of the commandments). The sure sign that a person is a Nazarean Jew, above everything else is aptly described by Hakham Shaul as:

    2Cor 9:7 Each one [should give] as he has decided in his heart, not [reluctantly] or from compulsion, for God loves a cheerful (hilarious) giver.
    2Cor 9:8 And God is able to cause all grace to abound to you, so that in everything at all times, [because you] have enough of everything, you may overflow in every good work (Heb. “G’milut Chasadim” – “Deeds of Loving-Kindness”)51. .

    And as the Nazarean Talmud for this week reads:

    Rom 12:9-21Love must be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; be attached to what is good, 10being devoted to one another in brotherly love, esteeming one another more highly in honor, 11not lagging in diligence, being enthusiastic in spirit, serving the LORD [G-d], 12rejoicing in hope, enduring in affliction, being devoted to prayer, 13contributing to the needs of the saints (Heb. “Tsadiqim”), pursuing hospitality. 14Bless those who persecute, bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. 16Think the same thing toward one another; [do not think arrogantly], but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise [in your own sight]. 17Pay back no one evil for evil. Take thought for (be considerate in) what is good in the sight of all people. 18If it is possible on your part, be at peace with all people. 19Do not take revenge yourselves, dear friends, but give place to God’s wrath, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the LORD (Deut. .)32:3520But “If your enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD will reward you” (Proverbs ,25:21 .)2221Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

    May all the needs of this ministry be speedily fulfilled, and may there never be any needy among us, and among all of our most noble and beloved Jewish brothers and sisters and Torah Scholars, amen ve amen!

    Footnotes:

    45Lehrman, S. M. ,)1961(in Rev. Dr. A Cohen (Ed.), Soncino Books of the Bible: The Twelve Prophets, London: The Soncino Press, pp. .116-124

    1. 46Cf. Wikipedia –“Ebionites, or Ebionaioi, (Greek: Ἐβιωναῖοι) (derived from Hebrew ,ebyonimאביוניםebionim, meaning “the poor” or “poor ones”), is a Christian patristic term referring to a Jewish Nazarean sect or sects that existed during the first centuries of the Christian Era. They regarded Yeshua as the Messiah and insisted on the necessity of following Jewish religious Law and rites.” – http://en.wikiped ia.org/wiki/Eb ionites

      47This horrendous mass murder of Nazarean Jews (men, women and children) is little spoken of by historians, but in my humble opinion it is one of the many crimes against the Jewish people perpetrated by Christianity together with inquisitions, progroms, the holocaust, etc. etc. No, historian, to date, has dealt yet comprehensively with this dark episode.

    48 Ibid.
    49 Schaff, P. & Wace, H. (1982), Nicene And Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series: Eusebius’ Church History, Grand Rapids, Michigan: WM B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., pp.242-244. See also Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quartodecimanism (but careful, this last citation contains some errors as for example that the Bishop of Rome Victor did not excommunicate those that celebrated Pesach, and that the Council of Nicea did not deal finally with this so called heresy, and whereby by edict of Constantine those Nazareans/Ebionites that observed Pesach were to be put to death – the meaning of excommunication in those days).
    50 Cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:11.

    51 The Mishnah also describes G’milut Chasadim as one of the few mitzvoth (commandments) for which there is no minimum amount sufficient to satisfy your obligation. (Pe’ah 1:1; reiterated in Talmud Chagigah 7a). That verse also describes G’milut Chasadim as one of the few things that one derives benefit from in this world and yet still be rewarded for in the world to come. The Talmud says that G’milut Chasadim is greater than Tzedakah (charity), because unlike Tzedakah, G’milut Chasadim can be done for both poor and rich, both the living and the dead, and can be done with money or with acts. (Talmud Sukkah 49b).

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