Whose Words?

Vayeshev By :  Jeremy Tabick PhD Candidate in Rabbinic Literature Posted On Dec 23, 2016 / 5777 | דבר אחר | A Different Perspective | Social Justice
[W]e push through the crowd, heading somewhere. Bodies clear frame and we see the HOMELESS MAN sitting on a park bench. His sign reads: “THEE END”. The Homeless Man smiles into camera. We continue forward and in a slow, mysterious, subtle fashion his face slowly transforms into the very pleased, FACE OF GOD, who winks and we CUT TO BLACK.
—Script for Bruce Almighty by Steve Koren, Mark O’Keefe, Steve Oedekerk

Amos the prophet is an inspiring and tragic figure.

For two chapters, he denounces the “crimes against humanity” of Israel and her neighbors; in the closing words of this week’s haftarah, he tells us why:

“A lion has roared
Who can but fear?
My Lord God has spoken
Who can but prophesy?” (Amos 3:8)

Why did he leave his home to rail against the people of Israel? Because it was impossible for him not to. The Lion roared; God called him; he saw the moral failings of God’s people and knew he had to speak out.

At the same time, though, his rhetoric and the way he screams at the high priest of Bet El (in chapter 7) make him sound like a street-corner doomsday preacher, an insane person shouting that the world is coming to an end.

We need people like Amos today, who feel so moved by their moral principles that they can’t help but speak out. And, unlike for Amos, we need to ensure those people have platforms from which they can be heard. At the end of the film Bruce Almighty, a homeless man (played by Jack Jozefson), who has displayed signs foretelling the end of days throughout the movie, appears and morphs into God (played by Morgan Freeman). So, too, does Amos teach us that this kind of moral vision sometimes comes directly from God’s mouth.