Haftarah for Kedoshim

On chosenness and holiness.


The Ashkenazic custom is to read Amos 9:7-15. The Sephardic custom is to read Ezekiel 20:2-20.

The Israelites Are No Better Than Other Nations

The haftarah selection from Amos opens with a judgment speech against sinful nations. The prophet warns that wicked kingdoms will be wiped off the face of the earth—and that includes the nation of Israel, which God does not think is any better than the Ethiopians, Philistines, or the Arameans.

But God promises not to completely erase the nation He brought out of Egypt. In punishing His own people, God will save a small remnant of the once numerous group. This speech is designed to remind the people of Israel that merely being a member of the Chosen People does not guarantee salvation–a life of good deeds is required as well.

Though Amos is scolding the people in this prophecy, he ends with a vision of redemption, describing a time “when the mountains shall drip wine and all the hills shall wave [with grain]” (9:13). Only then will God restore the people to their land, “nevermore to be uprooted” (9:15).

Connection to the Parashah

The haftarah from Amos emphasizes themes of universal divine judgment that are implied in Parashat Kedoshim, where we read about God choosing and sanctifying the Israelites. God says, “I have set you apart from other peoples to be Mine (Leviticus 20:26). The haftarah reminds Israel that even though they are chosen, they are not given license to sin, and their punishment for sinning will be no less than the punishment meted out to other nations.

God Calls Israel to Account for its Sins

The haftarah selection from Ezekiel begins with God commanding Ezekiel to arraign the people of Israel for their sins. In the remainder of the text, God speaks through Ezekiel as a prosecutor, reminding the nation of their humble beginnings as slaves in Egypt, and of God’s promise to bring them into a land flowing with milk and honey, "the fairest of all lands" (20:6).

While the Israelites were still in Egypt God told them to cast away all of the detestable things that they were drawn to and abandon the disgusting ways of the Egyptians. But the people refused and adhered to their sinful ways. God was ready to pour out His wrath on the people, but did not want to do so in the presence of the other nations because He was concerned that doing so would cause his name to be profaned.

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