The reading opens with a provocative accusation:
|כֹּה, אָמַר יְהוָה, עַל-שְׁלֹשָׁה פִּשְׁעֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְעַל-אַרְבָּעָה לֹא אֲשִׁיבֶנּוּ: עַל-מִכְרָם בַּכֶּסֶף צַדִּיק, וְאֶבְיוֹן בַּעֲבוּר נַעֲלָיִם.||6 Thus saith the LORD: For three transgressions of Israel, yea, for four, I will not reverse it: because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes;|
The connection to the Torah reading is the parallel to the sale of Joseph to the Ishmaelite caravan by his brothers. However,
RADAK expands on this explanation by noting that in the context of the verse, "For three I would forgive, etc.," the meaning here is though the People of Israel violated the three cardinal sins: sexual immorality, idol worship, and the shedding of blood, HaShem says that He would have forgiven them those sins. But when they did "chamas," violence in a social context, taking violent advantage of the poor and perverting justice, that was too much, even as it was at the time of the Generation of the Flood, where the text reads (Bereshit 6:11), "And the earth was corrupt before G-d and the earth was filled with violence."In other words, "taking violent advantage of the poor and perverting justice" is worse than idolatry, adultery and murder, the three cardinal sins of Judaism.
The prophet Amos goes on to distinguish between the sins of other nations from the standard to which Israel is held accountable. Chosenness comes at a price. As the joke goes "Do You have to choose us every time?" Jews are called upon to stand up for the downtrodden; the poor and the stranger, the orphan and the widow. Indeed, Tikkun Olam has a longstanding tradition in Judaism. In every generation, even long after "official" prophesy had ceased to be recognized, there have been those to rebuke the nation, proclaiming,
G*d does not act directly in the world -- without people taking action, the downtrodden will remain in their misery. It is up to us to hear the lion roar. And once we have heard, "who can but prophesy?"