When the Reaper Meets the PlowmanApril 11, 2014 - 5:00 am
“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills.” — Amos 9:13
The Torah portion for this week is Acharei Mot, which means “after the death,” from Leviticus 16:1–18:30, and the Haftorah is from Amos 9:7–15.
In this week’s Haftorah, we read a beautiful prophecy about the messianic era — a time when peace will prevail and the whole world will serve God. The prophet Amos described that glorious time period with this following cryptic description: “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes.” The Dubno Maggid, an eighteenth century rabbi known for his inspiring stories, told a parable that helps us understand this verse and its meaning.
A city dweller who was unfamiliar with the process of working the land and cultivating produce encountered a farmer in the countryside. The farmer was plowing the land and planting seeds into the newly made furrows. The city dweller was beside himself. “Why would you throw perfectly good seeds into the ground to rot?” he demanded of the farmer. The farmer smiled kindly and said, “Wait, and you will see.”
Several months later, the city dweller returned to the farm and was thrilled to see that the seeds had turned into magnificent stalks of wheat, but was horrified to find the farmer cutting them down. “Why would you cut down these beautiful sheaves of wheat?” the man wanted to know. The farmer smiled and said, “Wait, and you will see.”
The farmer proceeded to grind the wheat, add water, knead the dough, and put it into a scalding oven. The city dweller could not understand why the farmer would place the fine kernels of wheat into a fiery furnace. “Why would you destroy such wonderful grain?” he asked the farmer. Once more the farmer smiled and said, “Soon, you will see.”
And so it was. The city dweller finally understood what everything was for when something he recognized emerged from the oven: a freshly baked loaf of bread.
We go through life acting a lot like the city dweller. We see things happening in our lives and in the world and we don’t understand what they’re all for. Sometimes, it seems that God is destroying things instead of making the world better. However, the verse from Amos teaches us that one day it will all make sense. We will see the process and the finished product all at once. We will see the ploughing and the reaping. We will see the planter and the production of wine. Everything will make perfect sense and we will see how everything that God has done has been to produce a wonderful world.
When things don’t make sense, remember that we are only city dwellers watching the master farmer cultivate the world. One day, it will all make sense. We just have to wait and see.