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What is Maftir?

by Rabbi Dov Grossman

  

Library » Shabbat » Reading of the Torah » Haftorah | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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Maftir is the Aliyah which is given to the person who will recite the Haftorah (or the one who will recite the blessings for the Haftorah).

Since the Haftorah is culled from the works of the Prophets, it would seem disrespectful to the Torah, were someone to be called upon to read only from the Prophets - thereby indicating the Prophets to be of equal importance as the Torah1 . To ensure the proper respect for the Torah, the rabbis instituted that the one reciting the Haftorah should also receive the last Aliyah which is read from the Torah.2

This Aliyah is called Maftir, the verb form of the word Haftorah,3 since its function is to enable the Haftorah to be read.

It is unclear whether the Maftir Aliyah was intended to be one of the seven required Aliyot, or whether it was meant to be an additional Aliyah.4

To ensure the proper respect for the Torah, the rabbis instituted that the one reciting the Haftora should also receive the last Aliya which is read from the Torah
The tradition has become to accommodate both opinions.5

On Shabbat and Yom Tov we are allowed to add as many Aliyot as we wish. We therefore read Maftir as the eighth Aliyah, allowing us to follow both opinions.6   Even if Maftir is meant to be one the seven required Aliyot, we may add on to those Aliyot. Thus, by reading Maftir as the eighth Aliyah, we are keeping in accord with both opinions.

For the Maftir Aliyah, we repeat the last few verses that were read at the end of the Torah Portion. We conclude the Torah portion in seven Aliyot, and then reread the last few verses as Maftir7 .8

The custom of repeating verses, developed in the post-Talmudic era (around the year 500 of the Common Era). In Talmudic times, they would not complete the Torah portion in seven Aliyot. They would arrange to leave some verses to be read for Maftir and conclude the Torah portion (for the first time) with the Maftir Aliyah.

This change was a result of the Rabbonon Savoroi,9  who instituted that the Kaddish which is said after reading the Torah should be said before Maftir. (This was intended to emphasize that the Maftir is not one of the seven Aliyot, but rather an eighth.)

For this reason, the Torah portion must be concluded before Maftir, since it would be improper to recite a Kaddish in middle of a Torah portion. Thus, the portion is concluded, Kaddish is recited, and only then are the last few verses repeated as Maftir.10

You may also want to read about 'What is the origin of the reading of the Haftorah?'.

Footnotes

  • 1. Shulchan Aruch Admur HaZaken 282:10
  • 2. Talmud, Megillah 23a.
  • 3. The root word of FTR.
  • 4. Megillah ibid.
  • 5. Shulchan Aruch O.C. 282:4.
  • 6. On a weekday we are not allowed to add onto the number of Aliyot. In that case, we follow the opinion that Maftir is meant to be read as one of the required Aliyot, and the last Aliyah is treated as Maftir.
  • 7. This is our normal practice. However, on days when two Torah scrolls are used, we conclude the Torah portion in seven Aliyot from one scroll, and the Maftir is read from a different scroll. The Maftir is then somewhere else other than the Torah portion. i.e. a reading relating to the sacrifices of the day.
  • 8. Ibid.
  • 9. Sages from the period immediately following the Talmudic era (, some of whom are even recorded in the Talmud).
  • 10. Tosfot, Meggilah 23a.

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Shabbat » Reading of the Torah » Torah Reading

Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Aliyah
Literally means to rise up. Has two popular meanings: 1. Being called up to the Torah scroll and recite the blessings when the Torah is being read. 2. To emigrate to the Holy Land.
Haftorah
Section from the prophetic writings that is read at the conclusion of the Torah reading on the Sabbath, Jewish holidays and fast days. The Haftorah contains a message similar to the weekly reading, or speaks of the current holiday.
Yom Tov
Jewish Holiday.
Torah Portion
The Five Books of Moses are divided into 54 portions. Every Sabbath morning we read one portion. Several weeks during the year a double portion is read, in order to accommodate the Torah's completion on the Simchat Torah holiday.
Kaddish
A prayer sanctifying G-d's name which is sprinkled throughout the daily prayers and is recited by the leader of the services. This prayer is also recited by mourners during the first year of mourning, and on the anniversary of the death.
Aliyot
Plural form of Aliyah. The honor of being called up to the Torah scroll when the Torah is read is called an aliyah. The Shabbat Torah reading has seven principle aliyot (plus the maftir aliyah).
Maftir
A short reading from the Torah at the conclusion of the Sabbath morning and holiday Torah readings. The one honored with the maftir aliyah then chants the Haftorah -- the reading from the Prophets.