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What is the origin of the reading of the Haftorah?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg


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


Several reasons are offered for the reading of the Haftorah:

1. When the Greeks ruled over the land of Israel, the Hellenist government forbade the reading of the Torah. So instead, the Jews started reading each week a portion of the Prophets which contained ideas which were similar to the Torah reading of that week (Abudraham, Levush). (This is the most popular answer).

2. Originally the custom was to remain in the synagogue every day after prayers and devote time to studying the Prophets. Due to financial difficulties, it became unfeasible for the populace to spend so much time studying so the custom was abolished. However, on Shabbat and festivals, when no one works and there is plenty of time, the custom of studying the Prophets continued (Pardes, Shivlei Haleket).

Most haftorahs were chosen because they share a common them with the Torah portion. There are some exceptions when the haftorah is chosen because it reflects the time of the year
3. There are those who contend that the Haftorah, too, was instituted by Ezra the Scribe (Sefer Hamachriya in the name of Rabbeinu Tam).

Although most haftorahs were chosen because they share a common them with the Torah Portion, there are some exceptions when the haftorah is chosen because it reflects the time of the year. For example, during the Three Weeks of mourning for the Holy Temples we read prophecies which warn of the impending destruction which will occur if the Jews don't repent. On the Shabbat before Yom Kippur we read about repentance, etc.

You may also want to read about 'What is Maftir?'.

TAGS: haftara, haftorah


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(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 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.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
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.
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.
1. A Hebrew priest and scribe, who, together with Nehemiah, revived Judaism in the 4th century BCE. He was instrumental in the building of the 2nd Temple. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, which describes the events of Ezra's lifetime.