Insights into Halacha

For the week ending 8 September 2012 / 20 Elul 5772

The Double-Header Haftara

by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

For those paying attention in shul a little over a week ago on Parshas Ki Seitzei, chances are that they might have noticed something quite atypical during davening. I am not referring to a debate whether or not a specific congregation recites ‘L’Dovid’ during Elul, but rather to a double haftara. This double haftara was recited (or should have been) by the vast majority of Ashkenazic congregations worldwide.

Apparently, many [and not just those attending Kiddush Club during the haftara] did not realize this special occurrence. In fact, when I mentioned the uniqueness of this situation to the gabbai last Shabbos, he responded that he had never heard of a double haftara! He maintained that at the hashkama minyan, filled with Bnei Torah, not a single one pointed out such a thing! [No, I did not daven HaNeitz that Shabbos.] I had to show this ruling to him explicitly in both the Mishna Berura and the Tukachinsky calendar before he consented to allow the Baal Koreh to read both haftaros. However, his skeptical response was quite understandable, as the last time there was a double haftara was fourteen years ago!

To properly understand why there was a double haftara, some background is needed.

The haftaros were established when the wicked Antiochus (infamous from the Chanuka miracle) outlawed public reading of the Torah. The Chachamim of the time therefore established the custom of reading a topic from the Nevi’im similar to what was supposed to be read from the Torah[1]. Even after the decree was nullified, and prior to the Gemara’s printing, this became minhag Yisrael.

Most haftaros share some similarity with at least one concept presented in the Torah reading. The Gemara Megillah (29b - 31a) discusses the proper haftara readings for the various holidays throughout the year. The Pesikta, (an early Midrash cited by many early authorities[2] including Tosafos and the AbuDraham) continues the teachings of Chazal as to the proper haftara readings starting from the Fast of Shiva Assur B’Tamuz.

During the ‘Three Weeks’ from 17 Tamuz until Tisha B’Av, we read ‘Tlasa D’Paranusa’, ‘Three Readings of Punishment’. After Tisha B’Av (starting with Shabbos Nachamu, dubbed so due to its haftara, Nachamu Nachamu Ami) until Rosh Hashana, ‘Shiva D’Nechemta’, or ‘Seven Readings of Consolation’ are read[3]. This is followed by a reading of Teshuva[4], during the Shabbos between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, aptly named ‘Shabbos Shuva’, for its repentance themed haftara starting with ‘Shuva Yisrael’. The AbuDraham as well as Rabbeinu Tam, conclude that these special haftara readings are so important that they are never pushed off!

Our dilemma arises when that rule goes head-to-head with another rule. The Gemara (Megillah 31a) states that whenever Rosh Chodesh falls out on Shabbos, a special haftara is read: ‘Hashomayim Kisi’, as it mentions both the inyanim of Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh[5]. If Rosh Chodesh falls out on Sunday, then on the preceding Shabbos the haftara of ‘Machar Chodesh’ is read, as it mentions the following day being Rosh Chodesh.

The $64,000 question becomes, what happens when Rosh Chodesh Elul falls out on Shabbos or Sunday? Which ruling trumps which? Do we follow the Gemara or the Pesikta? Do we stick with the ‘Shiva D’Nechemta’ or the special Rosh Chodesh reading? The answer is that there is no easy answer! The Mordechai[6] cites both as separate, equally valid, minhagim with no clear cut ruling! So what are we supposed to do? Which minhag do we follow?

The Beis Yosef[7] writes that the ikar halacha follows the AbuDraham as he was considered an expert in these topics. Consequently, in the Shulchan Aruch[8], he rules that on Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Elul, only that week’s haftara of consolation, ‘Aniyah So’arah’ is read. This would also hold true if Rosh Chodesh fell on Sunday, that only that week’s haftara of consolation would be read, and not ‘Machar Chodesh[9]. This is the general Sefardi ruling on this topic[10].

Yet, the Rema, citing the Sefer HaMinhagim of Rav Yitzchak Isaac Tyrnau (Tirna), a contemporary of the Terumas HaDeshen and Maharil (late 1300’s - early 1400’s), argues that since the special reading of Shabbos-Rosh Chodesh also contains words of consolation, it is therefore the proper reading, even for Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Elul[11]. Moreover, this reading is mentioned specifically by the Gemara as the proper reading for Shabbos Rosh Chodesh, with no special dispensation given for Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Elul. Additionally, since it is recited more often (as Shabbos Rosh Chodesh falls out at least twice a year) one will fulfill the Talmudic dictum of ‘tadir v’sheino tadir, tadir kodem[12] by reading this haftara instead[13]. Nevertheless, if Rosh Chodesh would fall out on Sunday, all would agree that only that week’s haftara of consolation would be read, as there is no conciliatory theme in ‘Machar Chodesh’.

However, by following this, it would seem that we would miss out on one of the ‘Shiva D’Nechemta’, as there are not enough weeks before Rosh Hashana to fit in all seven when one of the haftaros [occurring when Rosh Chodesh falls out on Parshas Re’eh] is taken up by ‘Hashomayim Kisi’. Yet, the Pesikta and Rishonim stressed the importance and necessity of each and every one of them being read. Therefore, the Sefer HaMinhagim maintains that we need to make up the missing haftara, and it is done as an addition, on Parshas Ki Seitzei, two weeks later. The reason is that the haftara of Parshas Re’eh, ‘Aniyah So’arah’ in the original Navi (Yeshaya Ch. 54, 11) follows consecutively after the haftara of Parshas Ki Seitzei ‘Runi Akara’ (Yeshaya Ch. 54, 1). Therefore, this solution turns two separate haftaros into one long double-header[14] and thereby fulfills everyone’s requirement to hear all seven of the Conciliatory Haftaros.

This resolution of having a double-header haftara on Parshas Ki Seitzei when Rosh Chodesh falls out two weeks earlier on Parshas Re’eh is cited and actually codified in halacha by many authorities including the Levush, Matteh Efraim, Magen Avraham, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch and, as mentioned previously, the Mishna Berura and Tukachinsky Calendar[15], and is the definitive Ashkenazic ruling. Sefardim, on the other hand, do not have this interesting occurrence, as they follow the Shulchan Aruch’s rule of never pushing off any of the ‘Shiva D’Nechemta’, and thereby never having the need to double up haftaros[16].

Those who missed this unique opportunity should not fret too much, as we don’t have to wait another fourteen years to have a Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Elul. In fact, it will fall out four times over the next eight years. Hopefully by then, the gabbai will remember that double-headers are not exclusively reserved for ballgames.

The author wishes to thank R’ Joel Rosenfeld and R’ Solomon Lerner for raising awareness of this unique issue, and serving as the impetus for my interest and research in this topic.



[1]As per the Tosafos Yom Tov (Megillah Ch. Bnei Ha’Ir, Mishna 4 s.v. l’chisidran) citing the Sefer HaTishbi (Shoresh Petter). A similar background is given by the AbuDraham (Seder Parshiyos V’Haftaros).

[2]Including the Machzor Vitry (261 - 262), AbuDraham (ibid.), the Mordechai (Megillah, end Ch. Bnei Ha’Ir 831, end s.v. haghah), Tosafos (Megillah 31b s.v. rosh), Ran (ad loc.), and Rashba (ad loc.).

[3]See Machzor Vitry and AbuDraham (ibid.) for two separate reasons why the Shiva D’Nechemta are in its specific order.

[4]Although the Pesikta, according to the AbuDraham, maintains that there should be two haftaros of repentance, common minhag is that only one, Shuva Yisrael, is read on a Shabbos. The other, Dirshu Hashem Bi’Heematzo, is read on Tzom Gedalyah (by Mincha) instead. [This is especially important, as the Gemara Rosh Hashana 18a explains that this is referring to the Aseres Yemei Teshuva.] See Tosafos (ibid.), Tur (O.C. 428, 8) and Beis Yosef (ad loc. end s.v. uma”sh).

[5]See also Shu”t Noda B’Yehuda (Tinyana O.C. 11).

[6]Mordechai (ibid).

[7]Beis Yosef (O.C. 425, 1 s.v. uma”sh), AbuDraham (ibid.).

[8]Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 425, 1).

[9]See however Shu”t Divrei Malkiel (vol. 3, 27), who opines that for Sefardim it is possible that ‘Machar Chodesh’ would still be the proper reading as it mentions the ‘Kevius of Rosh Chodesh in its proper time’.

[10]Kaf Hachaim (O.C. 425, 13), Shu”t Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrachi (7), Rav Mordechai Eliyahu’s Darchei Halacha glosses to the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (128, footnote 5). The Rambam (Hilchos Tefilla Ch. 13, 14) actually implies this way as well.

[11]Rema (O.C. 425, 1 & in Darchei Moshe ad loc.), based on the Sefer Minhagim (whom he refers to as ‘Minhagim Shelanu’, beg. Ch. Minhag shel Rosh Chodesh Elul v’Erev Rosh Hashana). He mentions that several other Rishonim, including the Ohr Zarua, Mahar”i Weil and the Tur, rule this way as well.

[12]See, for example, Brachos 59b, Megillah 29b, Pesachim 114a, Sukka 54b & 56a, and Zevachim 91a.

[13]These additional reasons were not written by the Sefer HaMinhagim himself, but are found in the Haghos there (90) as well as in the works of later authorities mentioned in this article.

[14]For more on the topic of the halachic feasibility of combining two haftaros of the ‘Shiva D’Nechemta’, see Terumas HaDeshen (vol. 2 - Psakim U’Ksavim 94) and Shu”t Tzemach Tzeddek (126).

[15]Including the Levush (Levush HaChur O.C. 425, 2 & 581, 1), Matteh Efraim (581, 5), Sha’arei Efraim (Sha’ar 9, 23), Magen Avraham (425, 1), Machatzis Hashekel (ad loc.), Ba’er Heitiv (425, 2), Derech Hachaim U’Nesiv Hachaim (Sha’ar HaKollel 8), Shulchan Atzei Shittim (Krias HaTorah 6), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (128, 4), Mishna Berura (425, 7), and Luach Tukachinsky (5772, Elul, Parshas Ki Seitzei). See also Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 425, 5 & 428, 7).

[16]In many Sefardic congregations, on Parshas Re’eh the first and last pasuk of “Hashamayim Kisi” is still read, as otherwise they would not have read it at all this time around. See Rav Mordechai Eliyahu’s glosses to the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (128, footnote 4) who cites such a minhag, in order to at least catch some of “Hashamayim Kisi”. For Ashkenazim who end up reading both haftaros, there is no need to do so.


Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive guide, rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issues. In any real case one should ask a competent Halachic authority.


L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh HaYeshiva - Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben R' Yechezkel Shraga, Rav Yaakov Yeshaya ben R' Boruch Yehuda, and l'zchus for Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam and her children for a yeshua teikef u'miyad!

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