Insights into Halacha

For the week ending 10 May 2014 / 10 Iyyar 5774

The Case of the Missing Haftara

by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

For those paying attention in shul a little over a week ago on Parshas Kedoshim, chances are that they might have noticed something quite atypical during davening. When it came time for the haftara, chances are that the actual reading was not the previously scheduled haftara listed in your Chumash, but rather the haftara listed for the previous parsha, Acharei Mos. In fact, as the reading commenced in the shul where I was davening, so did a concurrent dispute with the gabbai, with mispalleleim arguing that the Ba’al Koreh was erroneously reading the wrong haftara!

But, to properly understand why the ‘wrong haftara’ was (it turns out, quite properly) read, 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, which are rather related to the holiday and generally trump a weekly haftara[2].

An interesting halacha that concerns us is which haftara is read when there is a double parsha[3]. Generally speaking, the haftara of the second parsha is read, as that is the Torah reading that we just concluded[4].

Yet, when it comes to the parshiyos of Acharei Mos and Kedoshim, it seems that it is not so simple. Although the Shulchan Aruch does not mention any difference between these and other double parshiyos, the Rema, however, citing the Sefer HaMinhagim and the Mordechai, writes that the haftara of the first parsha, Acharei Mos, is the proper one to read[5].

The reason for the uncharacteristic change is that the haftara of Parshas Kedoshim, ‘Hasishpot’, from sefer Yechezkel, includes what is known as ‘Toavas Yerushalayim’, referring to a revealing prophecy of the woeful spiritual state and the terrible happenings that will occur to the inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael for not following the word of God. The Gemara in Megillah (25b) relates a story of Rabbi Eliezer and one who read such a haftara, who was subsequently found to have his own family’s indiscretions exposed. Ultimately though, the Gemara concludes that that haftara can indeed be read (and even translated).

However, it seems that whenever possible, we should try to avoid having to read this condemning passage as the haftara. Additionally, the content of Acharei Mos’s haftara, ‘Halo K’Bnei Kushiyim’ (from Amos in Trei Asar) has similar content to Parshas Kedoshim as well. Therefore, the Rema rules that when the Torah reading is the double parshiyos of Acharei Mos and Kedoshim, the haftara of Acharei Mos is read.

Although the Levush vehemently argued against such a switch, and posited that it is a printing mistake in the earlier authorities to suggest such a switch[6], nevertheless, the Rema’s rule followed by virtually all later poskim and Ashkenazic Kehillos[7]. However, it was not accepted by Sefardic authorities and when Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are combined, they do indeed read ‘Hasishpot’[8].

Wait a minute! This year is a leap year and Acharei Mos and Kedoshim were separate and distinct parshiyos. Shouldn’t Kedoshim’s rightful haftara be read in any case? So why was the ‘wrong’ haftara read ?!

This is where it gets interesting. 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[9]. 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.

Rav Akiva Eiger[10] mentions that when Parshas Acharei Mos falls out on Erev Rosh Chodesh and its haftara gets pushed off for ‘Machar Chodesh’, then the proper haftara for Parshas Kedoshim is… Acharei Mos’s haftara, and not Kedoshim’s! Rav Eiger’s reasoning is that since we find precedent by a double parsha that we actively try not to read Kedoshim’s haftara due to its explicit content, the same should apply for any other time Acharei Mos’s haftara was not read; that it should trump and therefore replace (and displace) Kedoshim’s haftara! Indeed, and although not the common custom, there is even an old Yerushalmi minhag not to ever read the haftara of Kedoshim; and even when the Parshiyos are separate, Acharei Mos’s haftara is read two weeks in a row[11]!

Although not universally accepted[12], Rav Akiva Eiger’s rule is cited as the halacha by the Mishna Berura, and the proper Ashkenazic minhag by the Kaf Hachaim[13]. The Chazon Ish, as well as Rav Moshe Feinstein, and Rav Chaim Kanievsky[14], all rule this way as well. That is why this year, when Acharei Mos was Shabbos HaGadol and its usual haftara was not read, but rather replaced by the special haftara for Shabbos Hagadol, many shuls read Acharei Mos’s haftara on Parshas Kedoshim, instead of Kedoshim’s usual one.

In fact that is how it both Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin’s authoritative Ezras Torah Luach, as well as Rav Yechiel Michel Tukachinsky’s essential Luach Eretz Yisrael rule as the proper minhag this year[15]. That is why in many shuls around the world, this year Kedoshim’s haftara was not found following Parshas Kedoshim, but rather preceding it.

The next time you are trying to figure out what happened to the missing haftara of Kedoshim, be aware - you may have to go back to Acharei!

The author wishes to thank R’ Shloime Lerner for raising awareness of this unique issue, and for providing several invaluable Mareh Mekomos. Thanks are also due to R’ Chezky Adler for serving as the impetus for this author’s 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]There are exceptions to this rule, however. See recent article titled ‘The Double-Header Haftara for more on this topic.

[3]For more on the topics of double Parshiyos and which and when they are combined, see recent article titled ‘Parsha Permutations’.

[4]Although the AbuDraham (Seder Parshiyos V’Haftaros) cites two disparate minhagim with no actual ruling: one to read the first parsha’s haftara and ‘the Rambam’s minhag’ to read the second, nevertheless most other Rishonim, including the Sefer Minhagim (Minhag Shel Shabbos), Mordechai (end Maseches Megilla, 831; and not like the Ravyah citing the Ri HaLevi), Rambam (Seder HaTefillos Kol HaShana, end par. Hamaftir B’Navi; ‘v’zu haminhag b’rov hamekomos’), Haghos Maimoniyos (Hilchos Tefillah, Ch.13, 20), Shibolei HaLeket (80), and Tur (O.C. 428), rule to read the second parsha’s haftara. This is also codified as the proper psak by both the Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 284, 7) and Rema (O.C. 428, 8) and as far as this author knows this was accepted by all of Klal Yisrael [see, for example Chayei Adam (vol. 2, 118, 17), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (79, 6), Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 428, 7), Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 51),and Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch O.C. 484, 6)]. The main reason to do so is to read a haftara similar to what was just read, which translates to the second parsha just finished and not the first parsha.

[5]Sefer Minhagim (Minhag Shel Shabbos), Mordechai (end Maseches Megilla, 831), Rema (O.C. 428, 8).

[6]Levush (O.C. 428, 8 and 493 s.v. l’Parshas Kedoshim; at length). He adds that that haftara, although discussing ‘Toavas Yerushalayim’ is not the actual one discussed in the Gemara that Rabi Eliezer held should not be read! Additionally, ‘Hasishpot’ is mentioned by several early authorities as being the proper haftara for several other parshiyos. Therefore, he maintains, how can we now say that it should not be read? Moreover, if the reason normally to read the second parsha’s haftara is to read a haftara similar to what was just read, why should that change just because of a specific haftara’s content? He concludes that several other important authorities, including the Tikkun Yissachar (Minhagos Haftaros pg. 84), hold not to switch and when Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are combined Kedoshim’s haftara should still be read.

[7]Including the Aguda (cited by the Magen Avraham), Bach (O.C. 428, s.v. u’mah shekasav), Matteh Moshe (424), Magen Avraham (O.C. 428, 10), Elyah Rabba (493, 17; and Elyah Zuta 16 - citing it as the minhag of Prague, following his ‘zikno haGaon z”l’), Tosafos Yom Tov (Malbushei Yom Tov ad loc. 3; citing it as the minhag of the Maharash), Ba’er Heitiv (O.C. 428, 9), Chayei Adam (vol. 2, 118, 17), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (79, 6), Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 428, 7), Mishna Berura (428, 26), and Rav Chaim Kanievsky’s Shoneh Halachos (ad loc. 22). The Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 52) cites this as well as the prevalent Ashkenazic minhag.

[8]See Kaf Hachaim (O.C. 428, 52) who says that Sefardic minhag is to follow the Knesses HaGedolah (ad loc.) and Tikkun Yissachar (ibid.) [as well as the mashmaos of the Shulchan Aruch, who does not mention a switch] and when Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are combined, they do indeed read ‘Hasishpot’, the haftara of Kedoshim. See also Yalkut Yosef (ibid.) and Rav Mordechai Eliyahu’s Darchei Halacha glosses to the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (79, 3) who state this as well.

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

[10]Haghos Rabi Akiva Eiger (O.C. 428, on Magen Avraham 10).

[11]See Dayan Yisrael Yaakov Fischer zt’l s Shu”t Even Yisrael (vol. 8, 38). He even mentions years and places where this was actually nahug!

[12]In fact, and aside for the Levush and those who follow him, the Sefer HaMinhagim (ibid.), who is the source of the halacha of switching haftaros for Acharei Mos and Kedoshim when combined, explicitly writes that when Acharei Mos’s haftara is not read due to Rosh Chodesh etc., on the next week, Kedoshim’s haftara should be read and not Acharei Mos’s’ haftara. I have since heard that the Belzer minhag is to follow the Sefer HaMinhagim on this and not Rav Akiva Eiger.

[13]Mishna Berura (ibid.) and Kaf Hachaim (ibid.). It is also cited l’maaseh by several other sefarim including the Shulchan HaKeriah (28), Leket Kemach HaChodosh (vol. 3, Tomer Devorah 85), Shu”t Beis Yisrael (Taussig; vol. 8, pg. 206), Zer HaTorah (Ch. 10, 133, haghah 176). See also the excellent maamar by Rabbi Moshe Eliezer Blum in Kovetz Ohr Yisroel (vol. 52, Sivan 5768) citing several proofs that the ikar halacha indeed follows Rav Akiva Eiger.

[14]See Shoneh Halachos (ad loc. 22); Rav Kanievsky adds that this was also the Chazon Ish’s psak. See also Shu”t Igros Moshe (O.C. vol. 1, 36), where although dealing with what to do if one already made a bracha on the wrong haftara for Parshas Acharei Mos / Kedoshim [if reading from a Navi he rules that ‘Hasishpot’ should be read instead of making a new bracha], Rav Moshe mentions that generally speaking, the haftara for Kedoshim is rarely read, and cites as a davar pashut that anytime there is a conflict of haftaros, Acharei Mos’s haftara is read in its stead.

[15]Luach Ezras Torah (5774, Parshas Kedoshim) and Luach Eretz Yisrael (5774, Minhagei Hashana, Nissan, s.v. Kedoshim).


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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