Insights into Halacha

For the week ending 14 May 2016 / 6 Iyyar 5776

The Case of the Missing Haftarah 5776 / 2016

by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

This Shabbos, for those of us in Chutz La’aretz,[1] something atypical will occur during davening. When it comes time for the haftarah, chances are that the actual reading will not be the previously scheduled haftarah listed in your Chumash, that of Kedoshim, but rather the haftarah listed for the previous parshah, Acharei Mos. In fact, as the reading commenced in the shul where I was davening last year, so did a concurrent dispute with the gabbai, with mispalleleim arguing that the Ba’al Koreh was reading the wrong haftarah!

But, to properly understand why the ‘wrong haftarah’ was, it turns out, quite properly read, some background is needed.

Haftarah History

According to the Abudraham and Tosafos Yom Tov, the haftaros were established when the wicked Antiochus (infamous from the times of Chanukah) 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.[2] 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 haftarah readings for the various holidays throughout the year, which are rather related to the holiday and generally trump a weekly haftarah.

An interesting halacha that concerns us is which haftarah is read when there is a double parshah, like this year.[3] Although the Abudraham cites two disparate minhagim with no actual ruling - one to read the first parshah’s haftarah and ‘the Rambam’s minhag’ to read the second - nevertheless most other Rishonim, including the Sefer Haminhagim, Mordechai, Ramban, Haghos Maimoniyos, Shibolei Haleket, and Tur, rule to read the second parshah’s haftarah.[4] This is also codified as the proper ruling by both the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 284: 7) and Rema (Orach Chaim 428: 8), and, as far as this author knows, this was accepted by all of Klal Yisrael.[5] The main reason to do so is to enable reading a haftarah similar to what was just concluded in the Torah leining, which translates to the second parshah just finished and not the first parshah. So we see that, generally speaking, the haftarah of the second parshah is read, as that is the Torah reading that we just concluded.

Acharei Exclusion

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, citing the Sefer Haminhagim and the Mordechai, writes that the haftarah of the first parshah, Acharei Mos, is the proper one to read.

The reason for the uncharacteristic change is that the haftarah 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 events that will befall the inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael for not following the word of G-d. The Gemara in Megillah (25b) relates a story of Rabbi Eliezer and one who read such a haftarah, who was subsequently found to have his own family’s indiscretions exposed. Ultimately though, the Gemara concludes that that haftarah can indeed be read, and even translated.

Despite that, all the same, it seems that, whenever possible, we should try to avoid having to read this condemning passage as the haftarah. Additionally, the content of Acharei Mos’s haftarah, ‘Halo K’Bnei Kushiyim’ (from Amos in Trei Asar Ch. 9) 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, and as opposed to every other double parshah, the haftarah of Acharei Mos is read instead of Kedoshim’s.

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 is followed by virtually all later poskim and Ashkenazic Kehillos.[7]

However, it must be noted that this switch was not accepted by Sefardic authorities and when Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are combined, they do indeed read Kedoshim’s haftarah, ‘Hasishpot’.[8]

Hazardous Haftarah?

That may be fine for most years when it is a double Parsha. But, this year (5776 / 2016), Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are read separately. Ergo, the real question becomes how far do Ashkenazim go to avoid saying Kedoshim’s haftarah when Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are not combined?

This is where it gets interesting. The Gemara (Megillah 31a) states that whenever Rosh Chodesh falls out on Shabbos, a special haftarah is read: ‘Hashamayim 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 haftarah 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 haftarah gets pushed off for ‘Machar Chodesh’, then the proper haftarah for Parshas Kedoshim the next week is… Acharei Mos’s haftarah, and not Kedoshim’s! Rav Eiger’s reasoning is that since we find precedent by a double parshah that we actively try not to read Kedoshim’s haftarah due to its explicit content, the same should apply for any other time Acharei Mos’s haftarah was not read; that it should trump and therefore replace (and displace) Kedoshim’s haftarah! Indeed, and although not the common custom, there is even an old Yerushalmi minhag not to ever read the haftarah of Kedoshim; and even when the Parshiyos are separate, Acharei Mos’s haftarah is read two weeks in a row.[11]

‘Halo’ the Hallowed Haftarah of Kedoshim

Although not universally accepted,[12] Rav Akiva Eiger’s rule is cited as the halacha by the Mishnah Berurah, 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 in 5774 / 2014, when Acharei Mos was Shabbos Hagadol and its usual haftarah was not read, but rather replaced by the special haftarah for Shabbos Hagadol, many shuls read Acharei Mos’s haftarah on Parshas Kedoshim, instead of Kedoshim’s usual one.

In fact, that is how 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.[15] This explains why in many shuls around the world in 5774/ 2014, Kedoshim’s haftarah was not found following Parshas Kedoshim, but rather preceding it. This held true last year (5775 / 2015) with the doubled parshiyos. And this year, in Chutz La’aretz, with Parshas Acharei Mos’s haftarah being ‘Machar Chodesh’, according to the vast majority of Ashkenazic authorities, Parshas Kedoshim’s haftarah is… Acharei Mos’s: ‘Halo K’Bnei Kushiyim’.[16] Of course, the Sefardic minhag is still to read to ‘Hasishpot’.

To sum up, the next time you are trying to figure out what happened to the missing haftarah of Kedoshim, be aware - you may have to turn 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.

This article was written l’zechus Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam v’chol yotzei chalatzeha for a yeshua sheleimah teikif u’miyad!

For any questions, comments or for the full Mareh Mekomos / sources, please email the author: yspitz@ohr.edu.

Rabbi Yehuda Spitz serves as the Sho’el U' Meishiv and Rosh Chabura of the Ohr Lagolah Halacha Kollel at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach in Yerushalayim. He also currently writes a contemporary halacha column for the Ohr Somayach website titled “Insights Into Halacha”. http://ohr.edu/this_week/insights_into_halacha/.



[1] As a fascinating counterpoint, this issue does not come up at all this year for Bnei Eretz Yisrael. This is because this year (5776 / 2016) the eighth day of Pesach, observed only outside Eretz Yisrael, fell out on a Shabbos. On this Shabbos / Yom Tov the communities of the Diaspora leined the Yom Tov reading of ‘Aser Te’aser’ (Devarim, Parshas Re’eh, Ch. 14: 22), whereas in Eretz Yisrael communities read Parshas Shemini, the next parshah in the cycle, as Pesach has already ended. Therefore, Acharei Mos’s regular haftarah, ‘Halo K’Bnei Kushiyim’, was read in Eretz Yisrael the next week, in its appropriate time. The next Shabbos, Parshas Kedoshim, was Erev Rosh Chodesh and therefore its haftarah was rightly ‘Machar Chodesh’, and thus avoiding the issues enumerated in this article entirely. Fascinatingly, this year Eretz Yisrael will stay a week ahead and the rest of the world will not actually catch up to until Mattos / Maasei, around Rosh Chodosh Av, more than 3 months hence! The last time this occurred with such a large discrepancy was in 1995. The next time will be in 2019. This was addressed in a recent article titled ‘Parsha Permutations’, and will IY”H be featured in an upcoming article.

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

[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), Sefer Haminhagim (Minhag Shel Shabbos), Mordechai (end Maseches Megilla h, 831; and not like the Ravyah citing the Ri Halevi), Ramban (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 (Orach Chaim 428).

[5] See, for example Chayei Adam (vol. 2, 118: 17), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (79: 6), Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chaim 428: 7), Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 51),and Yalkut Yosef (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 484: 6).

[6] Levush (Orach Chaim 428: 8 and 493 s.v. l’Parshas Kedoshim; at length). He adds that that haftarah, although discussing ‘To’avas Yerushalayim’ is not the actual one discussed in the Gemara that Rabbi Eliezer held should not be read (which is found in Yechezkel Ch. 16). Additionally, ‘Hasishpot’ is mentioned by several early authorities as being the proper haftarah for several other parshiyos (some Sefardim and Yemenites in fact read it for Parshas Shemos). Therefore, he maintains, how can we now say that it should not be read? Moreover, if the normal reason to read the second parshah’s haftarah is to read a haftarah similar to what was just read, why should that change just because of a specific haftarah’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 haftarah should still be read.

[7] Including the Agudah (cited by the Magen Avrohom, Orach Chaim 428: 10), Bach (ad loc. s.v. u’mah shekasav), Matteh Moshe (424), Magen Avrohom (ibid.), Elyah Rabbah (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 (Orach Chaim 428: 9), Chayei Adam (vol. 2, 118: 17), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (79: 6), Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chaim 428: 7), Mishnah Berurah (428, 26), and Rav Chaim Kanievsky’s Shoneh Halachos (ad loc. 22). The Kaf Hachaim (ad loc. 52) cites this as the prevalent Ashkenazic minhag.

[8] See Kaf Hachaim (Orach Chaim 428: 52) who says that Sefardic minhag is to follow the Kenesses Hagedolah (ad loc.) and Tikkun Yissachar (ibid.), as well as the mashma’os of the Shulchan Aruch, who makes no mention of a switch, that when Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are combined, Sefardim indeed read ‘Hasishpot’, the haftarah 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. Interestingly, there are actually two different haftaros from Yechezkel known as ‘Hasishpot’, (Ch. 20 and Ch. 22) both discussing ‘Toavas Yerushalayim’. If Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are combined, Sefardim generally read ‘Hasishpot’ from Yechezkel Ch. 20, which is also Kedoshim’s regular haftarah for Sefardim. The remarkably similar ‘Hasishpot’ that Ashkenazim would read for a stand-alone Parshas Kedoshim is from Yechezkel Ch. 22, which Sefardim would have generally already read the previous week, for a stand-alone Parshas Acharei Mos (and not ‘Halo K’Bnei Kushiyim’ that Ashkenazim would have read).

[9] See also Shu”t Noda B’Yehuda (Tinyana,Orach Chaim 11).

[10] Haghos Rabbi Akiva Eiger (Orach Chaim 428, on Magen Avrohom 10).

[11] See Rav Yisrael Yaakov Fischer’s Shu”t Even Yisrael (vol. 8: 38) and Halichos Even Yisrael (pg. 217: 24; also citing this as the shittah of Rav Zelig Reuven Bengis). 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 haftarah is not read due to Rosh Chodesh etc., on the next week, Kedoshim’s haftarah should be read and not Acharei Mos’s haftarah. This author has since heard that the Belzer minhag is to follow the Sefer Haminhagim on this and not Rav Akiva Eiger. However, a reading of the Luach Belz - Dvar Yom B’Yomo (5776, pg. 584, Shabbos Emor / Chu”l Shabbos Kedoshim) proves otherwise, citing ‘Halo K’Bnei Kushiyim’ as the proper haftarah.

[13] Mishnah Berurah (ibid.) and Kaf Hachaim (ibid.). It is also cited lemaaseh 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), and 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 (Orach Chaim vol. 1: 36), where although dealing with what to do if one already made a brachah on the wrong haftarah for Parshas Acharei Mos / Kedoshim [if reading from a Navi, Rav Moshe rules that ‘Hasishpot’ should be read instead of making a new brachah; however if from a Chumash then one should just read Acharei’s haftarah], Rav Moshe mentions that generally speaking, the haftarah for Kedoshim is rarely read, and cites as a davar pashut that anytime there is a conflict of haftaros, Acharei Mos’s haftarah is read in its stead. According to Rabbi Dovid Heber of the Star-K and author of Shaarei Zemanim, for most Ashkenazic Kehillos, the haftarah of ‘Hasishpot’ is read only 14 times in the Tur’s (Orach Chaim end 428) 247 year cycle, practically making it the rarest of all haftaros. In contrast, and as mentioned in footnotes 6 and 8, for many Sefardim, ‘Hasishpot’ is read three times annually (Parshas Shemos, Acharei Mos, and Kedoshim; well, one of the two ‘Hasishpot’s is read twice and the other once).

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

[16] See for example, Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin’s Luach Ezras Torah 5776 (Iyar, Parshas Kedoshim, pg. 106), Rabbi Arthur Spier’s ‘The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar 5660 - 5860 / 1900 - 2100’ (5776, Parshas Kedoshim), the Itim L’vinah Luach 5776 (Nissan - Iyar 5776, Shabbos 6 Nissan), and the Luach Belz - Dvar Yom B’Yomo (5776, pg. 584, Shabbos Emor / Chu”l Shabbos 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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