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The haftarah or haftorah (in Ashkenaz pronunciation) (alt. haphtara, Hebrew: הפטרה‎; "parting," "taking leave", plural haftarot or haftorahs) is a series of selections from the books of Nevi'im ("Prophets") of the Hebrew Bible (Tanach) that is publicly read in synagogue as part of Jewish religious practice. The Haftarah reading follows the Torah reading on each Sabbath and on Jewish festivals and fast days. Typically, the haftarah is thematically linked to the parasha (Torah portion) that precedes it.[1] The haftarah may be sung in Cantillation (known as "trop" in Yiddish or "trope" in English). Related blessings precede and follow the Haftarah reading.

The origin of haftarah reading is lost to history, and several theories have been proposed to explain its role in Jewish practice, suggesting it arose in response to the persecution of the Jews under Antiochus Epiphanes which preceded the Maccabean revolt, wherein Torah reading was prohibited,[2] or that it was "instituted against the Samaritans, who denied the canonicity of the Prophets (except for Joshua), and later against the Sadducees."[3] The Talmud mentions that a haftarah was read in the presence of Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, who lived c.70 CE,[4] and in the Christian New Testament several references suggest this Jewish custom was in place during that era.[5]


No one knows for certain the origins of reading the haftarah, but several theories have been put forth. The most common explanation, accepted by some traditional Jewish authorities is that in 168 B.C.E., when the Jews were under the rule of the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes, they were forbidden from reading the Torah and made do with a substitute. When they were again able to read the Pentateuch, they kept reading the haftarah as well.

An alternative explanation, offered by Rabbis Reuven Margolies and Samson Raphael Hirsch, is that the haftarah reading was instituted to fight the influence of those sects in Judaism that viewed the Jewish Bible as consisting only of the Pentateuch.

But all offered explanations for the origin of reading the haftarah have unanswered difficulties.

Certainly the haftarah was read — perhaps not obligatorily or in all communities — as far back as circa 70 CE: The Talmud mentions that a haftarah was read in the presence of Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, who lived at that time. However, Rabbi Yosef Karo reports that for many years there were no set haftarot: each maftir (one reading the haftarah) chose an appropriate passage from the Nevi'im. Over time, certain choices became established in certain communities; nowadays one may not choose his own haftarah, explains Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, as that would run against accepted custom. But Rabbi Karo's explanation helps to explain why communities have varying customs regarding what to read as haftarah.

Who reads the haftarah

The haftarah is traditionally read by the maftir, or the last person to be called up to the Torah scroll.

Rabbi Yosef Karo reports that for many years there were no set haftarot: the maftir chose an appropriate passage from the Nevi'im.[6] Over time, certain choices became established in certain communities; in contemporary Jewish observance one may not choose his own haftarah, explains Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, as that would run against accepted custom.[7] Rabbi Karo's explanation, however, helps to explain why communities have varying customs regarding what to read as haftarah. In some congregations, when a child is having their Bar (or Bat) Mitzvah, they will read the haftarah.

Haftarah blessings and customs

Blessings both precede and follow the haftarah reading. The blessings are read by the person to read the haftarah portion; the blessing before the haftarah is read in the tune of the haftarah. The blessings following the haftarah are standard on all occasions the haftarah is read, except for the final blessing, which varies by date and is omitted on some days.

Unlike the Torah portion, the haftarah is normally read from a printed book. This may be either a Tanakh (entire Hebrew Bible), a Chumash (volume containing the Torah with haftarot) or, in the case of the festivals, the prayer book; there are also books containing the haftarot alone in large print. A very few communities, such as the Persian Jews, have a special haftarah scroll, but this is made of paper rather than parchment like a Torah scroll.

The Koren Tanakh, published by Koren Publishers Jerusalem is the official Tanakh accepted by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel for synagogue haftarah reading.

In ancient times the haftarah, like the Torah, was translated into Aramaic as it was read, and this is still done by Yemenite Jews. The Talmud lays down that, while the Torah must be translated verse by verse, it is permissible to translate other readings in units of up to three verses at a time.

Haftarah cantillation

The haftarah is read with cantillation according to a unique melody (not with the same cantillation melody as the Torah). The tradition to read Nevi'im with its own special melody is attested to in late medieval sources, both Ashkenazic and Sephardic. A medieval Sephardic source notes that the melody for the haftarot is a slight variation of the tune used for reading the books of Nevi'im in general (presumably for study purposes), and Jews of Iraqi origin to this day preserve separate "Neviim" and "Haftarah" melodies.

Note that although many selections from Nevi'im are read as haftarot over the course of the year, the books of Nevi'im are not read in their entirety (as opposed to the Torah). Since Nevi'im as a whole is not covered in the liturgy, the melody for certain rare cantillation notes which appear in the books of Nevi'im but not in the haftarot have been forgotten. For more on this, see Nevi'im.

The Haftarot for the morning of Tisha b'Av, and for the Shabbat preceding it, are, in many synagogues, predominantly read to the cantillation melody used for the public reading of the Book of Lamentations, or Eicha.

Haftarot on Sabbath afternoon

Some Rishonim, including Rabbenu Yaakov Tam, report that a custom in the era of the Talmud was to read a haftarah at the mincha service each Sabbath afternoon — but that this haftarah was from the Ketuvim rather than from the Nevi'im. Most halachic authorities maintain that that was not the custom in Talmudic times, and that such a custom should not be followed. In the era of the Geonim, some communities, including some in Persia, read a passage from Nevi'im (whether or not in the form of a haftarah) Sabbath afternoons.[8] Although this practice is virtually defunct, most halachic authorities maintain that there is nothing wrong with it.

Rabbi Reuven Margolies claims that the now-widespread custom of individuals' reciting Psalm 111 after the Torah reading Sabbath afternoon derives from the custom reported by Rabbenu Tam. Louis Ginzberg makes the analogous claim for the custom of reciting Psalm 91 in Motza'ei Shabbat.

Haftarah as a B'nai Mitzvah ritual

In many communities the haftarah is read by a Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah at his or her respective ceremonies, along with some, all, or, sometimes none of the Torah portion. This is often referred to, mainly in Hebrew schools and bar preparatory programs, as a haftarah portion.

List of Haftarot

The selection from Nevi'im read as the haftarah is not always the same in all Jewish communities. When customs differ, this list indicates them as follows: A=Ashkenazic custom (AF=Frankfurt am Main; AH=Chabad); I=Italian custom; S=Sephardic and Mizrahi custom; Y=Yemenite custom; Q=Qarai/Karaite custom. When these letters do not appear, all customs agree.

Haftarot for Genesis

  • Bereshit
    • A: Isaiah 42:5–43:10
      • AF, AH: Isaiah 42:5–21
    • I: Isaiah 42:1–21
    • S: Isaiah 42:5–21
    • Y: Isaiah 42:1–16
    • Q: Isaiah 65:7–66:13
  • Noach
    • A, Y, SN: Isaiah 54:1–55:5
      • AF, AH: Isaiah 54:1–10
      • some Y communities: Isaiah 54:1–55:3
    • S: Isaiah 55:1–10
    • I: Isaiah 54:1–55:5
    • Q: Isaiah 54:9–55:12
  • Lech-Lecha
    • A, S: Isaiah 40:27–41:16
    • Y,I: Isaiah 40:25–41:17
    • Q: Joshua 24:3–18
  • Vayera
    • A, Y, I: 2 Kings 4:1–37
    • S: 2 Kings 4:1–23
    • Q: Isaiah 33:17–35:10
  • Chayei Sarah
    • A, S: 1 Kings 1:1–31
    • I: 1 Kings 1:1–34
    • Y: 1 Kings 1:1–31,46
      • Dardai communities: 1 Kings 1:1–31
    • Q: Isaiah 51:2–51:22
  • Toledot
  • Vayetze
  • Vayishlach
    • A: Hosea 11:7–12:12
    • S, Y, I: Obadiah 1:1-21
  • Vayeshev
  • Miketz
    • 1 Kings 3:15–4:1
    • I: 1 Kings 3:15–28
  • Vayigash
  • Vayechi
    • 1 Kings 2:1–12

Haftarot for Exodus

  • Shemot
    • A: Isaiah 27:6–28:13 & 29:22–23
    • S, I: Jeremiah 1:1–2:3
    • Y: Ezekiel 16:1–14
  • Va'eira
    • A, S: Ezekiel 28:25–29:21
    • Y, I: Ezekiel 28:24–29:21
  • Bo
    • A, S: Jeremiah 46:13–28
    • Y: Isaiah 19:1–19:25
    • I: Isaiah 18:7–19:25
  • Beshalach
    • A: Judges 4:4–5:31
    • Y: Judges 4:23–5:31
    • I: Judges 4:4–5:3
    • S: Judges 5:1–5:31
  • Yitro
    • A: Isaiah 6:1–7:6 & 9:5–6
    • S, I: Isaiah 6:1–13
    • Y: Isaiah 6:1–6:13 & 9:5–6
  • Mishpatim
    • A, S: Jeremiah 34:8–22 & 33:25–26
    • Y: Jeremiah 34:8–35:19 & 33:25–26
  • Terumah
    • 1 Kings 5:26–6:13
  • Tetzaveh
    • Ezekiel 43:10–27
  • Ki Tisa
  • Vayakhel
    • A: 1 Kings 7:40–50
    • S, I :1 Kings 7:13–26
    • Y : 1 Kings 7:13–22
  • Pekudei

Haftarot for Leviticus

  • Vayikra
    • A, S: Isaiah 43:21–44:23
    • Y: Isaiah 43:21–44:6
  • Tzav
    • A, S: Jeremiah 7:21–8:3; 9:22, 23
    • Y: Jeremiah 7:21–28; 9:22, 23
  • Shemini
    • A: 2 Samuel 6:1–7:17
    • S: 2 Samuel 6:1-19
    • Y, I: 2 Samuel 6:1–7:3
  • Tazria
    • 2 Kings 4:42–5:19
  • TazriaMetzora
    • 2 Kings 7:3–20
  • Metzora
    • A, S: 2 Kings 7:3–20
    • Y, I: 2 Kings 7:1–20 & 13:23
  • Acharei
    • A: Ezekiel 22:1–19
    • S, Y, I: Ezekiel 22:1–16
  • AchareiKedoshim
    • A: Amos 9:7–15
    • S: Ezekiel 20:2–20
  • Kedoshim
    • A: Amos 9:7–15
    • S, I: Ezekiel 20:2–20
    • Y: Ezekiel 20:1–15
  • Emor
    • Ezekiel 44:15–31
  • Behar
    • A, S: Jeremiah 32:6–27
    • Y, I: Jeremiah 16:19–17:14
  • BeharBechukotai
  • Bechukotai
    • A, S: Jeremiah 16:19–17:14
    • Y: Ezekiel 34:1–27
    • I: Ezekiel 34:1–15

Haftarot for Numbers

Haftarot for Deuteronomy

  • Devarim
    • A, S: Isaiah 1:1–27
    • Y: Isaiah 1:21–31
  • Va'etchanan
    • A, S: Isaiah 40:1–26
    • Y: Isaiah 40:1–27 & 41:17
  • Eikev
    • Isaiah 49:14–51:3
  • Re'eh
  • Shoftim
    • A, S, Y: Isaiah 51:12–52:12
    • I: 1 Samuel 8:1–22
  • Ki Teitzei
    • A, S, Y: Isaiah 54:1–10
    • I: 1 Samuel 17:1–37
  • Ki Tavo
    • A, S, Y: Isaiah 60:1–22
    • I: Joshua 8:30–9:27
  • Nitzavim
    • A, S: Isaiah 61:10–63:9
    • Y: Isaiah 61:9–63:9
    • I: Joshua 24:1–18
  • NitzavimVayelech
    • Isaiah 61:10–63:9
  • Vayelech
    • Isaiah 55:6–56:8
  • Haazinu
    • A, S: 2 Samuel 22:1–51
    • I, Y: Ezekiel 17:22–18:32
  • V'Zot HaBerachah
    • A, I: Joshua 1.1–18
    • S: Joshua 1.1–9
    • Y: Joshua 1.1–9 & 6:27

Haftarot for special Sabbaths, Festivals, and Fast Days

In general, on the dates below, the haftarot below are read, even if that entails overriding the haftara for a Sabbath Torah portion. However, in certain communities, the first two hafatarot below (that for Rosh Hodesh and that for the day preceding Rosh Hodesh) are replaced by the regular weekly haftarah when the weekly reading is Masei or later.

  • Sabbath coinciding with the day preceding Rosh Hodesh, except Rosh Hodesh Nisan, Tevet, or Adar, and except Rosh Hashanah
    • 1 Samuel 20:18–42
  • Sabbath coinciding with Rosh Hodesh, except Rosh Hodesh Nisan, Tevet, or Adar, and except Rosh Hashanah
    • A, S: Isaiah 66:1–24 & repeat 66:23
    • Y: Isaiah 66:1–24
  • Sabbath immediately preceding the second day of Nisan (Sabbath of Parashat Hahodesh)
    • A: Ezekiel 45:16–46:18
    • S: Ezekiel 45:18–46:15
    • Y: Ezekiel 45:9–46:11
    • I: Ezekiel 45:18–46:18
  • Sabbath immediately preceding Passover (Shabbat Hagadol)
    • Malachi 3:4–24 & repeat 3:23
  • First day of Passover
    • Joshua 5:2–6:1 & 6:27
  • Second day of Passover (outside of Eretz Yisrael)
    • A, S: 2 Kings 23:1–9 & 23:21–25
    • Y: 2 Kings 22:1–7 & 23:21–25
    • I: 2 Kings 23:1–9 & 23:21–30
  • Sabbath of the intermediate days of Passover
    • A, S: Ezekiel 37:1–17
    • Y: Ezekiel 36:37–37:14
    • I: Ezekiel 36:37–37:17
  • Seventh day of Passover
    • 2 Samuel 22:1–51
  • Eighth day of Passover (outside of Eretz Yisrael)
    • Isaiah 10:32–12:6
  • First day of Shavuot
    • A, S: Ezekiel 1:1–28 & 3:12
    • Y: Ezekiel 1:1–2:2 & 3:12
  • Second day of Shavuot (outside of Eretz Yisrael)
  • 9 Av, morning haftarah
    • A, S: Jeremiah 8:13–9:23
    • Y: Jeremiah 6:16–17 & 8:13–9:23
  • 9 Av, afternoon haftarah
    • A: Isaiah 55:6–56:8
    • most S: Hosea 14:2–10
    • Y, I: Hosea 14:2–10 & Micah 7:18–20
  • Sabbath coinciding with Rosh Hodesh Elul
    • Isaiah 66:1–24 & repeat 66:23
  • First day of Rosh Hashanah
    • A, S: 1 Samuel 1:1–2:20
    • I, Y: 1 Samuel 1:1–2:10
  • Second day of Rosh Hashanah
    • A, S, Y: Jeremiah 31:1–19
    • I: Jeremiah 31:1–20
  • Fast of Gedaliah, morning haftarah
    • None
  • Fast of Gedaliah, afternoon haftarah
    • A, Y, some S: Isaiah 55:6–56:8
    • I: Hosea 14:2–10
  • Sabbath before Yom Kippur (Shabbat Shuva)
    • Hosea 14:2–10. Also, communities add either Joel 2:15–17 or Micah 7:18–20. However, many communities nowadays add both these passages, a custom generally considered baseless.
    • Some communities read Isaiah 55:6–56:8 instead.
  • Yom Kippur, morning haftarah
    • A, S: Isaiah 57:14–58:14
    • Y, I: Isaiah 57:14–58:14 & 59:20–21
  • Yom Kippur, afternoon haftarah
    • Jonah (entire), and Micah 7:18–20
    • Some communities omit the part from Micah
  • First day of Sukkot
    • A, S: Zechariah 14:1–21
    • Y: Zechariah 13:9–14:21
  • Second day of Sukkot (outside of Eretz Yisrael)
    • A, S: Kings I 8:2–21
    • Y, I: 1 Kings 7:51–8:16
  • Sabbath of the intermerdiate days of Sukkot
    • A, S: Ezekiel 38:18–39:16
    • Y: Ezekiel 38:1–38:23
    • I: Ezekiel 38:18–39:10
  • Shemini Atzeret (outside of Eretz Yisrael)
    • 1 Kings 8:54–66
  • Simhat Torah
    • A, I: Joshua 1.1–18
    • S: Joshua 1.1–9
    • Y: Joshua 1.1–9 & 6:27
    • Some communities: 1 Kings 8:22–53
  • First (or only) Sabbath of Hanukkah
    • A, S: Zechariah 2:14–4:7
    • Y: Zechariah 2:14–4:9
  • Second Sabbath of Hanukkah
    • 1 Kings 7:40–50
  • Sabbath immediately preceding the second day of Adar (or Adar II) (Sabbath of Parashat Shekalim)
    • A, Y: 2 Kings 12:1–17
    • S: 2 Kings 11:17–12:17
  • Sabbath immediately preceding Purim (Sabbath of Parashat Zachor)
    • A: 1 Samuel 15:2–34
    • S: 1 Samuel 15:1–34
    • Y: 1 Samuel 14:52–15:33
  • Sabbath Shushan Purim in cities that celebrate it
  • Sabbath Shushan Purim in cities that celebrate Purim
    • No special haftarah: the usual haftarah for that week's parsha is read
  • Sabbath immediately following Shushan Purim (Sabbath of Parashat Parah)
    • A: Ezekiel 36:16–38
    • S, Y: Ezekiel 36:16–36
  • Fast days (other than those listed above), afternoon haftarah
    • A: Isaiah 55:6–56:8
    • S, Y: none

Haftarah for a bridegroom

It was customary in many communities to read Isaiah 61:10 – 63:9 if a bridegroom (who had married within the previous week) was present in the synagogue. Customs varied:

  • In some communities, this entire haftarah was read, supplanting the usual haftarah of that week.
  • In some communities, only a few verses (possibly Isaiah 61:10 – 62:5, although the literature is unclear) were read. They were read after the usual haftarah, either before or after — depending on local custom — the closing blessings of the haftarah.

When a Talmudically specified haftarah was to be read on a certain Sabbath (e.g., on Sabbath of Hanukkah), some communities did not read the bridegroom's haftarah, preferring to keep to the standard haftarah of the week. Again, customs varied:

  • In some communities, the bridegroom's haftarah was read.
  • Some communities, even though they normally read the entire briodegroom's haftarah for a bridegroom, now merely appended a few verses of it to the weekly haftarah.
  • Some communities omitted the bridegroom's haftarah altogether, reading the weekly haftarah instead.

Nowadays, this custom has virtually disappeared. No one except the Karaite Jews reads a special haftarah for a bridegroom any longer.

Practice in Reform Judaism

Reform Jews in many countries read the Torah in a triennial cycle, reading the first third of each parashah in the first year, the second third in the second year and the third third in the third year. This triples the number of possible haftarot. In some cases this will coincide with the haftarah indicated by the traditional cycle; in others, other passages will be chosen, including passages from Ketuvim.


  1. Goswell argues that the arrangement "suggests we should understand the books of Joshua - Kings as illustrating and applying the theology and ethics of the Pentateuch." Gregory Goswell, "The Hermeneutics of the Haftarot," Tyndale Bulletin 58 (2007), 100.
  2. Rabinowitz, Louis. "Haftarah." Encyclopaedia Judaica. Eds. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. Vol. 8. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. 198-200. 22 vols. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Gale.
  3. Rabinowitz, Louis. "Haftarah." Encyclopaedia Judaica. Eds. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. Vol. 8. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. 198-200. 22 vols. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Gale.
  4. Tosefta, Megillah, 4 (3): 1, gives the haftarot for the Four Special Sabbaths. A baraita in Megillah 31a, which has later additions by the Babylonian amoraim who add the haftarot for the second days of the festivals (and who sometimes change the order of the haftarot as a result) – gives the haftarot for every one of the festivals, including their intermediate Sabbaths, as well as a Sabbath which is also Rosh Hodesh, the Sabbath which immediately precedes Rosh Hodesh, and Hanukkah.
  5. Acts 13:15 states that "after the reading of the law and the prophets" Paul was invited to deliver an exhortation. Luke 4:17 states that during the Sabbath service in Nazareth the Book of Isaiah was handed to Jesus, "and when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written," the passage being Isaiah 61:1–2. Unfortunately, the Greek word used there meaning "found" does not make it clear whether the passage read was fixed beforehand or whether it was chosen at random. See Rabinowitz, Louis. "Haftarah." Encyclopaedia Judaica. Eds. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. Vol. 8. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. 198-200. 22 vols. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Gale.
  6. Kesef Mishneh, Laws of Tefillah 12:12
  7. Igrot Moshe, Orah Hayim A siman 103
  8. Ginzberg, Geonica, vol. 2 p. 298.
  9. Exceptionally, on combined weeks Syrian Jews used to read the hatarah for Behar. Those in the United States now follow the general Sephardic custom.

Further reading

  • Michael Fishbane. The JPS Bible Commentary: Haftarot. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2002. ISBN 0-8276-0691-5.
  • Laura Suzanne Lieber. Study Guide to the JPS Bible Commentary: Haftarot. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2002. ISBN 0-8276-0718-0.
  • David L. Leiber. "Etz Hayim: Torah & Commentary" available from, 2001.
  • Jacob Blumenthal & Janet L. Liss. "Etz Hayim Study Companion" available from the Jewish Publication Society, 2005. ISBN 0-8276-0822-5
  • Kenneth S. Goldrich. "Yad LaTorah; Laws and Customs of the Torah Service. A Guide for Gabba'im and Torah Readers. ISBN 0-8381-0216-6 Available from the Book Service of, 2002
  • J. H. Hertz. "The Pentetuch and Haftorahs". Jewish Publication Society of America, 1917.
  • Shlomo [David] Katz. The Haftarah: Laws, Customs, & History. Silver Spring, Maryland: Hamaayan/The Torah Spring, 2000.
  • W. Gunther Plaut. The Haftarah Commentary. New York: URJ Press, 1996. ISBN 0-8074-0551-5.
  • [1] Indice dei contenuti audio/video del sito (Italian). Retrieved on 2008-08-03

See also

External links

da:Haftara ja:ハフターラー pt:Haftorá ru:Гафтара