The Reading of the Prophets ~ The Haftarah


The Haftarah is a text selected from the books of Nevi’im [Prophets] that is read publicly in the synagogue after the reading of the Torah on each Sabbath, as well as on the “Feasts of the L-rd” [festivals], and fast days. 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, Chanukah Story [This is the Feast of Dedication/Chanukah of John 10:22, that Yeshua attended], they were forbidden from reading the Torah and made do by substituting a section of the rest of the Tanakh (The Prophets- Nevi’im). When they were again able to read the Torah (Five books of Moses), they kept reading the haftarah (the corresponding Prophet reading) as well.

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 C.E. 70: The Talmud mentions that a haftarah was read in the presence of Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, who lived at that time. This was around the time of the destruction of the 2nd Temple. This difference may have to do with the differences between the Priests, who were lost with out the 2nd Temple, and the Synagogue Jews, who were changing the customs to deal with the fact that there was no longer a Holy Temple.

Certain cantillation marks appear in Nevi’im but not within any of the Haftarah selections, and most communities therefore do not have a musical tradition for those marks. J.L. Neeman suggested that “those who recite Nevi’im privately with the cantillation melody may read the words accented by those rare notes by using a “metaphor” based on the melody of those notes in the five books of the Torah, while adhering to the musical scale of the melody for Nevi’im.” Neeman includes a reconstruction of the musical scale for the lost melodies of the rare cantillation notes.

Parashiyot is plural for the Hebrew word “parashah” which means portion or passage of the Torah that is read weekly in Jewish synagogues. Below is a table of the regular weekly scriptural readings. Haftarot in parentheses indicate Sephardic ritual where it differs from Ashkenazic. Ashkenazic Jews are the Jews of France, Germany, and Eastern Europe. Sephardic Jews are the Jews of Spain, Portugal, North Africa, and the Middle East. The word “Ashkenazic” is derived from the Hebrew word for Germany (Ashkenaz – Genesis 10:3). The word “Sephardic” is derived from the Hebrew word for Spain (Sepharad/Sefarad – Obadiah 1:20). There are other variations on the readings for Yemenites (and others), but these are the most commonly used ones.

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
I: Isaiah 40:25–41:17
Q: Joshua 24:3–18
Vayera
A, 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
A, S: Malachi 1:1–2:7
Q: Isaiah 65:23–66:18
Vayetze
A: Hosea 12:13–14:10
I: Malachi 1:1–2:7
Q: Hosea 11:7–13:5
Vayishlach
A: Hosea 11:7–12:12
S, I: Obadiah 1:1-21
Vayeshev
Amos 2:6–3:8
Miketz
1 Kings 3:15–4:1
I: 1 Kings 3:15–28
Vayigash
Ezekiel 37:15–28
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
Va’eira
Ezekiel 28:25–29:21
I: Ezekiel 28:24–29:21
Bo
Jeremiah 46:13–28
I: Isaiah 18:7–19:25
Beshalach
A: Judges 4:4–5:31
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
Mishpatim
Jeremiah 34:8–22 & 33:25–26
Terumah
1 Kings 5:26–6:13
Tetzaveh
Ezekiel 43:10–27
Ki Tisa
A: 1 Kings 18:1–39
S: 1 Kings 18:20–39
I: 1 Kings 18:1–38
Vayakhel
A:1 Kings 7:40–50
S, I:1 Kings 7:13–26
Pekudei
A:1 Kings 7:51–8:21
S, I:1 Kings 7:40–50

Haftarot for Leviticus
Vayikra
Isaiah 43:21–44:23
Tzav
Jeremiah 7:21–8:3; 9:22, 23
Shemini
A: 2 Samuel 6:1–7:17
S: 2 Samuel 6:1-19
I: 2 Samuel 6:1–7:3
Tazria
2 Kings 4:42–5:19
Tazria–Metzora
2 Kings 7:3–20
Metzora
2 Kings 7:3–20
I: 2 Kings 7:1–20 & 13:23
Acharei
A: Ezekiel 22:1–19
S, I: Ezekiel 22:1–16
Acharei–Kedoshim
A: Amos 9:7–15
S: Ezekiel 20:2–20
Kedoshim
A: Amos 9:7–15
S, I: Ezekiel 20:2–20
Emor
Ezekiel 44:15–31
Behar
A, S: Jeremiah 32:6–27
I: Jeremiah 16:19–17:14
Behar–Bechukotai
A, S: Jeremiah 16:19–17:14[9]
I:[clarification needed]
Bechukotai
A, S: Jeremiah 16:19–17:14
I: Ezekiel 34:1–15

Haftarot for Numbers
Bamidbar
Hosea 2:1–22
Naso
Judges 13:2–25
Behaalotecha
Zechariah 2:14–4:7
Shlach
Joshua 2:1–24
Korach
1 Samuel 11:14–12:22
Chukat
Judges 11:1–33
Chukat–Balak
Micah 5:6–6:8
I: Micah 5:4–6:8
Balak
Micah 5:6–6:8
I: Micah 5:4–6:8
Pinchas, before 18 Tamuz
1 Kings 18:46-19:21
Pinchas, after 17 Tamuz
Jeremiah 1:1–2:3
Matot
A, S: Jeremiah 1:1–2:3
I: Joshua 13:15–33
Matot–Masei
A: Jeremiah 2:4–28 & 3:4.
S: Jeremiah 2:4–28 & 4:1–2.
I: Joshua 19:51–21:3
Masei
A: Jeremiah 2:4–28 & 3:4.
S: Jeremiah 2:4–28 & 4:1–2.
I: Joshua 19:51–21:3

Haftarot for Deuteronomy
Devarim
Isaiah 1:1–27
Va’etchanan
Isaiah 40:1–26
Eikev
Isaiah 49:14–51:3
Re’eh
Isaiah 54:11–55:5
Shoftim
A, S: Isaiah 51:12–52:12
I: 1 Samuel 8:1–22
Ki Teitzei
A, S: Isaiah 54:1–10
I: 1 Samuel 17:1–37
Ki Tavo
A, S: Isaiah 60:1–22
I: Joshua 8:30–9:27
Nitzavim
A, S: Isaiah 61:10–63:9
I: Joshua 24:1–18
Nitzavim–Vayelech
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