Parshah Insights: The Case of the Missing Haftarah

This week I am presenting an article by a guest author, Rabbi Yehuda Spitz. The original article was written for a common year. I have modified the article to make it appropriate for a leap year.

Parshah Insights: The Case of the Missing Haftarah

By Rabbi Yehuda Spitz

Because this Shabbos, Parshas Acharei Mos in chutz la’aretz and Parshas Kedoshim in Eretz Yisroel, falls on erev Rosh Chodesh, the accepted reading in most communities is from the book of Shemuel, because the words at the beginning of the haftarah are Mochor Chodesh, “Tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh.” However, as we will soon see, whether this is the correct haftarah for this Shabbos is a subject of dispute. There is also a dispute regarding what haftarah is read next Shabbos.

It is fairly common that the Haftarah on parshas Kedoshim is not the one listed in the Chumash. I have even seen times when the haftarah reading commenced in the shul, while a concurrent dispute was carrying on with some congregants arguing that the Ba’al Koreh was reading the wrong haftarah!

To understand properly whether the “wrong haftarah” was 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 Chanukah 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, this became minhag Yisrael.

Most haftaros share similarity with at least some concept presented in the Torah reading. For example, the Gemara (Megillah 29b-31a) discusses the proper haftarah readings for the various holidays throughout the year.

An interesting halachah germane to us is which haftarah is read when there is a double parshah. The Abudraham cites two minhagim which are based on a dispute in halachah: one, to read the first parshah’s haftarah; two, the “Rambam’s minhag” to read the second. Most Rishonim, including the Sefer Haminhagim, Mordechai, Ramban, Hagahos Maimoniyos, Shibbolei Haleket, and Tur rule that one should read the second parshah’s haftarah.[2] This second approach is codified as the proper psak by both the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 284; 7) and the Rema (Orach Chaim 428: 8), and, as far as this author knows, this is accepted by all of Klal Yisrael.[3] The main reason to do so is to enable reading a haftarah that is related to what was just concluded in the Torah leining, which is the second parshah, not the first one.

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,” a revealing prophecy of the woeful spiritual state of the Jewish communities and the terrible things that will occur to the inhabitants of Eretz Yisrael for not following the word of G-d. The Gemara (Megillah 25b) relates a story of one who read such a haftarah in the presence of Rabbi Eliezer, and whose own family’s indiscretions subsequently exposed. It was suggested that this passage not be read as a haftarah. Ultimately, though, the Gemara concludes that Hasishpot can be read as a haftarah.

Despite this halachic conclusion, it seems that the custom developed that, whenever possible, we avoid reading this condemning passage as the haftarah, whenever there is an easy alternative. Additionally, the content of Acharei Mos’ haftarah, “Halo K’Bnei Kushiyim” (from Amos in Trei Asar, Ch. 9) relates to Parshas Kedoshim, as well. Therefore, the Rema rules that when the Torah reading is the double parshiyos of Acharei Mos and Kedoshim, the haftarah of Acharei Mos is read, as opposed to every other double parshah, where the haftarah of the second parshah is read.

The Levush argued vehemently against such a switch, and suggested that the earlier authorities, who are quoted in support of the Rema’s position, never held this way. The Levush contends that it was a printing mistake to suggest such a switch.[4] Nevertheless, the Rema’s rule is followed by virtually all later poskim and Ashkenazic Kehillos.[5]

It should be noted that the Rema’s ruling here was not accepted by the Sefardic authorities. When Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are combined, they do indeed read Kedoshim’s haftarah, Hasishpot.[6]

Hazardous Haftarah?

Let us now take this question to the next step. How far do Ashkenazim go to avoid reading Hasishpot (Kedoshim’s usual haftarah) when Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are read on separate weeks?

This is where it gets interesting. The Gemara (Megillah 31a) states that whenever Rosh Chodesh falls on Shabbos, a special haftarah is read: “Hashamayim Kis’i,” as it mentions the concepts of both Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh.[7] 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[8] mentions that when Parshas Acharei Mos falls 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 not to read Kedoshim’s haftarah when the two parshiyos are read together, due to its explicit content, the same should apply for any other time Acharei Mos’s haftarah was not read; it should replace Kedoshim’s haftarah! Indeed, although not the common custom elsewhere, 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.[9]

Although not universally accepted,[10] Rav Akiva Eiger’s rule is cited as the halachah by the Mishnah Berurah, and the proper Ashkenazic minhag by the Kaf Hachaim.[11] The Chazon Ish, as well as Rav Moshe Feinstein, and Rav Chaim Kanievsky,[12] 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 replaced by the special haftarah for Shabbos Hagadol, many shuls read Acharei Mos’ haftarah on Parshas Kedoshim, instead of Kedoshim’s usual one. The same question will occur next week in chutz la’aretz: which haftarah do we read?

In fact, that is how both Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin’s authoritative Ezras Torah Luach and Rav Yechiel Michel Tukachinsky’s essential Luach Eretz Yisrael rule as the proper minhag.[13]

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 go back to Acharei Mos!

For any questions, comments or for the full Mareh Mekomos / sources, please email the author:

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.


[1] 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 provided by the Abudraham (Seder Parshiyos V’Haftaros).

[2] Abudraham (Seder Parshiyos V’Haftaros), Sefer Haminhagim (Minhag Shel Shabbos), Mordechai (end Maseches Megillah, 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’), Hagahos Maimoniyos (Hilchos Tefillah, Ch. 13: 20), Shibbolei Haleket (80), and Tur (Orach Chaim 428).

[3] 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).

[4] 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 reason we read the second parshah’s haftarah is because the haftarah should be similar to the Torah reading just concluded, why should that change because of a specific haftarah’s content? He concludes that several other important authorities, including the Tikun Yissachar (Minhagos Haftaros pg. 84), hold not to switch, and when Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are combined, Kedoshim’s haftarah should still be read.

[5] 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, following his ‘Zikno HaGaon  z”l’ — citing it as the minhag of Prague), 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.

[6] Kaf Hachaim (Orach Chaim 428: 52) rules that Sefardic minhag is to follow the Kenesses Hagedolah (ad loc.) and Tikkun Yissachar (ibid.), and read Hasishpot, the haftarah of Kedoshim. This approach is also implied by the Shulchan Aruch, since he makes no mention of reading a different haftarah. Yalkut Yosef (ibid.) and Rav Mordechai Eliyahu’s Darchei Halachah glosses to the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (79: 3) state this as well.

It is interesting to note that there are actually two different haftaros from Yechezkel known as ‘Hasishpot,’ (Ch. 20 and Ch. 22) and that both discuss Toavas Yerushalayim. When 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 read for Parshas Kedoshim is from Yechezkel Ch. 22, which Sefardim generally read on Parshas Acharei Mos, rather than Halo K’Bnei Kushiyim that Ashkenazim read.

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

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

[9] See Rav Yisrael Yaakov Fischer’s Shu”t Even Yisrael (vol. 8: 38). He even mentions years and places where this was actually the practice!

[10] The Sefer Haminhagim (ibid.), who rules that when Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are combined, one reads the haftarah of Acharei Mos, explicitly writes that when Acharei Mos’s haftarah is not read due to Rosh Chodesh, on the next week, Kedoshim’s haftarah should be read and not that of Acharei Mos. This author has since heard that the Belzer minhag is to follow the Sefer Haminhagim and not Rav Akiva Eiger.

[11] 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 halacha follows Rav Akiva Eiger.

[12] 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 read just  Acharei Mos’ 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 instead. According to Rabbi Dovid Heber, author of Shaarei Zemanim, most Ashkenazic Kehillos read the haftarah of Hasishpot only 14 times in the Tur’s (Orach Chaim end 428) 247 year cycle, making it practically the rarest of all haftaros. In contrast, and as mentioned above in the footnotes above, many Sefardim read Hasishpot three times in some years (Shemos, Acharei Mos, and Kedoshim).

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