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The haftarah (haftara, haphtara, haphtarah, Hebrew הפטרה‎; plural haftarot, haftaros, haphtarot, haphtaros) is a text selected from the books of Nevi'im ("The Prophets") that is read publicly in the synagogue after the reading of the Torah on each Sabbath, as well as on Jewish festivals and fast days. The haftarah usually has a thematic link to the Torah reading that precedes it. When the haftarah is read in the synagogue it is sung with cantillation (trop), and its related blessings are said before and after it.



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 when the Jews were under the rule of the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes, they were forbidden from reading the Pentateuch 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 A.D. 70: 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 read from the Torah scroll.

The haftarah blessings

A blessing both precedes and follows the haftarah reading. The blessings are read using haftarah cantillation by the person to read the haftarah portion.

The blessing that precedes the reading translates as: "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who has chosen good prophets, and has found pleasure in their words which were spoken in truth.

"Blessed art thou, O Lord, who hast chosen the Law, and Moses thy servant, and Israel thy people, and prophets of truth and righteousness." (Heartz, 1917)

Following the reading, Sephardic Jews will add a sentence, translated as: "Our Redeemer! The Lord of Hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel." (Heartz, 1917)

The blessing that follows the reading translates as: "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, Rock of all worlds, righteous through all generations, O faithful God, who sayest and doest, who speakest and fulfillest, all those words are truth and righteousness. Faithful art thou, O Lord our God, and faithful are they words, and not one of they words shall return void, for thou art a faithful and merciful God and King. Blessed art thou, O Lord, God, who art faithful in all thy words.

"Have mercy upon Zion, for it is the home of our life, and save her that is grieved in spirit speedily, even in our days. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who makest Zion joyful through her children.

"Gladden us, O Lord our God, with Elijah the prophet, thy servant, and with the kingdom of the house of David, thine anointed. Soon may he come and rejoice our hearts. Suffer not a stranger to sit upon his throne, nor let others any longer inherit his glorry; for by thy holy name thou didst swear unto him, that his light should not be quenched for ever. Blessed art thou, O Lord, the Shield of David.

"For the Law, for divine service, for the phrophets, and for this Sabbath day, which thou, O Lord our God, hast given us for holiness and for rest, for honour and for glory, —for all these we thank and bless thee, O Lord our God, blessed be thy name by the mouth of every living being continually and for ever. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who sanctifiest the Sabbath." (Heartz, 1917)

Following this, prayer is resumed and the Mussaf service is begun.

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).

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.

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 haftarah from Nevi'im Sabbath afternoons. Although this practice is virtually defunct, most halachic authorities maintain that there's 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.

Haftarah as a Bar- or Bat-Mitzvah ritual

The haftarah is read by b'ne mitzvah at their respective ceremonies, along with some, all, or, sometimes, none of the Torah portion. This is often referred to, mainly in Hebrew schools and bar- or bat-mitzvah 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=Habad); I=Italian custom; S=Sephardic and Mizrahi custom (SI=Sephardic (Iberian); SM=Mizrahi; SN=Maghreb); Y=Yemenite 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
  • Noah
    • A: Isaiah 54:1 – 55:5
      • AF, AH: Isaiah 54:1–10
    • I: Isaiah 54:1 – 55:5
    • S: Isaiah 55:1–10
      • SN: Isaiah 54:1 – 55:5
    • Y: Isaiah 54:1 – 55:5
      • some Y communities: Isaiah 54:1 – 55:3
  • Lekh-lekha
  • Vayera
  • Hayei Sarah:
    • A, S: I Kings 1:1–31
    • I: I Kings 1:1–34
    • Y: I Kings 1:1–31,46
      • Dardai communities: I Kings 1:1–31
  • Toledot
    • Malakhi 1:1 – 2:7
  • Vayetze
  • Vayishlah
  • Vayeshev
  • Miketz
  • Vayigash
  • Vayehi

Haftarot for Exodus

  • Shemot
  • Vaera
  • Bo
  • Beshalah
  • Yitro
  • Mishpatim
  • Terumah
  • Terumah-Tetzaveh
  • Tetzaveh
  • Ki Tisa
  • Vayakhel
  • Vayakhel-Pekudei
  • Pekudei

Haftarot for Leviticus

  • Vayikra
  • Tzav
  • Shemini
  • Tazria
  • Tazria-Metzora
  • Metzora
  • Ahare
  • Ahare-Kedoshim
  • Kedoshim
  • Emor
  • Behar
  • Behar-Behukotai
  • Behukotai

Haftarot for Numbers

  • Bemidbar
  • Naso
  • Behaalotecha
  • Shelah
  • Korah
  • Hukat
  • Hukat-Balak
  • Balak
  • Pinehas
  • Matot
  • Matot-Masei
  • Masei

Haftarot for Deuteronomy

  • Devarim
  • Vaethanan
  • Ekev
  • Ree
  • Shofetim
  • Ki Tetze
  • Ki Tavo
  • Netzavim
  • Netzavim-Vayelech
  • Vayelech
  • Haazinu
  • V'zot Haberacha

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 coiciding with the day preceding Rosh Hodesh, except Rosh Hodesh Nisan, Tevet, or Adar, and except Rosh Hashanah
  • Sabbath coinciding with Rosh Hodesh, except Rosh Hodesh Nisan, Tevet, or Adar, and except Rosh Hashanah
  • Sabbath immediately preceding 2 Nisan (Sabbath of Parashat Hahodesh)
  • Sabbath immediately preceding Passover (Shabbat Hagadol)
  • First day of Passover
  • Second day of Passover (outside of Eretz Yisrael)
  • Sabbath of the intermediate days of Passover
  • Seventh day of Passover
  • Eighth day of Passover (outside of Eretz Yisrael)
  • First day of Shavuot
  • Second day of Shavuot (outside of Eretz Yisrael)
    • Habakuk 2:20 – 3:19
  • 9 Av, morning haftarah
  • 9 Av, afternoon haftarah
    • A: Isaiah 55:6 – 56:8
    • most S: Hosea 14:2–10
  • Sabbath coinciding with Rosh Hodesh Elul
  • First day of Rosh Hashanah
    • Samuel I 1:1 – 2:10
  • Second day of Rosh Hashanah
    • Jeremiah 31:1–19
  • Fast of Gedaliah, morning haftarah
    • None
  • Fast of Gedaliah, afternoon haftarah
    • A, Y, some S: Isaiah 55:6 – 56:8
  • 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 haftara
    • Isaiah 57:14 – 58:14
  • Yom Kippur, afternoon haftara
    • Jonah (entire), and Micah 7:18–20
  • First day of Sukkot
  • Second day of Sukkot (outside of Eretz Yisrael)
    • Kings I 8:2–21
  • Sabbath of the intermerdiate days of Sukkot
  • Shemini Atzeret (outside of Eretz Yisrael)
    • Kings I 8:54 – 9:1
  • Simhat Torah
    • A: Joshua 1:1–18
    • S: Joshua 1:1–9
    • Some communities: Kings I 8:22–53
  • First (or only) Sabbath of Hanuka
  • Second Sabbath of Hanuka
    • Kings I 7:40–50
  • Sabbath immediately preceding 2 Adar (Sabbath of Parashat Shekalim)
  • Sabbath immediately preceding Purim (Sabbath of Parashat Zachor)
  • 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)
  • Fast days (other than those listed above), morning haftarah
    • None
  • Fast days (other than those listed above), afternoon haftarah
    • A: Isaiah 55:6 – 56:8
    • S: 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 disappeared. No one reads a special haftarah for a bridegroom any longer.


  • Katz, Shlomo [David] (2000). The Haftarah: Laws, Customs, & History. Silver Spring, Maryland: Hamaayan/The Torah Spring.
  • Hertz, J. H. (1917). "The Penetuch and Haftorahs". Jewish Publication Society of America.

See also

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