Shabbat Hazon 5765/ August 13, 2005
the weekly Torah reading by the faculty of
Torah and Haftarah
Prof. Moshe Tzippor
Department of Bible
The Subject of the Haftarah
The haftarah passages from the Prophets that are read on Sabbaths (which do not coincide with a festival) are generally chosen from material that relates either to the weekly Torah reading or to a specific date. Examples of readings tied to a date are: Rosh Hodesh or the eve of Rosh Hodesh, Hanukkah, Purim, the “Four Parshiyot” that are associated with the first of Adar (Shekalim), with Purim (Zakhor), with the first of Nisan (Ha-Hodesh), and one more reading associated with Passover but read on the Sabbath preceding Ha-Hodesh (Parah). On all these occasions, after the reading of the weekly Torah portion a Torah passage dealing with the specific day is read for maftir, save for Sabbaths which fall on the eve of Rosh Hodesh.
There are another ten consecutive Sabbaths on which the haftarah deals with the particular day and not with the weekly Torah portion. These are the three Sabbaths preceding the ninth of Ab, on which three passages foretelling disaster are read (shalosh shel pur’anut), and the seven Sabbaths immediately following the ninth of Ab, on which seven passages of consolation are read (sheva shel nehamah). On these ten Sabbaths there is no special reading from the Torah concerning the subject of the day. 
The special haftarah readings associated with the calendar do not necessarily fall in conjunction with a specific portion from the Torah, since the order of weekly readings depends on the length of the year (whether a regular year or a leap year; whether the months are short, long, or regular) and on the day of the week on which the various festivals and New Months fall.
The Three of Disaster
According to the prevalent custom, the haftarah readings foretelling disaster are read in the following order: “The words of Jeremiah” (Jer. 1) on the Sabbath after the 17th of Tammuz; “Hear the word of the Lord” (Jer. 2) on the next Sabbath, even if it falls on the first of Ab, as happened last Shabbat; “The prophecies of Isaiah” on the third, preceding the ninth of Ab or falling on the ninth of Ab itself. According to another custom, “The prophecies of Isaiah” (Isa. 1) is read on the second of these three Sabbaths, and on the third the haftarah is begun with “Alas, she has become a harlot” (Isa. 1:21). An ancient custom is mentioned by Rav Huna (Megillah 31b):
When Rosh Hodesh Ab falls on the Sabbath, the haftarah is read from “Your new moons and fixed seasons fill Me with loathing; they are become a burden to Me, I cannot endure them” (Isa. 1:14)… On the ninth of Ab itself what is read? Rav said: “Alas, she has become a harlot” (Isa. 1:21), … Abaye said: It is customary in the world today … “I will make an end of them” (Jer. 8:13). 
Devarim and Destruction
readings, as well as the seven readings of
consolation that immediately follow them, are exceptional.
All the other special haftarah
readings for particular days are not tied to a specific Torah portion,
rather sometimes they occur with one weekly reading, sometimes with
another. In contrast, the third Sabbath
foretelling disaster, Shabbat
Hazon, always coincides with Parashat Devarim
, and accordingly the first two readings of disaster coincide with Matot
and when these two portions are read together
the first reading of disaster coincides with Phinehas.
Likewise, the continuation of these special
readings: Nahamu, the first haftarah
of consolation, is always read on Parashat Va-Et’hanan; Va-tomer
This might seem natural. According to the gemara (Megillah 31b), the passage of admonishment and curses in Parashat Ki-Tavo must be read before the New Year, in accordance with the idea of tikhleh shanah ve-kileloteiha (may the old year, with its curses, come to an end), and it is customary for another Sabbath to intervene between the reading of the curses and the New Year. Similarly, the admonishment in Behukotai is read before the Feast of Weeks (the festival of receiving the Torah, since this festival as well marks a New Year, because the fruit of the trees is determined or judged then), and at least one other Sabbath intervenes. These general rules about Torah readings and the holidays have been given various mnemonic devices: Menu ve-itzru, kumu ve-tik’u (“Count and hold assembly, arise and sound a blast”): the Feast of Weeks (Atzeret, or “assembly”) always falls after the reading on the census (Parashat Be-Midbar), and the New Year (on which we sound the shofar) always falls after Parashat Nitzavim (which means “standing,” hence kumu ). For this to work out, the weekly portions are either combined or read separately. The result is that Parashat Devarim is read on the Sabbath preceding the ninth of Ab or on the ninth of Ab itself, when that falls on the Sabbath. Aside from this, the pairing up of readings in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy seems also to be aimed at Parashat Devarim being the one that concludes the three readings foretelling disaster. This, too, has a mnemonic device: Tzumu ve-tzelu (“fast and pray”): Parashat Va-Et’hanan (in which Moses entreats the Lord) comes after the fast of the ninth of Ab. 
What is the reason for this? Darshanim have pointed to the exclamation, “How” (Heb. eikhah),  said by Moses in Parashat Devarim : “How can I bear unaided the trouble of you, and the burden, and the bickering?” (Deut. 1:12); this word is repeated in the haftarah from Isaiah (1:21), as an exclamation of lament: “Alas (Heb. eikhah ), she has become a harlot, the faithful city,” and occurs a third time in the beginning of Lamentations, customarily read on the ninth of Ab :  “Alas (Heb. eikhah)! Lonely sits the city once great with people! She that was great among nations is become like a widow” (Lament. 1:1). These occurrences of the word can be viewed as measure for measure,  one cry of “how” or “alas” leads to another cry of “alas.” Having become like a harlot, she is destined to become as a widow, “all her allies have betrayed her, they have become her foes” (Lament. 1:2). Also “the trouble of you, and the burden, and the bickering” of which Moses complains reverberate in the haftarah (Isa. 1:11). The bitter sense of isolation expressed by Moses in the word “unaided” (levaddi ) also echoes in Lamentations: “Alas, lonely (badad) sits the city ... There is none to comfort her of all her friends. All her allies have betrayed her.” These associations are drawn together by the custom to read this verse in Deuteronomy as well as the harsh words of the haftarah in the melody of Lamentations.
from the linguistic connection between this week’s Torah reading, the haftarah
, and Lamentations, there is also a close connection between the
subject matter of Devarim
and the theme of the ninth of Ab.
At the beginning of the Torah reading Moses
tells about the spies, who brought on the decree that the generation brought
Between Parasha and Haftarah
is yet another connection between the Torah reading and the haftarah
. The haftarah
contains a lament depicting the destruction and desolation of the
Now the idea of doing justice and the need to establish a legal system that will function according to the Torah’s vision of morality appears as early as Moses’ first oratory in Parashat Devarim . Moses sets up a court system and instructs the judges strictly: “Hear out your fellow men, and decide justly... You shall not be partial in judgment: hear out low and high alike” (Deut. 1:16-17); for the mere existence of a court system is not a guarantee of justice. The expression, “hear out low and high alike,” was viewed by the Sages as also reflecting the principle that “a suit over one perutah [a small sum] is to be heard the same as a suit over one hundred zuz [a large sum].” This contrasts with the idea of “wasting the court’s time.” The Sages maintained that even for a judge to say, “wait until I finish my drink,” is a denial of prompt justice (to see just how far this was taken, see Mekhilta Mishpatim , Tractate de-Nezikin , ch. 18).
describes the opposite state of affairs from that which Moses
commanded. The Torah views justice as
upholding righteousness, and so too Isaiah describes
concludes with words of hope and faith that
 For reading in further depth on the various customs that have emerged to the present day regarding the haftarah, see the entry “Haftarah,” Encyclopedia Talmudit, 10, pp. 1-31, and the appendix, “Reshimat ha-Haftarot le-Shabbatot ha-Shanah le-fi ha-Mekorot ve-ha-Minhagim,” pp. 702-723. A brief summary on haftarot and how they were chosen, as well as a selected bibliography can be found in Rabbi Judah Shaviv, Bein Haftarah le-Parashah: Al ha-Kesharim bein ha-Haftarot le-Parashot ha-Shavu’a u-le-Mo’adei ha-Shanah, Jerusalem 2001, pp. 7-9.
 See Tos.
loc. sit. s.v. “Rosh hodesh Ab,” on the change in this
custom. On other customs, see the
editor’s notes in Sefer ha-Manhig le-Rabbi Abraham be-Rabbi Nathan
ha-Yarhi, Isaac Rappel ed.,
 In which case the haftarah for parashat Phinehas is about Elijah at Mount Horeb, which is a subject related to the weekly reading (“Elijah is Phinehas”; see Yalkut Shimoni, Part I, par. 771).
 On whether certain weekly readings are combined or read separately, in accordance with the length of the year and the portion, see Siddur Rav Sa’adiah Gaon, Davidson, Asaf, and Yoel, eds., Jerusalem 1971, pp. 363-366.
 In truth, this need not be the case. For example, for the years 1984, 1997, 2011, 2014 and others, if we were to combine the readings for Behar and Behukotai (which are read separately) and were to read separately Nitzavim and Va-Yelekh (which are combined), then Va-Et’hanan would be read on the Sabbath preceding the ninth of Ab. We would read “ The prophecies of Isaiah” on the Sabbath of parashat Va-Et’hanan , and the haftarah, “Nahamu ,” which is the first of the haftarah readings of consolation, on the Sabbath of parashat Ekev . The same would be the case for 1994 and 2011, were we to combine Matot and Mas’ei . In actual practice, however this is not done, perhaps because Nitzavim—Va-Yelekh are not considered two separate weekly readings which are combined when necessary, but rather a single parashah which is split in two when necessary (i.e., when there is an intervening Sabbath between Yom Kippur and Sukkot, on which Ha’azinu is read). See Siddur Sa’adiah Gaon , loc. sit.
 The use of eikhah, eikh or eikhakhah as introducing words of lamentation or complaint is quite common in Scriptures.
custom of reading Lamentations on the ninth of Ab is mentioned in Masekhet
Soferim 18.5. As for how it is read,
see Y. Tabori, Mo’adei Yisrael be-Tekufat ha-Mishnah ve-ha-Talmud,
types of associations are common in the midrash.
“They sinned by [wanting to] ‘head’ [back to