|August 17, 2012 / 29 Av, 5772
Haftarah Rosh Hodesh
Isaiah 56: 1-24
Some haftarot are distinguished by their content. This haftarah is distinguished by its selection. Each of the Shabbatot between Tish'a B'Av and Rosh Hashanah includes the recital of one of the seven haftarot of consolation (shav d'nahamta, as they are called in our tradition). This being the third week following Tish'a B'Av, the usual and expected haftarah would be Isaiah 54:11 - Isaiah 55:5. But because this Shabbat and Rosh Hodesh Elul coincide, our authorities (e.g. Rabbi Joseph Karo, Shulhan Arukh, Orah Hayyim 425; Rabbi Solomon Ganzfried, Kitzur Shulhan Arukh 128:4) rule that the regular haftarah for Rosh Hodesh should be recited instead.
This requires some explanation. The standard rule in settling conflicting practices in Jewish ritual is tadir v'eino tadir, tadir kadem - priority is given to the more frequent practice. That is to say, when two ritual practices are indicated for one occasion, the more regular practice takes precedent. The Scriptural justification for this rule is - perhaps surprisingly - the order of sacrifices for various occasions listed in Numbers 28 and 29. The holidays are listed in chronological order beginning with Pesah, the first holiday in the Biblical calendar. But first on the list, and preceding mention of the holiday offerings are those offered on a daily and monthly basis. The most frequently offered sacrifices are listed first.
The application for this rule is well-known to those who attend synagogue on one of the special Shabbatot when three Torah scrolls are read, like this past March 24 when Rosh Hodesh and Parshat HaHodesh fell on Shabbat. First we read seven aliyot from the weekly portion. Then, from the second Torah, we read the selection for Rosh Hodesh. And finally, from the third Torah, we read the maftir portion from the Book of Exodus, Chapter 12. Note the order of the last two. Since Rosh Hodesh occurs more frequently (twelve or thirteen times each year) than Shabbat HaHodesh (only once), we read the Rosh Hodesh passage first.
But there is an exception to this rule: when one ritual is uniquely associated with the occasion, it takes precedent over the more frequent. So when a festival coincides with Shabbat, for example, the haftarah for the festival is recited, not the haftarah for that Shabbat. This being the case, it would seem that the third of the haftarot of consolation - unique to this period of the year - should take precedence over the haftarah for Rosh Hodesh!
To the rescue comes Rabbi Solomon Ganzfried (op. cit.) who provides a solution. He notes that the haftarah for Rosh Hodesh also includes an element of consolation. Isaiah declares (66:10): "Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad with her—Rejoice—all those that mourn for her.” Thus the required message of consolation is not ignored and the integrity of the rule of precedent is preserved.
Rules of operation are helpful and necessary. Mathematicians will agree. Outcomes will be quite different when one function wrongly precedes another. The rules of Judaism are not arbitrary or cavalier. They are designed to bring order into our lives and relieve us of potentially paralyzing conflicts. As we move into the month of Elul, we become even more aware of the consequences of failing to live up to the rules. The selection of this haftarah is thus a fitting introduction to the penitential period.
This week's Haftarah commentary was written by
Rabbi Wayne Allen, Ph.D. Rabbi Allen has served as a congregational rabbi for 35 years, taking on postings in New York City, Los Angeles, and Toronto. He is currently serving as the Provost of the Canadian Yeshiva and Rabbinical School. He is the author of Perspectives on Jewish Law and Contemporary Issues, Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, Israel, e-mail: Books@schechter.ac.il.
Visit Rabbi Allen's website for more commentaries and information: rabbiwayneallen.ca
Rabbi Allen is editorial board member, The Unraveller.
The Canadian Yeshiva and Rabbinical School, a partner in the Toronto School of Theology and the University of Toronto, offers exceptional courses for adults as part of its continuing education program. Operating under the principle of "serious teachers for serious students," the Canadian Yeshiva is committed to expanding its offerings on campus and across the Greater Toronto Area. Classes are co-educational and open to adults of all ages. Faculty members cross denominational boundaries: all dedicated to teaching Torah guided by the highest academic standards. For further information, please consult the website: www.cdnyeshiva.org/
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