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Friday, September 2

The Weekly Shtikle - Re'eih / Shabbas Rosh Chodesh Elul

There are some interesting nuances behind the haftarah that is read this week and consequently, that which is read in two weeks. This topic is covered rather thoroughly by R' Yehuda Spitz's Insights into Halacha but I wanted to take a somewhat different approach. As a matter of introduction, I want to point out a neat little trick that may not be so well-known. If one wishes to plan ahead, the days of Rosh Chodesh from month to month are always in perfect sequence. For example, Rosh Chodesh Tammuz was Wednesday and Thursday. Rosh Chodesh Av was Friday and Rosh Chodesh Elul, haba aleinu l'tovah, is Shabbos and Sunday. Rosh HaShanah is Monday. One need only be aware of which are one day long and which are two days. (And Rosh HaShanah must be treated as one day. Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan will be Tuesday and Wednesday.)

With the knowledge of that simple sequence, it is clear that a Shabbos Rosh Chodesh should happen rather regularly. However, the prescribed haftarah for Shabbos Rosh Chodesh, HaShamayim kis'I (Yeshaya 66) does not have a lot of halachic mazal. If the first of Tishrei is Shabbos, understandably, it is not read on Rosh HaShanah. If the first of Teves falls out on Shabbos, the haftarah for Chanukah is read instead. It is pushed off on Rosh Chodesh Adar for Shekalim and on Rosh Chodesh Nissan for HaChodesh. If Rosh Chodesh Av falls out on Shabbos, the appropriate Three Weeks haftarah is read.

We are now in the middle of a sequence of seven very specific haftaros of comfort, which are deemed to be of significant importance by the halachic authorities. If Rosh Chodesh Elul were to fall out on Sunday, are all in agreement that the usual haftarah of Machar chodesh is not read. Indeed, even tomorrow, the predominant sefardi custom is to once again push asid HaShamayim kis'i. But we Ashkenazim, based on Rema, will indeed read HaShamayim kis'i. I had wondered why this would be but when this occurred last year (and it will occur again in 2 and 3 years) I noticed that the reading of HaShamayim kis'I certainly contains words of comfort making it apropos as part of the seven week period following Tish'ah B'Av.

So what happens to the haftarah that we do not read tomorrow – Aniyah so'arah  (Yeshayah 54:11)? The text of the haftarah of Ki Seitzei is Rani akarah (Yeshayah 54:1-10) immediately precedes the text of this week's so we will simply read both together – a double haftarah, although it becomes identical to the single haftarah of Noach.

If you look at the seven special haftaros as a whole, they are all in sequential order from Sefer Yeshayah – with one exception. This week's skipped haftarah is out of order and I was always puzzled as to why that might be. It seems more than ironic that in years like this, the seven passages are read in perfect sequence. (The reading of HaShamayim kis'I, however, is from the very end of Yeshayah and is thus still out of order.) However, as R' Spitz himself conveyed to me via email, it is unlikely that this "shuffle" was the original intended to account for this situation because Abudarham,  who lays out the texts for the seven passages, does not even mention doubling any up. Perhaps by next year, when we read the usual haftarah of Re'eih, I will come up with a better reason for the order, or lack thereof.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

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