HaShomer Ani Lecha Yerushalayim: Haftarot of Acharei Mot and Kedoshim

If you were in Shul yesterday morning, around the combined Torah reading of Acharei and Kedoshim, you may have noticed a peculiar sight: we read two Parshiot, but subsequently read the Haftarah of the first one, Acharei, rather than the second one, Kedoshim. That violates the usual rule that we read the Haftarah of the second Parsha in such a situation.

The angry note in the ArtScroll Chumash (p. 1173) against “most Chumashim” (i.e., Hertz, which instructs us to read the later Haftarah in this case as usual) doesn’t really explain why the phenomenon exists but notes that the Rama mentions the Minhag. To the Rama we go, then:

שולחן עורך אורח חיים סימן תכח סעיף ח – רמ”א
כשקורין ב’ פרשיות מפטירים באחרונה (מרדכי פרק בני העיר), מלבד באחרי מות וקדושים דמפטירין “הלא כבני כושיים,” שהיא הפטרת אחרי מות (מנהגים).

The Rama does not give a reason for the change either, but the Mishna Berurah does:

שולחן עורך אורח חיים סימן תכח סעיף ח – משנה ברורה סעיף קטן כו
(כו) שהיא הפטרת אחרי מות – מפני שההפטרה של פרשה שניה מזכרת מִתוֹעֵבַת ירושלים, מה שאין כן כשהן נפרדות, שכבר קראו “הלוא כבני כושיים” בפרשת “אחרי,” בהכרח להפטיר בפרשת “קדושים” “התשפוט.” והנה, הלבוש חולק על רמ”א, ודעתו דגם כשהיא כפולה קוראין הפטרה אחרונה, דהיינו של פרשת “קדושים.” אבל הב”ח ושאר אחרונים כתבו שנתפשט המנהג בכל הקהלות כהרמ”א בזה. והוא הדין אם שבת פרשת “אחרי” היה ערב ראש חודש, ומפטירין מחר חודש, דמפטירין בשבת פרשת “קדושים” “הלוא כבני כושיים” [חי’ רע”א]:

The gist of the Mishna Berura seems to be this: The Haftarah for Acharei Mot, “Halo Kivnei Kushiyim,” is an angry rant from Amos against the Jews whose actions place them in no better light than their surrounding nations. The Haftarah for Kedoshim, “Hatishpot,” is an angry rant from Yechezkel against ghastly Yerushalayim in its destroyed state. If we can at all avoid reading about Yerushalayim in its sorry state of degradation, such as in our case where we have one week and two Haftarot to choose from, we do so by choosing the one insulting ourselves rather than the one insulting Yerushalayim. Not that it bothers us any other week of the year to read about Yerushalayim’s maligned condition, and we’ll come back to that point later, but we usually don’t have much of a choice.

All of this is based on a Mordechai on Gemara Megillah:

מרדכי מסכת מגילה תתלא (פרק בני העיר)
ובמנהגים מצאתי כל פרשיות הסמוכות מפטירין הפטרה של אחרונה חוץ מאחרי מות וקדושים, שאז מפטירין “הלא כבני כושיים,” שהיא הפטרה של פרשה ראשונה, מפני שהפטרה של פרשה שניה מזכרת מתועבות ירושלים:

That’s more or less satisfying, except for one thing: The Mishna Berura noted that the Levush Mordechai disagrees with the Rama and would have us instead read the second Haftarah, as usual. Why does the Levush feel this way?

Since we’ve looked at Gemara Megillah, the Mordechai and the Levush Mordechai, it should not surprise us that the Machatzit Hashekel has something to say about this issue. (If we can get the Megillat Esther into the game, I win a sandwich!) The Machatzit Hashekel explains the Levush’s objection as involving a more careful reading of the Gemara in Megillah – or just about any reading at all:

תלמוד בבלי מסבת מגילה דף כה עמוד ב
“הודע את ירושלים את תועבותיה” – נקרא ומתרגם. פשיטא! לאפוקי מדרבי אליעזר. דתניא, מעשה באדם אחד שהיה קורא למעלה מרבי אליעזר “הודע את ירושלים את תועבותיה.” אמר לו, “עד שאתה בודק בתועבות ירושלים, צא ובדוק בתועבות אמך!” בדקו אחריו, ומצאו בו שמץ פסול.

Rabbi Eliezer objected to the public reading of a Haftarah calling out Yerushalayim for its sullied condition because the person reading it in front of him was of inferior stock and was thus hypocritical in chastising Yerushalayim publicly. Everybody after the Mordechai assumes that this Gemara is the basis for the Mordechai’s ruling. Two problems, though: 1) The Gemara (at the beginning of the piece just cited) rejected Rabbi Eliezer’s objection as a possible precedent for future readings, and so today we should be able to read “Hatishpot” without any problem. 2) That wasn’t the Haftarah that Rabbi Eliezer objected to! As the Machatzit Hashekel goes on to explain in the name of the Levush, the confusion arises between two similar Perakim in Yechezkel, each dealing with the degradation of Yerushalayim. The first, Perek 16, also mentions “אביך האמורי ואמך חתית,” which Rashi there explains as rather unflattering (if ultimately edifying – see Rashi there) references to Avraham and Sarah. That additional unkind reference is what caused Rabbi Eliezer to be surprised at someone (and someone of imperfect ancestry, no less) reading it publicly. Our present-day Haftarah, “Hatishpot,” however, is six Perakim later – Yechezkel Perek 22. That Perek, like many of the year’s other Haftarot, mentions the degradation of Yerushalayim, but this one was never called into question as a public reading by Rabbi Eliezer!

So what we’re left with is that the Gemara rejects Rabbi Eliezer’s opinion that a single, long-deceased individual should not publicly read Yechezkel Perek 16, and we have no clear reason why we should avoid publicly reading Yechezkel 22, “Hatishpot,” which is not terribly different than many other accepted Haftarot. That is why the Levush (who, to be fair, seems awfully correct) was not in favor of supplanting the usual Minhag that the second of two possible Haftarot be read. The Mordechai, however, cited a Minhag anyway to avoid this Haftarah, and the Rama, perhaps less than attentive to the source for this Minhag and its general irrelevance today, mentioned the Minhag to forgo “Hatishpot” whenever possible, such as when there is an option to read “Halo Kivnei Kushiyim.”

The Machatzit Hashekel further posits that there may have been an error in the printings of the Chumashim in the days of the Mordechai, such that the Mordechai actually preferred that we read “Hatishpot” anyway, just that the Mordechai felt that that already was the Haftarah of Kedoshim. Any reading of the Mordechai as cited above does not support such a claim. Similarly, the Bach bats away any notion that a theorized but unproven mistake in the books of the Mordechai (or the Minhagim, the Mordechai’s source) should change the accepted custom to avoid reading “Hatishpot.” The Mingahim, in any case, is pretty clear:

ספר המנהגים (טירנא) הלכות שבת
ולעולם מפטירין [הפטרה] השייכת לשנייה, חוץ מאחרי וקדושים שמפטירין ב”הלא כבני כושיים” (עמוס ט, ז) השייך לראשונה, לאחרי מות, ולא ב”התשפוט” (יחזקאל כ, ב), ששייך ל”קדושים,” כדמפרש רש”י שם, לפי שמיירי בתועבות ירושלים – כן משמע במרדכי. לכן, כשהן חלוקות, מפטירין לאחרי מות “הלא כבני כושיים,” כן נראה לי עיקר כשהן חלוקות. וגם, אם חל ראש חודש אייר בשבת או ביום א’, אז בטילה הפטורה דאחרי מות, דהא מפטירין (ישעיה סו, א) “השמים כסאי” או (שמואל א’ כ, יח) “מחר חדש” לאחרי מות, נראה לי דמפטירין לקדושים רק “התשפוט,” דשייך לקדושים, כדפירשתי לעיל.

Interestingly, the Mishna Berura above said that if Acharei’s Haftarah is supplanted in a given year by the Haftarah for Rosh Chodesh or Erev Rosh Chodesh, the Haftarah for Kedoshim would then be “Halo Kivnei Kushiyim,” thus further strengthening the Minhag to protect Yerushalayim’s image. The Minhagim, however, says that in such a situation the Haftarah for Kedoshim would be “Hatishpot,” because that Haftarah is still the one most relevant for Parshat Kedoshim.

Probably based on an error in the reading or application of a Gemara, and despite the apparently legitimate objection of the Levush, this custom has gained near-universal acceptance. But perhaps that acceptance could not be fully explained until our day, when, inadvertently, we protect the image of once-downtrodden Yerushalayim just days or weeks before Yom Yerushalayim. How, indeed, could we have read the dirge of “Hatishpot” on the eve of this day celebrating Yerushalayim’s renewal? I guess we’ll never need to know.

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