On Wednesday my family marked the 17th yahrtzeit of my mother, in whose memory this shiur is dedicated. This past Shabbat, as is customary, I was called to the Torah as Maftir and then proceeded to read the Haftara of Parshat Acharei Mot. (My apologies to those of you who are in Chutz L’Aretz, where you read the Haftara for the eighth day of Pesach and therefore can not necessarily relate…)
Following the Chumash Koren (and, as I subsequently discovered, many other Chumashim, but more on that later) I read from the twenty second chapter of Sefer Yechezkel. “V’ata ben adam, hatishpot hatishpot et ir hadamim v’hodata et kol toavoteha”. “Son of man,” the Navi is commanded. “Will you judge the city (referring to Yerushalayim) of blood (i.e. murder), and make known all of her iniquities?” And the criticism of the inhabitants of Yerushalayim only goes downhill from there.
After I finished the Haftara, the fellow who had done Hagba came up to me and commented on the macabre nature of the reading and I agreed, noting that the haftara seemed more appropriate for the the three haftarot of Puraniyot, of misfortune, that we read prior to Tisha B’Av, than for our Shabbat of Isru Chag Pesach. Little did I know…
It was not long before people started asking, suggesting and downright declaring that we had read the wrong Haftara, and in fact that we should have read the Haftara from the ninth chapter of Amos, “Halo, k’bnei Kushim atem”, which Koren listed as being the Haftara for Parshat Kedoshim. Sure enough, there are roughly as many Chumashim which list the Nevua of Amos as being the appropriate Haftara for Parshat Acharei Mot, and the Haftara that I read, from Sefer Yechezkel, as being the Haftara for Parshat Kedoshim. So which Minhag is correct, and why?
Before continuing, a few observations are in order. Firstly, I understand that the question of which minhag is correct regarding the reading of any Haftara seems a bit ridiculous. After all, there are multiple minhagim for just about every Haftara that we read. In fact, in his work Ben Haftara l’Parsha (Page 138), Rav Yehuda Shaviv claims that the only Parsha NOT to have multiple Minhagim regarding which Haftara to read is Parshat BaMidbar. While others claim that Parshat Lech Lecha also has no variant Haftara readings, our point remains. It is virtually unheard of to have a Parsha without at least two different customs regarding which Haftara should be read. Nonetheless, as we will see, the question of the Haftara for Achrei Mot and Kedoshim is in a league of its own. So I return to our question – which Minhag is correct, and why?
A second observation is that Achrei Mot and Kedoshim themselves create a somewhat anomalous situation when it come to the Haftara. Firstly, in many years Achrei Mot and Kedoshim are read together. As we will discuss in a moment, when two parshiot are read together we generally read the Haftara of the second, as opposed to the first parsha. Moreover, it is very common that either Shabbat of Acharei Mot, or Shabbat of Kedoshim fall on either Erev Rosh Chodesh (as happens this year) or on Rosh Chodesh itself. In either of those situations the special Haftara associated with those days will supercede the assigned Haftara of the Parsha. The upshot of this is that it is in fact incredibly rare to find a year where we will read both the Haftara of Achrei Mot and the Haftara of Kedoshim. In fact, Rav Avraham Rivlin (Iyunei Haftara p.294 footnote #3) points out that according to a luach published in 5757 (1997) both Haftarot were read in the same year a total of six times in the previous hundred years, and would only be read five more time in the upcoming one hundred years. The first year after 5757 that both Haftarot are scheduled to be read is in 5784 (2024).
Based on the above, we can see that Achrei Mot and Kedoshim are in a league of their own when trying to determine what the Haftara is. A further basis for this statement can be found in the gloss of the Rama on Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 428:8. Addressing the question as to which Haftara is read on a Shabbat when we read a double parsha, the Rama, quoting Mordechai states, as we noted, that we read the Haftara of the second parsha. Thus, for example, in a year where we read VaYakhel and Pekudei together, the Haftara that would be read would be from Parshat Pekudei as opposed to from Parshat Vayakhel. The single exception to this rule says the Rama is when Parshat Acharei Mot and Parshat Kedoshim are read together. In that circumstance, the Haftara of Achrei Mot, from Sefer Amos, is the Haftara that is read. The Mishna Berura points out that while the Levush disagrees with the position of the Rama, most Achronim have adopted it. In any case, says the Mishna Berura, we see that there is a strong preference to avoid reading the section from Yechezkel due to it’s harsh criticism of Yerushalayim.
Based on this statement of the Rama we see two things. Firstly, the Rama himself clearly states his own position that the Haftara for Achrei Mot is from Sefer Amos and not from Sefer Yechezkel. More significantly, by adopting the position that when the parshiot of Achrei Mot and Kedoshim are read together that we read Haftara of Achrei Mot and not the Haftara of Kedoshim, the Rama indicates that there is in fact something unusual about the haftarot of these two Parshiot.
In order to understand what is different, we need to reference the Gemara in Megilah 25a-b. The Gemara there quotes the position of Rabbi Eliezer, who forbade reading a Haftara which exposes the sins of Yerushalayim. The Gemara quotes an opinion which disagrees with the position of Rabbi Eliezer and permits the reading of a Haftara critical of Yerushalayim. The Gemara then quotes a braita which records Rabbi Eliezer’s harsh response to this position. When someone read the Haftara critical of Yerushalayim in Rabbi Eliezer’s presence, the braita relates, Rabbi Eliezer turned to the reader and said that before criticizing the iniquities of Yerushalayim he should check his own mother’s iniquities! Sure enough, relates the braita, upon checking that individual’s mother’s background a scandalous relationship was discovered which cast aspersion upon the lineage of the reader of the portion critical of Yerushalayim. We must note, however, that despite this story the halacha does not follow the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer.
While the Halacha does not follow Rabbi Eliezer, because of his opinion we can understand the hesitation to read a haftara so harshly critical of Yerushalayim. This would explain the position of the Rama, as explained by the Mishna Berura, not to read the portion from Yechezkel if it could be avoided. What seems clear however is that in those handful of years where Achrei Mot and Kedoshim are read separately and each requires its “own” Haftara, that we would read the section from Amos one week and the section from Yechezkel the other week. Which section is read with which Parsha is the subject of disagreement between various minhagim.
What is most fascinating is a third minhag, not surprisingly based in Yerushalayim. According to this minhag the Haftara from Sefer Yechezkel is NEVER read, even in a year where Achrei Mot and Kedoshim are read separately. When that happens then the Haftara from Sefer Amos is read both weeks. Rav Moshe Lichtenstein (Netevi Nevua pp 277-280) in fact claims that this is the prevalent minhag in all of Eretz Yisrael and not just Yerushalayim, and is not uncommon in Chutz L’Aretz as well. This was certainly the minhag in Lithuania, as reported by Rav Lichtenstein’s grandfather, the Rov, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (quoted by R. Shaviv Bein Haftara L’Parsha, page 124). Rav Lichtenstein explains that even though we adopt the position of the Chachamim which permits reading a Haftara that is critical of Yerushalayim, that is only in a case where there is a positive message communicated at the end of the Nevua. As anyone who reads the Haftara from Yechezkel Chapter 22 can attest, no positive message can be found there. As a result, concludes Rav Lichtenstein, even the Chachamim would forbid reading that particular passage as a Haftara.
In a lengthy article in the Chief Rabbinate publication Shana B’Shana (5957) Rav Shmuel HaKohen Weingarten defends the practice of never reading the Haftara from Yechezkel chapter 22, even if it means reading the Haftara from Sefer Amos two weeks in a row. In fact he relates how in 5703 (1943) he went to daven in the Beit Knesset HaGra in Shaarei Chessed on Shabbat Parshat Kedoshim. He arrived a few minutes late, and was immediately called over by HaGaon Rav Moshe Charlap. R. Charlap had delayed beginning his own tefilla because he wanted to speak to someone who came in later and ask him to look for the regular Baal Koreh, who surprisingly had not come to davening. R. Charlap suspected that the reader had not come because he feared that he would be asked to read the Haftara which was critical of Yerushalayim. R. Charlap then asked the young (not yet Rav) Weingarten to find the Baal Koreh and assure him that the minhag in the Beit Knesset HaGra, and in all of Yerushalayim was not to read the Haftara from Yechezkel, but to instead read the Haftara from Sefer Amos twice.
In conclusion, despite the plethora of Chumashim (Koren is far from the only one!) that follow the custom that the Haftara for Acharei Mot is from Yechezkel Chapter 22, it would appear that I read the wrong Haftara. We should only read the Haftara from Yechezkel if we will also read the Haftara from Amos that year, and then the question of which Haftara is read with which Parsha boils down to Minhag. According to Minhag Yerushalayim (and in the view of Rav Lichtenstein, Minhag Eretz Yisrael) however, even if we will be reading the portion from Amos that year we should not read the section from Yechezkel, but we should reread the Haftara from Amos instead.
Now I know…