Rosh Hodesh Av
(Jeremiah 2:4-28; 3:4; 4:1-2)
August 2, 2008
The second special Shabbat which precedes Tisha b\’Av coincides this year with Rosh Hodesh. This situation presented the tradition with an interesting conflict .On such occasions, where there is a conflict over which special haftarah to read (the one concerning the period before Tisha b\’Av or the special haftarah for Shabbat Rosh Hodesh), which haftarah is to be read?
The Talmud recounts the following opinion on this situation: \”Said Rav Huna: When Rosh Hodesh Av coincides with Shabbat, one read for the haftarah – Your new moons and your festivals fill me with loathing, they have become a burden for me.\” (Isaiah 1:14)\” The Talmud goes on to examine the meaning of the words in this verse. It asks: \”What does this verse mean when it says \’they have become a burden for me? The Holy One Blessed be He says: \’It is not enough for Israel that they sin before Me, but they also force Me to consider which terrible decrees I should bring upon them.\” (Megillah 31b) Rabbi Shmuel Eliezer Edels (17th century Poland) interprets this to mean that since the children of Israel fast in order to offset their iniquities, they place an added burden on God when He must bring upon them His stern decrees.
The haftarah containing this verse, however, is not read in our rites today until the Shabbat immediately preceding Tisha b\’Av. The sages of medieval France noted that this was not the haftarah which was read in their synagogues and consequently not the haftarah that we read today on this Shabbat. This is one of the interesting occasions when the Babylonian tradition defers to the tradition of Eretz Yisrael as it is found in the midrash Pesikta d\’Rav Kahana which records that on this Shabbat we read from the second chapter of Jeremiah. The Tosafot (12-13th century France) record: \”We do not read this haftarah, but rather read the second chapter of Jeremiah, and then read the first chapter of Isaiah on the Shabbat preceding Tisha b\’Av since we follow the Pesikta, which has us read three haftarot of desolation before Tisha b\’Av, and seven haftarot of consolation after Tisha b\’Av increasing the consolation each week.\” (Tosafot Megillah 31b)
How did it come to be that Jews who normally follow the rites of the Babylonian tradition all of a sudden opt for the traditions of Eretz Yisrael? This tells us something of the evolution of the Jewish tradition once Jews left the two main centers of Jewish learning, Israel and Babylonia. The Jews of Eretz Yisrael, who originally migrated to Italy and up through Italy into France and Germany, originally carried with them the customs of the land of Israel, while the Jews of Babylonia, who migrated to Spain and North Africa, carried with them the customs of Babylonia. This meant that the original custom of Ashkenazi Jews came from Israel. Later on when the Babylonian Talmud made inroads into Europe and its rulings became decisive for all of Jewry, only a few customs remained according to the earlier Eretz Yisrael tradition. So this week\’s haftarah offers of a little window into the evolution of our tradition.
This study piece is offered as a service of the United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva. It is prepared by Rabbi Mordechai (Mitchell) Silverstein, senior lecturer in Talmud and Midrash at the Conservative Yeshiva. He is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
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