This important volume describes and analyzes each of the seventy-nine haphtaroth of the year, covering the Sabbath and the Festivals and Fast days for both Ashkenazim and Sephardim. Every week in the synagogue, Jews listen to a different haphtara (a selection from the Prophets) related in some way to the Torah reading that precedes it. These haphtaroth contain biblical passages of exceptional historical and literary merit but are usually glossed over as of little interest, especially as they contain many obscure terms and references. It is generally held that the haphtaroth were instituted as a substitute for the Torah readings during an early period of persecution under the Syrians/Greeks, but the author, Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg, shows this to be a questionable theory. After examining other alternatives, he demonstrates that the haphtara grew out of the early practice of adding a homiletic text after the Torah reading, and this in itself was based on the original public pronouncements of many of the Prophets themselves. The Haphtara Cycle: A Handbook to the Haphtaroth of the Jewish Year describes and analyzes each of the seventy-nine haphtaroth of the year, covering the Sabbath and the Festivals and Fast days for both Ashkenazim and Sephardim. The author gives the historical background to passages in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve (minor) Prophets, and also the earlier sections in Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. Rosenberg draws parallels from archaeology and extra-biblical sources and looks at the commentaries of the Talmud and the Midrash, medievalists like Rashi and Kimchi, and moderns such as Mendel Hirsch and Issachar Jacobson. This book throws new light on the passages of the many biblical works that we read each week in the synagogue but that we tend to ignore for lack of explanatory material. This deficiency has now been filled by a work that is both accessible and scholarly and should be readily available in every synagogue where the haphtara is read.
Stephen Gabriel Rosenberg is an architect specializing in synagogue work and archaeology, and has worked on several major digs in Israel, including Lachish, Shilo, and Ekron. He has yeshiva training and learned for some years in chavrutha with the late Rabbi Shmuel Sperber, and he also has a master's degree from the Institute of Archaeology in London. He has filled numerous communal posts and is at present Honorary Secretary of the Anglo-Israel Archaeology Society. He has lectured to the Spiro Institute in London and Bar-Ilan University in Israel, and to many seminars and synagogue groups on archaeology and the Bible. He has been published in several scholarly journals and conducts weekly classes in Talmud and Bible at the Western Marble Arch Synagogue in London. He is a great-great-grandson of two leading rabbis of Modern Orthodoxy, Samson Raphael Hirsch and Ezriel Hildesheimer, and has always lived as an orthodox Jew, but with an unorthodox interest in the historical and archaeological background of biblical and talmudic literature. He and his wife, Marion, live in London and two of their five children work in Israel as archaeologists.