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Which Haftarah is read with the least frequency?

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I think this may be off-topic because it's a riddle question – Shmuel Brin Jan 18 '15 at 21:33
up vote 18 down vote accepted

Going through all of the possibilities (already mentioned, and that I can think of) mathematically, using the data on frequency of year types provided on Remy Landau's page, and the tables of kevios in Jewish Chrononomy, by Yehudah (Leo) Levi:

  • Miketz: usually that's Shabbos Chanukah. The exceptions are the year types זחא (regular) and זחג (leap). These account for 10.13% of all years.

  • Second Shabbos of Chanukah (Chanoch's answer): this occurs in years of type זשג (regular) and זשה (leap). These account for 18.44% of years.

  • Mishpatim: is Shabbos Shekalim in all regular years except השא, Shabbos Rosh Chodesh in זחג (leap), and Machar Chodesh in זשה and בחה (also both leap). The remaining year types, when its regular haftarah is read, account for 23.83% of years.

  • Vayakhel: in regular years it's almost always combined with Pekudei (and in the remaining one, השא, it's Parshas Hachodesh). In leap years, it's usually Parshas Shekalim, except in years of type החא and השג (this year is the latter). These account for 10.53% of years.

    [The Ashkenazic custom is that the haftarah for Vayakhel is the same as that for the second Shabbos of Chanukah, I Kings 7:40-50. Since both can never occur in the same year, this portion is read, according to that custom, in 10.53% + 18.44% = 28.97% of years. However, the Sephardic (and Chabad) custom is that the haftarah for Vayakhel is I Kings 7:13-26.]

  • Pekudei: in all regular years it's either Parshas Parah (הכז) or Hachodesh (all of the rest of them). In leap years of types החא and השג it's Parshas Shekalim. The rest of them, then (when its haftarah is read), account for 26.32% of years.

  • Tzav (msh210's answer): This assumes the custom of reading the special haftarah of Shabbos Hagadol, and there are many variant customs about that. [Some always read it, others never do, still others (including Chabad) read it only when it coincides with Erev Pesach, and I believe the Gra's minhag was exactly the other way around - to read it only when it doesn't coincide with Erev Pesach.] But assuming the first custom, then Tzav's own haftarah is never read in regular years; in leap years it can be Parshas Parah (זחג, זשה, בחה), or Zachor (השג), and in Jerusalem it can be Purim (החא). The remaining year types, when it would be read, are 9.99% of years (Jerusalem) or 13.86% (everywhere else).

  • Tazria (Shalom's first answer): in regular years it's always combined with Metzora. In leap years it's Parshas Hachodesh in all except זחג, זשה, בחה. So this haftarah is read in 16.33% of years.

  • Kedoshim (Shalom's second answer): This assumes that indeed we read Acharei's rather than Kedoshim's when they're combined. In regular years this is always true. In leap years, Kedoshim is Shabbos Rosh Chodesh in זשה and בחה. In Israel only, it's Machar Chodesh in בשז and גכז. So it would be read in 16.33% of years in Israel, and 26.32% of years outside it.

  • Pinchas: outside of Israel it's read only in leap years of type החא and השג, so the frequency is 10.53%. In Israel it is also read in leap years of type בשז and גכז, and so the frequency is 20.51%.

Any others that I've missed?

So far it looks like the rarest one would be Tzav's, assuming Jerusalem and the minhag to always read the special haftarah for Shabbos Hagadol. Otherwise, the rarest haftarah would be Miketz's.

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I had guessed 2nd shabbos of chanukah, but this list is great! Too bad about Miketz, since the story of Shlomo and the baby is one of my favorites, and probably one of the best known stories in the Bible. (maybe it doesn't need any more pirsumei) – Jeremy Dec 2 '10 at 15:31
    
Has anybody double-checked @Alex's work? ;-P – Seth J Jul 15 '11 at 16:57
    
Someone on the mesorah listserv at aishdas.org suggested that the haftara for K'doshim is rarer than indicated here according to those customs that read it only when the parasha is nifredes and neither it nor Achare is a special week. (If Achare is a special week according to this custom, apparently, its haftara is read for K'doshim.) He claimed there that K'doshim's is then rarer than Miketz's. Anyone want to run the numbers? – msh210 Jul 15 '11 at 21:47
1  
@msh210: okay, I'll take the liberty of assuming that according to those customs, Shabbos Hagadol always has a special haftarah. In that case, the only time when your criteria would be met would be in a year of type זחג, which is 5.80% of years - indeed much rarer than Miketz's. (If they read the special haftarah for Shabbos Hagadol only when it's Erev Pesach, then you have to add also השג, and then the frequency is 12.46%. Conversely, if they follow the Gra and read it only when it's not Erev Pesach, then add instead החא, and the frequency is 9.67% - just slightly less than Miketz's.) – Alex Jul 17 '11 at 3:26
    
Thank you, Alex, for the calculation and followup. – msh210 Jul 17 '11 at 4:37

Considering that the questioner is asking in Kislev, I'd bet it's the haftarah for the second Shabbat of Chanukah.

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I believe Tazria alone (the story of Na'aman) is quite rare; very often it's either combined with Metzora (and we read the subsequent story of the four lepers), or some special week (HaGadol, HaChodesh, or the like).

Kedoshim's alone ("go tell Jerusalem about all its abominable acts") is also quite rare; when there's combined Acharei-Kedoshim, many communities break the usual rule (to use the second parsha's haftorah) and instead read that of Acharei. Even when separate, often Kedoshim winds up on some other special haftorah, and in the rare event that it wouldn't, Rabbi Soloveichik is quoted as saying you read the Acharei haftorah two weeks in a row! (Which I suppose makes it a "closet Haftorah.") We don't like going around talking about Jerusalem's abominations ...

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Sephardim (and Chabad) go still further: the haftarah for Kedoshim is not Ezek. 22 but 20:2-20, which is not quite as harsh a condemnation. (Though it's still relatively rare.) – Alex Jul 17 '11 at 3:32
    
Tazria, when read separately and not Hachodesh, is always a regular Shabbat, and will be read on 3rd or 5th Nisan. When 3rd Nisan is Shabbat in a leap year Tazria is always its sedra. 5th Nisan can be Metzora though. In Israel there are 5 possible haftarot that can be read on Parshat Tazria, a record. – CashCow Nov 10 '15 at 11:54

I suspect it may be Tzav's, since Tzav usually coincides with the week of one of the many special haftaros that we read around that time of year. (I've also heard that the most rarely read haftara is Tzav's, but I don't remember hearing it from a reliable source.)

If it is Tzav's, that's pretty ironic, since Tzav's is one of the few haftaros mentioned in the g'mara.

A computer analysis of the 247 years and the haftaros read in each year will quickly yield an accurate result, however.

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4  
Technically you'd need to consider 689472 years, because the kevios don't repeat precisely after 247 (see discussion in Pri Chadash to Orach Chaim 428, and mathematical details at Remy Landau's site). – Alex Nov 9 '10 at 20:08
    
Tzav's haftarah will be read everywhere this year. Read in 13 month years when Purim is a Thursday so Tzav is read on 16 Adar II, Vayikra read 9 Adar II with Zachor, Shmini 23 Adar with Para, Tazria 1 Nisan with Hachodesh and Rosh Chodesh, Metzora 8 Nisan (Hagadol) and then it differs after Pesach in Israel all the way to Matot-Masei. (read separately there). – CashCow Feb 24 at 10:48

Shalom's 2nd answer, Kedoshim, is the correct answer according to the minhag that most Ashkenaz minyanim follow, and appears to be the case with the Sefardic custom too except that it is a different haftarah that is rarely read for them.

The prevailing Ashkenzaic custom is to always recite the portion from Amos on at least one week. Yechezkel, Chapter 22, is listed as the haftarah for "kedoshim".

However when Acharei and Kedoshim are recited together, the haftarah for Acharei (Amos) is read. This counts for all 12-month years.

Now let's look at 13 month years: - If Pesach runs Shabbat to Shabbat (like it did this year) then the Shabbat after Pesach will be Acharei and the one after that will be Kedoshim, and dependent on whether you are in Israel or not, the first or second of these will be 29th Nisan and you will read Machar Chodesh. On the other one, regardless of the sedra, you read from Amos. (In my community we are outside Israel and read Amos with Kedoshim).

  • If Pesach is Thursday to Thursday then Kedoshim is read on Rosh Chodesh, with that haftarah.

  • If Rosh Hashanah was on a Thursday the previous year then (in most communities) Acharei ends up before Pesach and is Shabbat Hagadol. The haftara read for Kedoshim is from Amos.

That leaves only one type of year. When Rosh Hashanah was a Shabbat and the year is deficient so Pesach begins on a Tuesday. Then you read Acharei on 26th Nisan and Kedoshim on 3rd Iyar with the haftara from Yechezkel.

That ends up about 5.8% of the time using the Remy Landau's chart (see other answer). In the last 50 years it has been read 3 times, then last time was 5757 (1997) and the next time will be 5784 (2024).

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