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In the old Yerushalmi Torah reading tradition (the triennial cycle), when special days fell on Shabbat, the regular Shabbat reading was interrupted: the Shabbat morning reading consists only of the reading for Rosh Hodesh, Hanukkah, etc. See, for example, Yerushalmi Megillah 3:5 (= Vilna 25b; for my additions, see Korban HaEdah ad loc, and R. Goren and R. Ginzberg on the parallel yBrachot 4:1):

ירמיה ספרא שאל לרב ירמיה ר"ח שחל להיות בשבת במה קורין א"ל קורין בר"ח א"ר חלבו קומי ר' אימי מתניתא אמרה כן לכל מפסיקין לראשי חדשים לחנוכה ולפורים

Yirmiyah the Sofer asked R. Yirmiyah: On Shabbat Rosh Hodesh, what do we read [in the main Torah reading]? He replied: [We read] about Rosh Hodesh. R. Helbo said before R. Immi: The Mishnah agrees: "They interrupt [the regular order] for anything: for Rosh Hodesh, for Hanukkah, for Purim, for fasts, for Ma'amadot, and for Yom HaKippurim." (mishnah Megillah 3:4).

Additionally, the practice in Tannaitic times was that only the first Torah reader said a pre-bracha and that only the last reader said a post-bracha (see Megillah 4:1). However, some specific portions of Torah reading require their own brachot (perhaps not the same ones as the brachot mentioned above). For example, in Yerushalmi Megillah 3:7 (= Vilna 26b, also Soferim 12:4, p. 225 ed. Higer), we read the following:

ר' יוסה בי רבי בון תמנתי פסוקיא אחריא דמשנה תורה טעונין ברכה לפניהן ולאחריהן בלא כך אין הפותח והחותם בתורה מברך לפניה ולאחריה לכן צריכה ראש חודש שחל להיות בשבת

R. Yose ben R. Bun [said]: the last eight verses of Deuteronomy require a bracha before and after. Without this [statement], doesn't the first and last reader of Torah make a bracha before and after? But this [statement] is necessary for Rosh Hodesh that falls on Shabbat.

I understand the question on R. Yose ben R. Bun to be asking about the necessity to state the requirement for a post-bracha (since the person reading these verses will necessarily be the last reader, and so automatically will require a post-bracha; see the Korban HaEdah). However, I don't understand the resolution of this gemara. Some explanations I've read:

  • Some commentaries explain that the case is reading the Rosh Hodesh reading as aliyah 7 after reading the last eight verses of the Torah in aliyah 6. One needs to make an after-bracha after aliyah 6, even though this isn't the last reader. But this is unsatisfactory, since it's in contradiction to (the way I understand) the triennial cycle (R. Kanievsky explains this way, and concludes that this gemara disagrees with the rest of the Yerushalmi). This explanation would be more satisfactory if there were other sections of the Yerushalmi that also taught this way.

  • Heinrich Guggenheimer explains that the Rosh Hodesh reading (Numbers 28:11-15) had to be read seven times on Shabbat (explaining mishnah Megillah 3:4 as we have above, and since having 5 verses, it can't be split). He says: "Since starting and finishing readers read the same text, it remains questionable why they should differ in their benedictions". It isn't clear to me what Guggenheimer is saying: is his conclusion that in fact all seven readers say both brachot, since they all read the same thing? Or that in spite of it being "questionable", still only the first and last reader say one bracha each? And how does this relate to the original question about the last eight verses of the Torah?

Can anyone explain this gemara, either with a separate explanation than the above two, or explaining one/both of the above explanations in a more satisfactory way?

  • I don't know if this means anything, but it's interesting that right before the Rosh Chodesh reading you have קח לך את יהושע בן נון, which connects to the last 8 verses ויהשע בן נון מלא רוח חכמה. Add in the Midrash פני משה כחמה פני יהושע כלבנה and there's a more direct connection to R"Ch. Maybe they picked up on this connection and read an extended part of [what we call] Pinchas + the last 8 verses. – Heshy Feb 5 at 17:29
  • Could it be that "מפסיקין" just means that, like the current practice, the continuous reading of the Torah is interrupted by the special day portion, but the regular weekly portion is still said first? (Is there another text that more explicitly indicates that they did not say the weekly portion on special days?) – Loewian Feb 5 at 19:12
  • Also, is the reason the additional brachot are required b/c the Yerushalmi follows the view that the last verses of the Torah were written by Joshua and therefore have a lesser sanctity? – Loewian Feb 5 at 19:13
  • @Loewian Some commentators certainly believed that it was talking about the Haftarah, but the arguments the other way are much more convincing (as well as the evidence from Soferim and other places). I don't know off-hand of an explicit source, but it seems to be the assumption underlying all of the discussion in the Yerushalmi and other related sources. For example, everyone agrees that on the 4 Parashiyot, the regular reading was omitted. – magicker72 Feb 5 at 19:48
  • @Loewian Bavli Megilla 30b has two opinions if mafsikin means you return the next week to the regularly scheduled parsha or haftara – Double AA Feb 5 at 19:49
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Ezra Fleischer wrote an article in Tarbiz 73:1 entitled Remarks Concerning the Triennial Cycle of the Torah Reading in Eretz Israel. On page 111 (29 of his article), he discusses the question of the Eretz Yisrael practice of Torah reading on Shabbat Rosh Hodesh. His conclusion is that although the very early practice (Practice A) was to interrupt the regular Torah reading on Shabbat Rosh Hodesh (as in the mishna and the first Yerushalmi paragraph in the OP), this was discontinued very early (giving practice B, in the second paragraph in the OP). He posits that reading and rereading the same short and impersonal (סתמית) Rosh Hodesh Torah reading seven times was a great difficulty on congregations, and that it was very quickly discontinued (באִבו). He proves this from several sources:

  • Tosefta Megillah 3:1-2 (up to וכן בפורים), that omits Rosh Hodesh from the list in 3:2. He mentions that R. Lieberman in his Tosefta Kifshuta (ad loc) suggests that the author of the Tosefta already had Practice B. [Although the Tosefta we have is often a Babylonian recension, —M72] Fleischer shows by reference to the list in 3:2 that the Tosefta is also dealing with a triennial cycle.

  • The Yerushalmi Megillah 3:7 paragraph in the OP, which R. Lieberman cites as evidence for his supposition (supporting R. Kanievsky's position that the gemara disagrees with the mishna).

  • A qedushata of the Qaliri (6th/7th century) for Shabbat Rosh Hodesh that references two readings for Rosh Hodesh. It includes the lines פותחים בעניין ומשלימים בו בחודש and

  • The Pesiqta of Rav Kahana has no drasha for Shabbat Rosh Hodesh, and in Pesikta Rabbati, the drasha for Rosh Hodesh is based around the haftara, not the Torah reading.

In support of shifting from Practice A to B, he notes that on Shabbat Rosh Hodesh of Hanukka, HaHodesh, Sheqalim, there would be no choice but for the reading to be both Rosh Hodesh and the reading of the day.

Thus, it seems that there's no contradiction in Yerushalmi sections in the OP, but that they represent distinct practices.

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