I received a travel-diary for a man who was born in Huncovce (also known as Hunsdorf, once a famous yeshiva town, second only to Pressburg), Slovakia. He was born in 1851, presumably had some Torah training, but left in 1866 and made it to the USA. He wound up in San Francisco, CA. Yet, amazingly, in 1888, he made his way back to Huncovce, to visit family -- no mean feat!

He takes great pains to say he was honored with Maftir both there and the neighboring town of Kesmarok, and how much he donated, i.e., "paid" for this Maftir. Another published book (in German), by Rabbi Dr. Armin SCHNITZER, called Judische Kultur Bilder, printed in 1904, Vienna, has a paragraph that seems to indicate that getting a Maftir honor was something that became a sort of weekly-gossip-interest, perhaps to indicate who gave such-and-such amount of money.

With this long introduction, I'm assuming this man was no longer religious, since his diary indicates he was eating on trains, ships, towns, and traveling on Shabbat -- at least to get to his destination. He arrives in his hometown and with family goes to shul. Suddenly, he's given Maftir.

Here are my questions:

  1. Was the expectation that he would also read the Haftorah? It doesn't seem from his diary that he would have prepared for that.

  2. Or, at that period time, was Maftir, just another Aliyah, without having to read anything?

  3. If that were true, when did the honor to read Maftir actually imply reading the Haftorah as well?

  • 1
    When you say "reading haftorah" do you mean saying the brochos and having someone else read the navi itself?
    – Hahu Gavra
    Apr 29, 2012 at 14:57
  • I can't answer your question, but note that even today in many synagogues the maftir does not read the haftara (section of navi) himself. ¶ Related to "getting a Maftir honor was something...": judaism.stackexchange.com/q/5770.
    – msh210
    Apr 29, 2012 at 18:12
  • Many shuls today, and many more in past centuries, use a Klaf for the Haftarah, which in many cases requires a Ba'al Keriah, just like reading from the Torah.
    – Seth J
    Apr 30, 2012 at 1:09
  • You seem to assume that he couldn't have read the haftarah himself for some reason (his having been away so long?). I'm not sure that would have been a problem.
    – Avi
    Apr 30, 2012 at 9:10
  • In my humble experience, a person given the honor of Maftir, generally also said the brachos and read the navi section. I presumed this was the practice in at least, Orthodox services, and presumably the custom in that part of the world at that time, where the services were also Orthodox.
    – Madeleine
    Apr 30, 2012 at 16:03

1 Answer 1


Perhaps this answers my own question:

I managed to locate a phone number and just called long distance to a descendent of the Huncovce Horowitz family and asked him about this. My erroneous assumption was that the Haftorah had to be sung with the Haftorah trope, which often needs to be practiced some beforehand. But he assured me there are still many places where it can simply be read and there is no requirement that it be sung. So that would mean he was still quite capable of doing that. So much so, it didn't warrant him having to even comment on whether it was easy or not!

Thanks anyway to all who looked and left comments!

  • 1
    Many people read the Haftora from a printed book, so even if one would have to sing the haftorah, he may not have needed to prepare. Apr 30, 2012 at 21:43

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