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Usually, a special Haftarah (meaning one that pre-empts the regular haftarah designated for the weekly parsha) is said on a Shabbat that has a holiday such as Chanukah, and Shabbat Rosh Hodesh. (Shabbat Hagadol MAY be an exception, though as I understand, it commemorates the 10th Nisan when the Pesach sacrifice was first taken and guarded for 4 days. Please feel free to correct / edit.)

Machar Chodesh is a special haftarah that is recited whenever the first day of Rosh Hodesh is on Sunday. (Note that I am pointing out 1st day Rosh Hodesh, which may not necessarily be the 1st day of the new month. I'm stating this because the first verse of the haftarah has the term Machar Chodesh which means, "tomorrow, is the New Moon", i.e. - the 1st of the month.)

Why is there a special haftarah designated for such a Shabbat when the occasion occurs on the next day, and in the case of a Sunday / Monday "Rosh Hodesh", the date is actually 2 days away.

Note: - Other "special" Shabatot such as Shabbat Parah require a special maftir. Every occasion that has a special maftir has a special haftarah as well. (seems to indicate a general rule that the maftir and haftarah are "related" somehow?) Shabbat Hazon, e.g. does not pre-empt the regular weekly haftarah.

  • etzion.org.il/he/… – Gershon Gold Apr 23 '15 at 18:41
  • "Shabbat Hazon, e.g. does not pre-empt the regular weekly haftarah." Actually, it does. Just it has preempted it for so long that most people have forgotten it exists. Sad :( – Double AA Apr 23 '15 at 21:30
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. – DanF Apr 24 '15 at 14:06
  • When Rosh Chodesh is Shabbat-Sunday then Haftarah of Rosh Chodesh supercedes Machar Chodesh. Shekalim and Hachodesh also do as well. Also when Rosh Chodesh Ellul is Sunday-Monday you do not read Machar CHodesh. – CashCow Apr 28 '15 at 15:55
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    @YehudaW, The proper place to ask is on Meta. – Yishai May 7 '15 at 14:04
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This answer is essentially a summary of a shiur by Rav Moshe Lichtenstein שליט"א, (of Yeshivat Har Etzion) that I found (by Googling) here.

Firstly, the source of this Haftara - Machar Chodesh - is from the Gemara in Megila 31a:

ראש חדש שחל להיות בשבת מפטירין והיה מדי חדש בחדשו חל להיות באחד בשבת מאתמול מפטירין ויאמר לו יהונתן מחר חדש

From the criteria of this Haftara - i.e. tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh - it seems that the Haftarot not only connect to the day or weekly Parsha, but to the Jewish life cycle in general.

So we're announcing that we're at the end of the month and it's time to prepare for the new month.

This Haftara not only announces this with its opening words, but also with its message; Jonathan and David renewing the commitment to each other. This should be a reminder that Rosh Chodesh is a time for Teshuva and renewing our commitment to Torah & Mitzvot.

  • Another approach - based on the moon's renewal and Moshiach (that I didn't understand well enough to rewrite) can be found at yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/777953/… – Danny Schoemann May 12 '15 at 11:12
  • Why don't we do this when Rosh Chodesh on Monday? – user6591 May 12 '15 at 11:14
  • @user6591 - probably because of "what isn't done immediately never gets done" syndrome. Pointless reminding somebody on Shabbat to do something on Sunday afternoon. – Danny Schoemann May 12 '15 at 11:23
  • Thank you for doing this research. The Gemarah ref. is useful, but, own its own doesn't state why. I'll try to view R. Lichtesntein's article later. I'm not completely following what you mean in your follow-up comment when you say what isn't done immediately never gets done" syndrome. Is this a halachic precept that is used anywhere? – DanF May 12 '15 at 15:15

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