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The reading from the prophets that is done on Shabbat morning, is called הפטרה. This seems to come from the root word פטר meaning "to exempt". What, if anything, is being "exempted"?

  • This question was asked and answered by the same person at around the same time. Was it asked only for the purpose of answering it? – Yehoshua Apr 24 '15 at 15:05
  • @Yehoshua - Yes it was. See M.Y.'s meta rules, that encourages doing this. – DanF Apr 30 '15 at 19:59
  • Fair enough, but I remember this being discouraged at some point? Was it ever? Maybe not? – Yehoshua May 1 '15 at 9:49
  • @Yehoshua I'm not much of a meta user to answer this fairly. I think IsaacMoses is the site "historian". – DanF May 1 '15 at 15:16
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See the bottom of p. 3 – p. 4 of this article:

Avudraha”m explains that it does come from the meaning “to exempt”. At the time when the Haftarah was first instituted (some theories state that it was in effect during the period of the first Temple), Jews were prohinited from reading the Torah. Thus, reading from the prophets exempted them from reading from the Torah.

Rabeinu Tam says it means “to open” as in the term פטר רחם – opening of the womb. In Maseches Sotah in the chapter entitled: V’Ailu Ne’Emarim; once the Sefer Torah is opened, we are prohibited from engaging in any conversations including those involving matters of Halacha. This practice was based on the verse: When the Torah was opened, the nation stood (this is interpreted not as “standing” but as “remaining silent.”) Once Kriyas Ha’Torah was completed, they were permitted to engage in conversations.

Another definition means "to fulfill" as in אין מפטירין אחר הפסח. After reading Haftarah, they fulfilled their obligation to recite Tefilat Shacaharit and Musaf began, then.

Encyclopedia Talmudit uses the term אשלמתא meaning “to complete”. The Haftarah is the completion of the Torah reading service.

  • Re: "Jews were prohinited from reading the Torah": By whom? – ruakh Apr 23 '15 at 23:58
  • @ruakh read the linked article – DanF Apr 24 '15 at 2:49
  • Where is this R"T? – Yehoshua Apr 24 '15 at 15:03
  • @Yehoshua - I wasn't able to locate anything further than what the article mentioned. Beurei Hatorah is generally thorough, but, I admit that for brevity, the author frequently does not completely cite every source. My neighborhood friend personally knows the site owner. Perhaps, I can find a way to contact him and inquire further on this. – DanF Apr 24 '15 at 20:19
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The encyclopedia talmudica quotes a Teshuvas Hageonim which says the reason it is called הפטרה because during the Krias Hatorah it is forbidden to talk, but when we read the haftorah we are "released" - פטר from the prohibition. Thus the reason for the name.

  • This repeats part of DanF's answer, but citing an earlier source, so +1. – msh210 Apr 24 '15 at 16:25
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Wikipedia explains that the name comes from the fact that during the time when one was not allowed to read from the Torah they read the Haftora instead and thus were Patur from reading the Torah.

מקור קריאת ההפטרה, מובא ב"אבודרהם" (בסדר שחרית של שבת, ובלבוש ובב"ח או"ח ס' רפ"ד וב"משנה ברורה" שם) שבאחת התקופות גזרו האויבים שאסור לקרוא בתורה. וכן היא הדעה הרווחת, שמסורת זו הונהגה לאחר שנגזר על היהודים שלא יקראו בתורה בימי השלטון הסלאוקי ביהודה. בעקבות כך הנהיגו היהודים את ההפטרה כתחליף לקריאה בתורה. זהו, ככל הנראה, מקור שמה - השורש פט"ר - כלומר, שחרור מחובה. גם כאשר בוטלו הגזרות, נשמר הנוהג לקרוא בהפטרה

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