Today’s section presents a fuller picture of what passages are read on what holidays. It also includes the readings for the haftarah and it explains what sections of the Torah are read in the Diaspora where there are two days of the festival at the beginning and end of each holiday.
Some of these sections are pretty straightforward and do not require explanation. I have only explained those sections that I believe require explanation.
The only part here that requires explanation is R. Papa’s mnemonic to remember the readings for the intermediate days of Pesah.
M=Exodus 12:21-51 (משכו).
A=Exodus 22:24-23:19 (אם כסף תלוה)
P=Exodus 34:1-26 (פסל לך)
U=Numbers 9:1-14 (וידבר ה’ אל משה)
Abaye lists a different practice for Torah reading on Pesah and provides a way to remember the order as well. His order differs from that found in the Mishnah and R. Papa’s statement.
“the Ox”—Leviticus 22:26-23:44.
“With money”—Exodus 22:24-23:19.
“In the wilderness”—Numbers 9:1-14.
“The firstborn”—Deuteronomy 15:19-16:17.
By the very existence of all of these lists we can see that there was still a great degree of fluidity in Torah reading during the talmudic period.
The first opinion as to what we read on Shavuot accords with the Mishnah—from Deuteronomy 15-16. This emphasizes Shavuot as a harvest holiday. But at some time during the tannaitic period Shavuot came to be associated with the giving of the Torah. This is reflected in a shift in Torah readings to Exodus 19 concerned with the giving of the Torah on Sinai. We should remember that the Torah itself does not describe revelation as occurring on Shavuot.
The first opinion again accords with that stated in the Mishnah, according to which we read from the list of festivals in Leviticus 23.
And again the other opinion gives a historical reading for the holiday, connecting it with the birth of Isaac and his binding on the altar.
One interesting question is why we read the section about forbidden relationships on Minhah of Yom Kippur. One possibility is that these types of sins are either common or at least desired by many people and therefore on the Day of Atonement are most appropriate to be read.
Others note that there was a custom on that day for women to go out in the field dressed in white to try to attract men’s hand in marriage. This reading was enacted to warn them to keep it legit.
Today’s section continues with a comment related to one of the verses read on Yom Kippur. Then we continue on with the list of Torah and haftarah readings for holidays.
Yohanan’s midrash is tied to one of the verses read on Yom Kippur described in the end of yesterday’s section.
In his statement he mentions a word that I have translated as “humility.” This is probably the most common translation, but still not an exact one for “anavah.” “Anavah” as understood by the rabbis is a quality in which one’s value in the eyes of God is not dictated by one’s social standing, but rather by the concept that all people were created in the image of God. The “anav” is not a wealthy person who does not take pride in his wealth or standing. The “anav” is the persecuted poor person, the lowly of society. God is portrayed as the champion of the oppressed “anavim.” God uses God’s might to raise these people up.
These are the instances in which God is first presented as mighty and then His might is expressed in terms of championing the orphan, widow and oppressed poor.
The reading for Sukkot is from Leviticus, as was stated in the Mishnah. This same reading is used in the Diaspora for the second day of the festival.
The haftarah for the first day is from Zechariah’s vision of a battle at the end of days, at the end of which people will stream to Jerusalem to greet the Messiah.
The second day’s haftarah is about Solomon’s dedication of the Temple which took place on Sukkot.
The rest of the festival we read about the festival sacrifices as stated in the Mishnah.
On Shemini Atzeret (the last day of Sukkot) we read from Deuteronomy 15. On the second day we read the end of the Torah to celebrate Simchat Torah.
We should note that in Israel where there is only one day of Shemini Atzeret (it’s both Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah), we still keep the Babylonian custom of finishing the Torah every year. Therefore, we read the end of the Torah and not, as the baraita says, Deuteronomy 15.
As far as the haftarah, on Simchat Torah today we do not follow this Talmud, rather we read from the beginning of Joshua and not from I Kings. The Tosafot say that this is a takannah, an enactment of R. Hai Gaon from the 10th century, although others question the accuracy of this ascription. In any case, the purpose is clearly to begin reading the section of the Bible that immediately follows the conclusion of the Torah.
Huna lists the Torah reading for Shabbat Hol Hamoed on Pesah and Sukkot as well as the haftarot for both occasions.