The Significance of Yom Teruah - Readings

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VII. Readings

The festival Torah cycle has the following readings:

Day 1:
Bereshit (Genesis) 21:1-34
Maftir: Bamidbar (Numbers) 29:1-6

Haftarah: 1 Samuel 1:1 - 2:10

The theme of the readings is "remembered". Sarah and Hannah will be remembered by HaShem. A Talmudic dictum[29] says that on Yom Teruah, Sarah, Rachel, and Hannah were "remembered".

Day 2:
Bereshit (Genesis) 22:1-24
Maftir: Bamidbar (Numbers) 29:1-6

Haftarah: Yiremyahu (Jeremiah) 31:1-19

The Akeida Yitzchak (the binding of Isaac) is the subject of this days Torah reading. This passage was selected to recall the faith of Abraham and Isaac during this episode. Ran adds that one of the reasons for blowing the shofar on this day is to recall the Akeidat Yitzchak at which a ram was sacrificed in place of Isaac.

The last verse of the Haftarah is the special theme for this day: repentance.

The Torah readings of Yom Teruah are Bereshit (Genesis) chapter 21 on the first day and Bereshit (Genesis) chapter 22 on the second day. The Hakhamim have associated the first day of the seventh month as the birthday of both Yitzchak and Shmuel. This association (of the root "z.k.r." and of the idea to remember) hint towards the choice of the first day's Torah and Haftarah reading (the first day's Torah reading describes the birth of Yitzchak and the Haftarah of the first day describes the birth of Shemuel and the prayer of Hannah (1 Samuel 1:1-2:10)).The Torah reading of the second day describes the binding of Yitzchak. The reason for the choice of this chapter is explained in the Talmud:

Rosh Hashanah 16a R. Abbahu said, "why is a ram's horn blown? The Holy One, Blessed be He, said: Blow the ram's horn in order that I will remember the binding of Yitzchak, son of Abraham and so that I will consider it as if you yourselves had bound yourselves to me.

The readings also show HaShem's mercy on Hagar, Yishmael and Yitzchak and also the idea of trying Abraham ("And HaShem tested Abraham" Gen.22:1), and his being found as a God-fearing person. An additional reason for the choice of the Haftarah for the first day is the fact that there are nine mentionings of HaShem's name in the prayer of Hannah. These correspond to the nine blessings contained in the Hazarah (repeat prayer) of Musaf on Rosh Hashanah. In addition the nature of the mentionings of HaShem's name in the prayer of Hanah are very appropriate and correspond to some of the ideas of the day. For example, HaShem is a God of Knowledge, HaShem kills and revives, HaShem makes poor and wealthy, the earth is HaShem's and God judges the ends of the earth. The Haftarah of the second day is Yiremyahu (Jeremiah) chapter 31. Rashi[30] explains the choice of this portion as based on the last verse of the Haftarah:

Yeremiyahu (Jeremiah) 31:19 Isn't Ephraim my precious son, a delightful child, as soon as I speak of him I surely remember him and ...I will surely have mercy upon him.

This is one of the verses recited in the "Zichronot" section of the Musaf (Additional) prayer. Additionally, it is likely that as Rosh Hashanah begins the period known as the ten days of repentance, the poignant confession of Ephraim found at the end of the Haftarah serves as a model for repentance and desire to connect again to HaShem. The prophet exclaims: "I have heard the wandering Ephraim: He has chastised me and I have learned my lesson, like an untamed calf, bring me back and I will return, because you are HaShem my God. Because I have returned and I have regretted, and after I was made to know, I clapped my hand to my thigh, I am ashamed and embarrassed because I bear the disgrace of my youth. "The heartfelt repentance displayed by these verses brings about HaShem's compassionate and merciful memory of his child Ephraim. The Haftarah thus models the type of wholehearted repentance necessary to bring about HaShem's compassionate acceptance of His children.