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Steinsaltz

When the New Moon of Av occurs on Shabbat, they read as the haftara the portion that includes the verse “Your New Moons and your Festivals, My soul hated; they were a burden to Me” (Isaiah 1:14). The Gemara asks: What is the meaning of: “They were a burden to Me”? The Gemara explains: The Holy One, Blessed be He, said: It is not enough for the Jewish people that they sin before Me, but in addition, they burden Me to reconsider what harsh decree I shall bring upon them, for they are petitioning Me to annul those decrees.

The Gemara asks: On the Ninth of Av itself, what do we read as the haftara? Rav said: The portion containing the verse “How did the faithful city become a harlot?” (Isaiah 1:21). The Gemara asks: What Torah portion do they read? It is taught in a baraita that others say: They read the portion containing the verse “But if you will not hearken to me” (Leviticus 26:14). Rabbi Natan bar Yosef said: They read the portion containing the verse: “How long will this people provoke me?” (Numbers 14:11). And some say: They read the portion containing the verse: “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation?” (Numbers 14:27). The Gemara comments that Abaye said: Nowadays, everyone is accustomed to read the portion of “When you shall beget children” (Deuteronomy 4:25–40), and they read as the haftara the portion of “I will utterly consume them” (Jeremiah 8:13–9:23).

§ The mishna states: In the non-priestly watches they read the act of Creation. The Gemara asks: From where are these matters derived, i.e., why do they read the account of Creation? Rabbi Ami said: To allude to the fact that were it not for the non-priestly watches, heaven and earth would not endure, as it is stated: “Were it not for My covenant day and night, I would not have set the statutes of heaven and earth” (Jeremiah 33:25). God’s covenant is referring to the offerings sacrificed in the Temple, which sustain the world.

And with regard to Abraham it is written: “And he said, O Lord God, by what shall I know that I shall inherit it?” (Genesis 15:8). Abraham said before the Holy One, Blessed be He: Master of the Universe, perhaps, Heaven forbid, the Jewish people will sin before You, and You will do to them as You did to the generation of the Flood and as You did to the generation of the Dispersion, i.e., You will completely destroy them? God said to him: No, I will not do that.

Abraham then said before Him: Master of the Universe: “By what shall I know this?” God said to him: “Take Me a heifer of three years old” (Genesis 15:9). With this, God intimated to Abraham that even if his descendants will sin, they will be able to achieve atonement through sacrificing offerings. Abraham said before Him: Master of the Universe, this works out well when the Temple is standing and offerings can be brought to achieve atonement, but when the Temple will no longer be standing, what will become of them? God said to him: I have already established for them the order of offerings, i.e., the verses of the Torah pertaining to the halakhot of the offerings. Whenever they read those portions, I will deem it as if they sacrificed an offering before Me, and I will pardon them for all of their iniquities.

§ The mishna states: On fast days the congregation reads the portion of blessings and curses (Leviticus, chapter 16), and one may not interrupt the reading of the curses by having two different people read them. Rather, one person reads all of them. The Gemara asks: From where are these matters derived? Why does one not interrupt the reading of the curses? Rabbi Ḥiyya bar Gamda said that Rabbi Asi said: For the verse states: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be weary of His correction” (Proverbs 3:11). If one makes a break in the middle of the curses, it appears as if he loathes rebuke.

Reish Lakish said a different answer: It is because one does not say a blessing over a calamity. If a second person were to begin to read in the middle of the portion of the curses, the blessing upon his reading would be considered a blessing over a calamity. Rather, what does one do? It is taught in a baraita: When one begins the reading, one begins with the verse before the curses, and when one concludes the reading, one concludes with the verse after them. In this way, neither the blessing before the reading nor after it relates directly to verses of calamity.

Abaye said: They taught this only with regard to the curses that are recorded in Leviticus, but with regard to the curses that are recorded in Deuteronomy, one may interrupt them by having two different people read them. What is the reason for this distinction? These curses in Leviticus are stated in the plural, and Moses pronounced them from the mouth of the Almighty. As such, they are more severe. However, these curses in Deuteronomy are stated in the singular, and Moses said them on his own, like the rest of the book of Deuteronomy. They are therefore less harsh and may be interrupted.

It was related that Levi bar Buti was once reading the portion of the curses before Rav Huna, and he was stammering in his reading, as it was difficult for him to utter such harsh pronouncements. Rav Huna said to him: If you wish, you may stop where you are and a different reader will continue, for they taught one may not have two people read the curses only with regard to the curses that are recorded in Leviticus. But with regard to the curses that are recorded in Deuteronomy, one may interrupt them by having two different people read them.

It is taught in a baraita: Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar said: Ezra enacted for the Jewish people that they should read the portion of the curses that are recorded in Leviticus before Shavuot and the portion of the curses that are recorded in Deuteronomy before Rosh HaShana. The Gemara asks: What is the reason for this? Abaye said, and some say that it was Reish Lakish who said: In order that the year may conclude together with its curses, and the new year may begin without the ominous reading of the curses.

The Gemara asks: Granted, with regard to the curses that are recorded in Deuteronomy, there is relevance to the reason: In order that the year may conclude together with its curses, for Rosh HaShana is clearly the beginning of a new year. However, with regard to the curses that are recorded in Leviticus, what relevance does that reason have? Is that to say Shavuot is a new year? The Gemara answers: Yes, indeed, Shavuot is also a new year, as we learned in a mishna (Rosh HaShana 16a): And on Shavuot, divine judgment is made concerning the fruit of the trees, which indicates that Shavuot also has the status of a new year.

It is taught in a baraita: Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar says: If old men say to you: Demolish, and children say to you: Build, then demolish and do not build, because the demolishing of old men is ultimately as constructive as building, despite the fact that it appears destructive, and the building of children is as destructive as demolishing. An indication of this matter is Rehoboam, son of Solomon. He ignored the advice of the Elders and did not lower himself before his people, which ultimately led to the people rebelling against him.

The Sages taught in a baraita: With regard to the place in the Torah where the congregation concludes the reading on Shabbat morning, it is from there that they continue to read in the afternoon service on Shabbat. Where they conclude in the afternoon service on Shabbat, from there they continue to read on Monday morning. Where they conclude on Monday, from there they continue to read on Thursday morning. Where they conclude on Thursday, from there they continue to read on the coming Shabbat. This is the statement of Rabbi Meir. Rabbi Yehuda says: With regard to the place in the Torah where they conclude the reading on Shabbat morning, it is from there that they continue to read in the afternoon service on Shabbat. And from that same place they continue to read on Monday morning, and on Thursday morning, and on the coming Shabbat.

The Gemara notes that Rabbi Zeira said: The halakha is that with regard to the place where they conclude the reading on Shabbat morning, it is from there that they continue to read in the afternoon service on Shabbat. And from that same place they continue to read on Monday morning, and on Thursday morning, and on the coming Shabbat. The Gemara asks: If so, let him simply say: The halakha is in accordance with the opinion of Rabbi Yehuda. Why did he have to explicitly state the whole halakha?

Talmud - Bavli - The William Davidson digital edition of the Koren No=C3=A9 Talmud
with commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz Even-Israel (CC-BY-NC 4.0)
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