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The Haftarah or Haftorah (Hebrew word; plural haftarot or haftorahs; "parting," "taking leave") is a text selected from the books of Nevi'im ("The Prophets") that is read publicly in the synagogue after the reading of the Torah on each Sabbath, as well as on Jewish festivals and fast days. The Haftarah usually has a thematic link to the Torah reading that precedes it. When the Haftarah is read in the synagogue it is sung with cantillation (special signs or marks in the Massoretic text of the Hebrew Bible which complement the letters and vowels points), and its related blessings are said before and after it.

No one knows for certain the origins of reading the Haftarah, but several theories have been put forth. The most common explanation, accepted by some traditional Jewish authorities is that in 168 B.C.E., when the Jews were under the rule of the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes, they were forbidden from reading the Torah and made do with a substitute. When they were again able to read the Pentateuch, they kept reading the Haftarah as well.

An alternative explanation, offered by Rabbis Reuven Margolies and Samson Raphael Hirsch, is that the Haftarah reading was instituted to fight the influence of those sects in Judaism that viewed the Jewish Bible as consisting only of the Pentateuch. But all offered explanations for the origin of reading the Haftarah have unanswered difficulties.

Certainly the Haftarah was read — perhaps not obligatorily or in all communities — as far back as circa C.E. 70: The Talmud mentions that a Haftarah was read in the presence of Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, who lived at that time. However, Rabbi Yosef Karo reports that for many years there were no set haftarot: each maftir (one reading the Haftarah) chose an appropriate passage from the Prophets (Nevi'im). Over time, certain choices became established in certain communities; nowadays one may not choose his own Haftarah, as that would run against accepted custom. But Rabbi Karo's explanation helps to explain why communities have varying customs regarding what to read as Haftorah.