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Chris -- 2018-04-11

#1 2008-09-24 11:59:15

From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2653

Halftorah << Haftarah

At Jewish Sabbath services the Torah (the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses) is read aloud. Over the course of a year of Sabbath services the whole Torah is recited. The Torah contains nearly 200 longish chapters, so the Torah readings take some time. The Sabbath readers also intone a smaller portion of the Hebrew Scriptures taken from the Nevi’im, the later history books and the prophets. This smaller reading is called the “Haftarah,” a Hebrew word meaning “parting” or “conclusion.” The Haftaroth readings for a given year only cover a part of the Haftarah. The selected passages typically pick up some theme from the longer Torah readings.

On the web we find about a hundred pages using the phrase “Halftorah” or “Half torah” in place of the word “Haftarah.” A couple of examples:

Blog comment: “This is an interesting discussion about Talmud – a centuries old way of Jewish learning. First read the Torah, the Half Torah, then the rest of the books leading up to the Talmud and argue your belief in what it says.” (

From the minutes of a church synod council: “ Pastor Richard B. Geib led the devotions, reading from Isaiah 9:6-7, a reading appointed for Christmas Eve. This reading is called the Half Torah, which in Hebrew usage is coupled with a longer reading, Exodus 18-20” ( … .10.07.pdf)

This substitution may be motivated by the fact that the Haftarah readings are a fraction of the size of the Torah readings. Or the switch may call attention to the fact that the Nevi’im readings do not have the same status of the Torah readings. The Halftorah/Haftarah confusion is quite common-several web pages mention the mixup. Here is one confession:

A Jewish blog: “At every Bar Mitzvah, the birthday boy reads two passages in Hebrew. One passage is taken from the Torah…and one from the Haftorah…. (I note, embarrassingly, that I was about 29 years old before I realized that it was “Haftorah” not “Halftorah.” I thought it was called “Half” to signify that it was less important than the Torah.)” ( … orkarea/3/)

Last edited by kem (2014-09-03 13:12:18)

Hatching new language, one eggcorn at a time.



#2 2008-09-24 14:07:54

From: Winchester Massachusetts
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 674

Re: Halftorah << Haftarah

This is an old joke as well as a pretty good eggcorn.

When I was 11 or 12 my friends and I used to say that if you weren’t prepared by your thirteenth birthday, you might get by reading just half the Torah. That was almost 50 years ago, and I’m sure it goes back much farther.



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