The “minor tractate” Soferim is one of our best sources for early liturgical practice. It is the oldest known source for multiple practices still followed today, such as the blessing for the haftarah. Such luminaries as the Vilna Gaon considered it a vital work. But some of its practices are… well, odd. There are customs in Tractate Soferim which are found nowhere else in classical rabbinics — blessings for the recitation of books in Writings other than the scrolls, a three-year cycle of Torah readings, and a custom to divide the scrolls in half when reading them. This service is constructed based on the descriptions and passages of Tractate Soferim, mostly following the Gra’s edition. In some ways it may be very familiar, especially to Ashkenazim, but in others it is a fascinating glimpse into a heretofore lost practice of Judaism. . . .
In all modern communities, the standard practice is that on the three Shabbatot before the Ninth of Av and the seven after it the standard haftarah is replaced. Before the Ninth of Av they are replaced with haftarot of rebuke, from Jeremiah and the opening of Isaiah, and after they are replaced with haftarot of consolation from the later parts of Isaiah. Rambam’s Mishneh Torah, though, preserves a very different custom, one where each one of those Torah portions has an associated haftarah, related not to the calendar but to the parashah itself. Here the editor has compiled a list of these haftarah readings, along with brief notes to explain their connection with the parashah. . . .
The argument that “statues preserve our heritage” is not one the halakhah tolerates, especially when the statues are celebrating the perpetrators of horrible atrocities. Here’s a service for those interested in fulfilling the Biblical commandment of destroying idolatrous statues. #BLM . . .
“Prayer for the Close of the Sabbath” is one of thirty prayers appearing in Rabbi Moritz Mayer’s collection of tehinot, Hours of Devotion (1866), of uncertain provenance and which he may have written. . . .