The Halpern Judaica Collection: Tradition and Treasure | Part II

The Halpern Judaica Collection: Tradition and Treasure | Part II

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 208. Haftarah Scroll, Scribe: Joseph Bloch, Strasbourg, 1873.

Haftarah Scroll, Scribe: Joseph Bloch, Strasbourg, 1873

Lot Closed

December 20, 04:59 PM GMT


5,000 - 7,000 USD

Lot Details


Haftarah Scroll, Scribe: Joseph Bloch, Strasbourg, 1873

While its origins remain obscure, the practice of reading a haftarah (lection from the Prophets) to conclude the public Torah reading service in the synagogue dates back at least to the end of the Second Temple period. Rabbinic literature (see tMegillah 4:1 and bMegillah 31a) prescribes some, but not all, of the portions to be read, which is likely the reason for the differences in customs among the various rites down to the present day.

In antiquity, haftarot were read from parchment scrolls like the ones used during the Torah reading service. With the gradual adoption of the codex, many communities, particularly in Christian lands, switched over to this new book technology for reading the haftarot; some, however, maintained an ancient tradition according to which the lections were copied from the various books of the Prophets into a single parchment (sometimes paper) scroll. This sefer aftarta (at times referred to as a sifra de-aftarta), whose use was ultimately sanctioned after some controversy (see bGittin 60a), has remained popular among select Middle Eastern and Ashkenazic communities into modern times.

The earliest haftarah scrolls that have come down to us were discovered in the Cairo Genizah. Perhaps the first mention of the practice to write haftarot in scroll form in Germany specifically can be found in Rabbeinu Gershom ben Judah Me’or ha-Golah’s (ca. 960-1028) comments to bBava batra 13b, s.v. ella be-kerekh ehad. Over the following centuries, a long line of Ashkenazic rabbinic authorities discussed the sefer aftarta in their halakhic discourses, though its use seems, with time, to have become limited to Western German communities.

The present lot is a rare, dated and localized exemplar. A colophon, inscribed on parchment slips at the base of its wooden rollers, gives the name of the donors and the scribe: “The honorable Baruch Mayer of Wolfisheim, together with his wife Sarah, accepted upon themselves to write this book of haftarot and gave it to the synagogue on the Sabbath, Parashat shemot [5]633 [January 17-18, 1873]. I, the humble Joseph Bloch, ritual slaughterer and scribe of the holy community of Strasbourg, wrote it.” Given the proximity of Wolfisheim to Strasbourg in northeastern France, it makes sense that Bloch would have been commissioned to produce this scroll.

Physical Description

Scroll of 16+ membranes (17 1/2 in. x approx. 41 ft. 5 1/2 in.; 443 mm x approx. 12.61 m) made of parchment; written in Ashkenazic script in dark brown ink with two to four columns per full membrane (full membrane widths ranging from approx. 15 3/4 to 34 1/4 in.; 400 to 870 mm) (total: 61 1/2 columns) and forty to forty-one lines per column; horizontally and vertically ruled in hardpoint on the recto; justification of lines via dilation or contraction of final letters; complete Tiberian vocalization and accentuation of text throughout, with kerei inscribed in the margins and usually indicated via an asterisk over the relevant word; unvocalized rubrics at the start of new haftarot; some corrections in a later hand. Enlarged incipits; some letters flourished. Slight scattered staining and/or soiling; minor creasing; some ink fading and/or cracking; sinews between first two and final two membranes loose; final membrane (+) only partial, cut out to accommodate text that could not fit onto the previous membrane. Mounted on wooden rollers; colophon inscribed on parchment slips nailed to disks placed at base of rollers, partly abraded; wrapped in a cloth binder.


Nathan Fried, “The Hafṭaroth of T.-S. B 17, 25,” Textus 3 (1963): 128-129.

Nathan Fried, “Some Further Notes on Hafṭaroth Scrolls,” Textus 6 (1968): 118-126.

Benjamin Solomon Hamburger, Shorshei minhag ashkenaz, vol. 3 (Bnei Brak: Mekhon Moreshet Ashkenaz, 2002), 112-228.

Israel Yeivin, “A Palestinian Fragment of Hafṭaroth and Other MSS with Mixed Pointing,” Textus 3 (1963): 121-127. 

Shlomo Yosef Zevin (ed.), Entsiklopedyah talmudit le-inyanei halakhah, vol. 10 (Jerusalem: Entsiklopedyah Talmudit, 1995), cols. [1]-32, [701]-728.