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MAFṬIR:

  • 1. The reader of the concluding portion of the Pentateuchal section on Sabbaths and holy days in the synagogue. On regular Sabbaths that portion forms a part of the section read by the seventh reader, and is repeated by the one appointed to read the Hafṭarah. For special Sabbaths and holy days the mafṭir reads a separate Pentateuchal portion bearing on the occasion. Such was the custom established by Rashi and his teachers. But the general custom of the congregations in France was that the mafṭir on such occasions recited the last portion of the regular lesson besides reading the special one (Meg. 23a). All congregations have since accepted the decision of Rashi. The mafṭir is not counted in the quorum of readers, which must not be less than seven on Sabbaths or than five on holy days. Since the mafṭir repeats but a few sentences and is not counted in the necessary quorum, it was held that he received somewhat less honor than the other readers, and therefore he was compensated in Talmudic times by being granted the privilege of reading the "Shema'" and the "'Amidah" on the same day (Meg. iv. 6, 24a).
  • 2. The reader of the Hafṭarah. He should not begin to read the Hafṭarah unless he has previously read a portion of the Torah (Meg. 23a); nor should he read the Hafṭarah until the scroll is rolled up (Soṭah 39b). The text of the Hafṭarah must not be less than twenty-one verses in the books of the Prophets, three verses being thus allowed for each of the seven readers of the Torah (Meg. 23a). The benedictions recited by the mafṭir (other than the two for the reading of the Pentateuchal portion) are five—one before and four after the Hafṭarah; they are mentioned in Soferim xiii. 9. The first benediction begins with "Praised be the Lord, . . . who chose goodly prophets and approved their words spoken in truth"; the end of the second benediction reads, "who is faithful in all His words"; the third ends with "who is building Jerusalem"; the fourth with "the shield of David"; the fifth with "who sanctified the Sabbath" (or "the holy days"). Maimonides copied the older version reading "building Jerusalem"; but R. Abraham ben David amends this to "who maketh Zion joyful through her children," which version has since been retained.The reading of the Hafṭarah is generally reserved for a bar miẓwah, or for a bridegroom on the Sabbath before his marriage. On Shebu'ot, after the first benediction and before the Hafṭarah, the mafṭir recites a poem beginning "Yeẓib pitgam."
  • 3. Sometimes, the usher or sexton whose duty it was to watch at the conclusion of the prayer-service at the synagogue and to gather and usher in the students in the bet ha-midrash. 'Awira Shammai was a mafṭir for the yeshibah of the "great teacher" (perhaps Judah ha-Nasi I.; Ḥul. 51a). See Bar Miẓwah; Hafṭarah; Law, Reading from the.
Bibliography:
  • Dembitz, Jewish Services in Synagogue and Home, pp. 264, 276.
A. J. D. E.
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