The haftarah for the first day of Rosh Hashanah tells the story of Hannah, a childless woman who turns to God in desperate and intense personal prayer. Since Hannah’s story highlights the power of prayer, it is an appropriate selection for a day when Jews traditionally spend a good portion of their time in prayer at synagogue.
The Torah reading for this day of Rosh Hashanah opens with the words, “And the Lord took note of Sarah” (Genesis 21:10), and describes the birth of Isaac–signifying the end of Sarah’s long period of barrenness. Similarly, in the haftarah, God brings an end to Hannah’s barrenness. According to the Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 11a), Rosh Hashanah is the day of remembrance, and the most classic example of God “remembering” humanity occurs when a woman’s infertility ends.
The Rosh Hashanah liturgy declares: Hayom harat olam–today is the day of the world’s creation. Each time a child is born, the miracle of creation is repeated.
This English translation is reprinted with permission from Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures published by the Jewish Publication Society. In the Reform tradition, this haftarah is read through verse 1:28.
1:1. There was a man from Ramathaim of the Zuphites, in the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham son of Elihu son of Tohu son of Zuph, an Ephraimite.
1:2. He had two wives, one named Hannah and the other Peninnah; Peninnah had children, but Hannah was childless.
1:3. This man used to go up from his town every year to worship and to offer sacrifice to the LORD of Hosts at Shiloh. Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the LORD there.
1:4. One such day, Elkanah offered a sacrifice. He used to give portions to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters;
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