This 381-page paperback belongs in Jewish homes and libraries. It would make a nice textbook for classrooms, too. Rabbi Jonathan Shooter’s skill at interpreting archaic language, then presenting it in contemporary parlance, is a gift from Heaven.
Each chapter-by-chapter presentation follows the gold standard for teaching any sort of literature: The SQ3R model (Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review). Chapter headings condense a given haftara’s topic into simple declarative thought (a survey of the content). Shooter then asks readers “What’s the haftara about?” and replies with a neat synopsis of the material. He follows up by asking “What’s the connection to the present parsha?” or “What’s the connection to the present chag/date,” then providing detailed explanations from the haftara without boring you into a deep sleep.
Consider the passage about Parshat Para and its haftara, Yechezkel 36:16-38. A navi whose points can bring your blood pressure to a boil while stifling the most earnest intellectual efforts, Yechezkel’s message made easy is a Shooter shoe-in. Read pages 332-335 to read, recite and review the details about Parshat Vayechi’s “Whose dead baby was it?” case. King Solomon’s insight at planning the exposure of the fake “mother” claiming her dead baby, and understanding how it had died, goes deeper than you’d first think. Shooter demonstrates more skill at sharing his insights when he writes about the haftara of Parshat Vayera, pinpointing the source for Rav Dessler’s advice to mistakenly believing that they can predict the direction of financial markets.
If you want to better understand why an increasingly large world condemnation of Israel and the Jews is dominating headlines and messing up lives, read “Dirty Jew” on pages 143-146. The haftara of Kedoshim holds relevant life lessons. Rabbi Shooter will share them and leave your thinking hard about how you’re living your Jewish life.
Always demonstrating how seemingly outdated haftarot are ever-relevant to our lives, Shooter shares his dead-on analyses in easily understood sentences throughout his book. There’s more value to his otherwise lightweight paperback. Read The Haftara Handbook: Lessons from the Prophets for the Contemporary Jew (Devora Publishing, 2010). You’ll be glad you did.
Original review from the Jewish Press may be found here.