I received the following question via e-mail:
“Why do the communities of Eretz Yisrael wait until Behar and Bechukosai to separate the parshiyos in order that Chutz La’aretz and Eretz Yisrael read the same parshiyos, when they could actually separate parshi’os much earlier, either by reading Tazria and Metzora on separate weeks or by separating Acharei Mos from Kedoshim?”
Question #2: Searching for a Missing Parsha
“I am studying in a yeshivah in Eretz Yisrael, and visiting my parents for Pesach. I know that I will miss one of the parshi’os, and possibly two, when I return to Yeshivah. How can I make up the missing kerias hatorah?”
Question #3: To and Fro
“After Pesach, I will be making a short visit to Eretz Yisrael. As a result, I will be missing one parsha, and then hearing a different reading twice: first in Eretz Yisrael, and then a second time upon my return. Which parsha do I review each week shenayim mikra ve’echad Targum?
The Jerusalem audience is waiting impatiently for the special guest speaker. The scheduled time comes and goes, and the organizer is also wondering why the speaker did not apprise him of a delay. Finally, he begins making phone calls and discovers that the speaker is still in Brooklyn!
What happened? Well… arrangements had been made for the speaker to speak on Wednesday of parshas Acharei. Both sides confirmed the date on their calendars — but neither side realized that they were not talking about the same date!
Why did this happen?
This year, the Eighth Day of Pesach, Acharon shel Pesach, fell on Shabbos. In Chutz La’aretz, where this day was Yom Tov, the special Torah reading was Aseir te’aseir, whereas in Eretz Yisrael, where Pesach is only seven days long, this Shabbos was after Pesach (although the house was still chametz-free!), and the reading was parshas Shmini, which is always the first reading after Pesach in a common (non-leap) year.[i] On the subsequent Shabbos, the Jews of Eretz Yisrael were already reading parshas Tazria-Metzora, whereas outside Eretz Yisrael, the reading was parshas Shmini, since for them it was the first Shabbos after Pesach. This continues for another four weeks, with Chutz La’aretz consistently being a week “behind” Eretz Yisrael. Thus, in Jerusalem, the Wednesday of Acharei Mos-Kedoshim was April 25th, or the 3rd of Iyar, which was the date that the audience assembled to hear its guest lecturer. However, in Chutz La’aretz, the Wednesday of Acharei Mos-Kedoshim was a week later, on the 10th of Iyar or May 2nd. The lecturer is leaving motza’ei Shabbos for a week in Eretz Yisrael, and had made certain to leave the evening of May 2nd free for the Jerusalem speaking engagement.
This phenomenon, whereby the readings of Eretz Yisrael and Chutz La’aretz are a week apart, continues until Shabbos, the 27th of Iyar, May 19th. On that Shabbos, in Chutz La’aretz parshi’os Behar and Bechukosai are read together, whereas in Eretz Yisrael these two parshi’os are separated and read on two different weeks. Behar is read in Eretz Yisrael the week earlier, the 20th of Iyar, and Bechukosai, only, on the 27th.
The ramifications of these practices affect not only speakers missing their engagements and writers living in Eretz Yisrael whose parsha columns are published in Chutz La’aretz. Anyone traveling to Eretz Yisrael will miss a parsha on his trip there, and anyone traveling from Eretz Yisrael to Chutz La’aretz during this time period will hear the same parsha on two consecutive Shabbosos.
There are halachic questions that result from this phenomenon. Is this traveler required to make up the missed parsha, and, if so, how? During which week does he review the parsha shenayim mikra ve’echad Targum? If he will be hearing a repeated parsha, is he required to review the parsha again on the consecutive week? These are some of the questions that result from this occurrence.
The three-month separation
We should note that when Acharon shel Pesach falls on Shabbos in a common year, the length of time that Eretz Yisrael and Chutz La’aretz are reading different parshi’os is for only six weeks – the first six Shabbosos of the Omer. However, when Acharon shel Pesach falls on Shabbos in a leap year, the difference between the reading in Eretz Yisrael and in Chutz La’aretz is a far longer period of time — over three months — until the Shabbos of Matos-Masei, immediately before Shabbos Chazon. This last occurred in 5755, and the next occasion is fast approaching, since it will happen again in the Hebrew year 5776 – next year.
Why don’t the Israelis let us catch up?
At this point, we will answer the first question asked above:
“Why do the communities of Eretz Yisrael wait until Behar and Bechukosai to separate the parshi’os in order that Chutz La’aretz and Eretz Yisrael read the same parshi’os, when they could actually separate them much earlier, either by reading Tazria and Metzora on separate weeks or by separating Acharei Mos from Kedoshim?”
The truth is that the question, as phrased, assumes that one community’s custom should depend on what is done elsewhere, which is not an accurate assumption. In earlier generations, each community followed certain established halachic rules, but within the parameters of those rules, each town arranged the readings as it chose. Thus, someone who traveled from one community to another could discover that he missed a parsha or repeated one, even when he did not necessarily travel a great distance.
For example, at one point, some communities in Syria never combined the parshi’os of Chukas and Balak, but in years when it was necessary to combine parshi’os in the middle of Bamidbar, they combined Korach with Chukas instead, and left Balak to be read alone on the subsequent Shabbos. Someone spending Shabbos in a neighboring community, or even just arriving for a brief stay that included a Monday or a Thursday, would discover that he heard a different reading than he would have at home. When this occurred on Shabbos, he would now have the questions we mentioned above. For example, if he spent one Shabbos in a community that read only Korach (as is accepted today), he might spend the next Shabbos in a community that is reading only Balak, because they read Chukas the previous week together with Korach. The result is that our traveler missed hearing parshas Chukas that year.
Today, the circumstance of different communities reading different parshi’os occurs only when Acharon shel Pesach or the second day of Shevuos falls on Shabbos. This is because, with the course of time, all of the communities in Eretz Yisrael have unified to follow one established minhag, and those in Chutz La’aretz have accepted one common practice.
When do we have doubles?
I mentioned above that there are certain established halachic rules, but within the parameters of those rules, each town arranged the readings as it chose. What are the reasons for these rules that affect certain parshi’os’ being doubled?
Although initially there were two customs in Klal Yisrael, one in which the Torah was completed every year and a second in which it was completed every three+ years, it became the accepted practice for all communities to read through the entire Torah every year, concluding the year’s readings on Simchas Torah, and then beginning the cycle anew. However, our years do not all have the same numbers of Shabbosos on which we read the consecutive Torah readings. First, our years are not of equal length, since we have leap years that are a month longer. Second, since the number of days in a year does not divide evenly by seven, some years have an extra Shabbos that others do not have. In addition, some years have more Shabbosos that fall on Yom Tov, when we read something related to the Yom Tov, rather than proceeding in our reading through the Torah. Thus, there are many calculations necessary to figure out how many weeks in a given year we need to “double up” and read two parshi’os, in order to insure that we complete the cycle of parshi’os every year.
In addition, the Gemara established certain rules as to how the parshi’os should be spaced through the year. Ezra decreed that the Jews should read the curses of the Tochacha in Vayikra before Shevuos and those of Devarim before Rosh Hashanah. Why? In order to end the year together with its curses! [The Gemara then comments:] We well understand why we read the Tochacha of Devarim before Rosh Hashanah, because the year is ending; but why is that of Vayikra read before Shevuos? Is Shevuos the beginning of a year? Yes, Shevuos is the beginning of a new year, as the Mishnah explains that the world is judged on Shevuos for its fruit”.[ii]
We see from this Gemara that we must space out our parshi’os so that we read from the beginning of Bereishis, which we begin on Simchas Torah, until parshas Bechukosai at the end of Vayikra before Shevuos. We then space our parshi’os so that we complete the second Tochacha in parshas Ki Savo before Rosh Hashanah.
One week or two?
However, this Gemara does not seem to explain our practice. Neither of these parshi’os is ever read immediately before Shevuos or Rosh Hashanah. There is always at least one other Shabbos wedged between. In the case of the Tochacha of Parshas Ki Savo, the parsha after it, Netzavim, always has the distinction of being read on the Shabbos immediately before Rosh Hashanah. In the case of Bechukosai, Shevuos usually occurs after the next parsha, Bamidbar, but occasionally occurs a bit later, so that parshas Naso immediately precedes it.
Tosafos[iii] explains the Gemara to mean that the Tochacha should be read two weeks before each “New Year”, to allow a buffer week between the Tochacha and the beginning of the year. Thus, Ezra’s decree was that the two Tochachos should be read early enough so that there is another reading following them before the “year” is over.
The Levush explains that without the intervening Shabbos reading as a shield, the Satan could use the Tochacha as a means of accusing us on the judgment day.[iv] The intervening Shabbos when we read a different parsha prevents the Satan from his attempt at prosecuting, and, as a result, we can declare: End the year together with its curses!
Keep to the Schedule!
To make sure that we keep on this schedule through the year, a series of instructions were codified by the Abudraham, Tur and Shulchan Aruch.[v] One of these rules is that parshas Tzav should be read on Shabbos Hagadol in a common (non-leap) year.
Why choose parshas Tzav to coincide with Shabbos Hagadol? Because there is a similarity of theme – parshas Tzav discusses the koshering of vessels that is required after they were used to cook korbanos,[vi] which serves as a reminder that we must kasher our household utensils before Pesach.[vii] In a similar vein, the piyutim recited on Shabbos Hagadol include extensive discussion of the laws of koshering utensils for Pesach.
Thus, in order to complete the book of Vayikra in a common year, so that at least one Shabbos elapses before Shevuos, Tzav is read before Pesach, and then, in Chutz La’aretz we must double three readings, and in Eretz Yisrael, two. I have not seen any reason quoted why the practice of Eretz Yisrael was to double specifically Tazria–Metzora and Acharei Mos-Kedoshim, but to read Behar and Bechukosai separately; the simple answer may be that the two sets of doubled parshi’os are much closer in theme than are Behar and Bechukosai.
The saga of the missing parsha
What should someone – who was in Chutz La’aretz for Pesach and knows that he will miss a parsha – do?
At this point, let us now look at the second question that was asked above: “I am studying in a yeshivah in Eretz Yisrael, and visiting my parents for Pesach. I know that I will miss one of the parshi’os, and possibly two, when I return to yeshivah. How can I make up the missing kerias hatorah?”
There is no halachic requirement for him to hear the missing parsha as a kerias hatorah,[viii] but he does have a requirement to review this parsha shenayim mikra ve’echad Targum, which we will discuss shortly. Nevertheless, it is fairly common to try to make up the missing reading. There are several opinions how to do this. One common method is to read, on the Shabbos mincha of the week before one leaves Chutz La’aretz, the entire coming week’s parsha rather than only until sheini, as we usually do.[ix]
E pluribus unum
We should note that there is a major difference in halachah if an individual missed the week’s reading, or if an entire tzibur missed the reading. There is longstanding halachic literature ruling that, when an entire tzibur missed a week’s Torah reading, a situation that transpired occasionally due to flooding, warfare or other calamity, the tzibur would be required to make up the reading that was missed by reading a double parsha the following week.[x] The halachic authorities dispute what to do when making up the missed readings will require reading three or more parshi’os. Some authorities[xi] conclude that the tzibur is required to read all the missed readings, regardless of how many parshi’os were missed, whereas others rule that we never read more than two parshi’os.[xii] According to the latter approach, when a double parsha was slated to be read in the skipped week, one should not make up either of the missing parshi’os, since they would, in any event, not make up the entire missed reading.
On a regular occasion when we double two parshi’os, we call up four people during the first parsha, and have the fourth person’s aliyah continue into the second parsha in order to combine the two parshi’os. We then call the last three people to aliyos during the second parsha. However, when reading two parshi’os because the previous parsha was missed, some authorities rule that the kohen, who is the first aliyah, should read the entire first parsha and the usual first aliyah of the second parsha.
Why give the kohen such a huge reading at the expense of the others?
The reason for dividing the aliyos of the parshi’os differently is because the second parsha is the required reading for the day, and we should call up all seven aliyos for the required reading.[xiii]
The contemporary authorities discuss whether one who is doubling up two parshi’os because they traveled from Chutz La’aretz to Eretz Yisrael should follow this last suggestion and read for the kohen the entire first parsha and then the usual first aliyah of the second parsha.[xiv]
How many parshi’os on the plane?
At this moment, let us examine our next question above, “After Pesach, I will be making a short visit to Eretz Yisrael. As a result, I will be missing one parsha, and then hearing a different parsha twice: first in Eretz Yisrael, and then a second time upon my return. Which parsha do I review each week shenayim mikra ve’echad Targum?”
Our Sages required each male to review the week’s parsha twice and study the Targum translation once, so that one understands the reading well. (Many authorities rule that one fulfills the Targum requirement today by studying Rashi’s commentary on the Torah.) This mitzvah is called shenayim mikra ve’echad Targum. Thus, our questioner is asking how he should fulfill this mitzvah during these weeks that he is traveling – does he follow the practice of Eretz Yisrael or of Chutz La’aretz. Furthermore, when he is going to hear the same parsha on consecutive weeks, does the mitzvah of shenayim mikra ve’echad Targum require him to read the same parsha fully on two successive weeks?
It appears that the week he travels to Eretz Yisrael he should review both readings: that of Chutz La’aretz, which he will miss hearing in shul, and that of Eretz Yisrael, which he will hear. This will help keep him occupied during the long flight. Since it is the earlier reading, he should read the Chutz La’aretz reading first, thereby reviewing the Torah in order.[xv] If he was unable to go through both parshi’os the first week, he should review whatever he missed afterwards.
However, someone who will be traveling from Eretz Yisrael to Chutz La’aretz and therefore hearing the same parsha on two successive weeks is not required to review the parsha two consecutive weeks.[xvi]
From all of the above, we see the importance that Chazal placed on the public reading of the Torah and of completing its cycle annually. It goes without saying that we should be concerned with being attentive to the words of the Torah as they are being read, and that the baal keriah should make certain to read them with great care.
[i] Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 428:4.
[ii] Megillah 31b.
[iii] ad loc.
[iv] Orach Chayim 428:4.
[v] Orach Chayim 428:4.
[vi] Vayikra 6:21.
[vii] Abudraham, quoted by Elyah Rabbah and Bi’ur Halachah, 428:4, s.v. Tzav.
[viii] Yom Tov Sheini Kehilchasah page 239, notes 40 and 41, quoting Rav Shelomoh Zalman Auerbach, Rav Elazer Shach, and disciples of Rav Moshe Feinstein in his name.
[ix] Yom Tov Sheini Kehilchasah, page 241.
[x] Rema, Orach Chayim 135:2, quoting Or Zarua.
[xi] Elyah Rabbah.
[xii] Magen Avraham, quoting Shu’t Maharam Mintz #85.
[xiii] Kaf Hachayim 135:5.
[xiv] See, for example, Yom Tov Sheini Kehilchasah.
[xv] See Shu’t Maharsham 1:213.
[xvi] Ketzos Hashulchan Chapter 72, footnote 3; Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasah, Volume II, Chapter 42, footnote 224.