Insights into Halacha

For the week ending 18 April 2015 / 29 Nisan 5775

Parsha Permutations

by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

This time of year is an interesting one. For the next month or so, the Jewish world will not be aligned. No, I am not referring to constellations, but rather to the weekly parshah. This past Shabbos, the Yidden in Eretz Yisrael read Parshas Shemini, but for those in Chutz La’aretz, depending on when you are reading this, Parshas Shemini is this week’s parshah.

The reason for this interesting phenomenon is that this year [5775/ 2015] the eighth day of Pesach, observed only outside Eretz Yisrael, fell out on a Shabbos. On this Shabbos / Yom Tov the communities of the Diaspora leined the Yom Tov reading of ‘Aser Te’aser’ (Devarim, Parshas Re’eh, Ch. 14: 22), whereas in Eretz Yisrael communities read Parshas Shemini, the next parshah in the cycle, as Pesach has already ended.

This odd alignment, with Eretz Yisrael being a week ahead of the rest of the world, continues for over a month until, in this instance, the 27th of Iyar (May 16th), when in Chutz La’aretz, the reading of Behar and Bechukosai is combined; while on that selfsame week, the communities of Eretz Yisrael read only Bechukosai, which will give the rest of the world a chance to catch up[1].

This causes all sorts of halachic issues for travelers to and from Israel during this time period – which parshah should they be reading? If / how can they catch up? Although technically-speaking since Krias HaTorah is a Chovas Hatzibbur, a communal obligation, one is not actually mandated to ‘catch-up’, but is rather yotzai with whichever Kriah is publicly correctly being read[2], nevertheless, commonly, special minyanim are set up expressly for this purpose. In fact, several shuls in Eretz Yisrael such as the renowned Zichron Moshe ‘Minyan Factory’ offer a solution by hosting weekly “catch-up minyanim”, featuring the Torah reading of each previous week’s Israeli parshah, which is the Chutznik’s current one, until the calendars re-merge.

The explanation of this uncanny occurrence is as follows: It is well known that the Torah is divided into 54 parshiyos, ensuring there are enough parshiyos for every Shabbos of the yearly cycle, which begins and ends on Simchas Torah. Since most (non-leap) years require less than 54 parshiyos, we combine certain parshiyos. This means that two consecutive parshiyos are read on one Shabbos as if they are one long parshah, to make sure that we complete the Torah reading for the year on Simchas Torah.

There are seven potential occurrences when we read "double parshiyos". These seven are:

Vayakheil / Pekudei, the last two parshiyos of Sefer Shemos.

Tazria / Metzorah, in Sefer Vayikra.

Acharei Mos / Kedoshim, in Sefer Vayikra.

Behar / Bechukosai, in Sefer Vayikra.

Chukas / Balak, in Sefer Bamidbar.

Matos / Masei, the last two parshiyos of Sefer Bamidbar.

Netzavim / Vayeileich, towards the end of Sefer Devarim.

However, there are several possible instances in which certain parshiyos are combined in Chutz La'aretz, yet are read on separate weeks in Eretz Yisrael. One such time is for the next month or so, as described above, making it one of the only times where Jews living in Eretz Yisrael end up reading a different parshah on Shabbos than the Jews living in Chutz La’aretz.

One common question is why the calendars don't amalgamate much earlier. Why would two separate double parshiyos be passed over and only re-align on the third possibility?

The Maharit (Shu”t vol. 2: 4), quoting the Tikkun Yissachar (pg. 89), explains that Chutz La'aretz waits to connect Behar / Bechukosai instead of catching up right away, in order to emphasize that we are getting Bechukosai in just before Shavuos. Tosafos (Megillah 31b s.v. klalos and seconded by the Levush, Orach Chaim 428: 4) states that since Parshas Bechukosai contains tochacha (rebuke), there must be a “buffer week” [practically, Parshas Bamidbar] between its reading and Shavuos.[3] Therefore, in Eretz Yisrael, if the parshiyos of Behar and Bechukosai were to be read together, it would not be noticeable that this is a buffer week; consequently, they are read separately, so that Bamidbar becomes the official buffer week.

This might also explain why the Eretz Yisrael custom is not to just split up Tazria and Metzora, letting Chutz La'aretz catch up right away. Since Eretz Yisrael is seemingly considered the ikar reading, it does not have to take Chutz La’aretz into account to slow down due to the independent luachs (or to be grammatically correct, ‘luchos’), and only does so when it actually needs the buffer week.

Another theory is that we don’t want to have Nega’im, an intrinsically negative topic showcased in Tazria and Metzorah, spread over two Shabossos if we can contain it in only one. There were variant Minhagim in Eretz Yisrael over the centuries, and the Mogen Avrohom (Orach Chaim 428: 6) and later the Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. 10), in fact, cite both as being done in Eretz Yisrael; though by the time the Chofetz Chaim wrote this, the universal minhag in Eretz Yisrael was to split Behar and Bechukosai, and keep Tazria and Metzorah together. As brought in Rav Yechiel Michel Tukachinsky’s authoritative Luach Eretz Yisrael (5775; Minhagei Hashanah, Nissan), originally published in 1905, only the prevailing minhag of splitting up Behar and Bechukosai is cited.

Another similar situation is when Shavuos falls out on a Friday in Chutz La’aretz, where it is a two-day Yom Tov, the Torah reading would be that of the holiday (also ‘Aser Te’aser’), whereas in Eretz Yisrael, where the holiday is only observed for one day, the reading on that Shabbos would be that of the next weekly portion, which would usually be Nasso.

When this happens, the people living in Eretz Yisrael stay one parshah ahead, meaning they are reading Beha’aloscha, while in the Diaspora Nasso is read. This remarkable dichotomy is kept up until the next potential “double parshah” which is Chukas / Balak. In Chutz La’aretz it is read as a double parshah, whereas in Eretz Yisrael only Balak is read.

What is lesser known is that this causes an even rarer phenomenon: the potential combination of Parshas Nasso and Beha’aloscha – creating the longest parshah by far, and potentially leading to the world record for the longest aliyah. This “extreme double parshah” is not for everyone, and actually can only be applicable to “Chutznikim” or two day Yom Tov keepers who happen to be in Israel for Shavuos (most commonly yeshiva bochurim). Since they are only temporarily in Eretz Yisrael, they must (according to the majority halachic consensus) keep the second day of Shavuos in Israel as well[4], including reading only the special Yom Tov Torah reading . Therefore, although the vast majority of people in Israel read Parshas Nasso on this Shabbos, this group has yet to have done so, since it is still Yom Tov for them! To further complicate matters, throughout Israel, on the next Shabbos, only Beha’aloscha is read!

Therefore, to resolve this issue, some “Chutznikim” make a special minyan the next week with the “new double parshah” - Nasso and Beha’aloscha - containing a whopping 312 pesukim! (The closest is the longest regular double parshahMattos / Masei with 244 pesukim.) Others make a special reading on that day itself, Shabbos / Second Day Shavuos, at Minchah, where the entire Parshas Nasso is read, plus the regular reading of the first portion of Beha’aloscha – making a world record aliyah of 180 pesukim, all for one lucky Kohen!

An interesting time of year, indeed.

Postscript: Although there are times and places that necessitate a double-double parshah, for example this year (2015), several yeshivos in Eretz Yisrael that cater to Chutznikim who only return from Pesach Bein Hazmanim for Eretz Yisrael’s Parshas Acharai Mos - Kedoshim will have to read Tazria / Metzora / Acharei Mos and Kedoshim. Nonetheless, all four of these Parshos combined still have two pesukim less than the collective Parshiyos of Nasso andBeha’aloscha. Interestingly, there is precedent to a four parshah leining as well, as Tosefes Maaseh Rav (34) relates that when the Vilna Gaon was released from jail, he read all four of the parshiyos he missed at one time[5].

This article was written L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh Yeshiva Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben Yechezkel Shraga, R’ Chaim Baruch Yehuda ben Dovid Tzvi, L’Refuah Sheleimah for R’ Shlomo Yoel ben Chaya Leah, Henna Rasha bas Yutta Ratza and Rochel Miriam bas Dreiza Liba, and l’zechus Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam v’chol yotzei chalatzeha for a yeshua sheleimah teikif u’miyad!

For any questions, comments or for the full Mareh Mekomos / sources, please email the author:

Rabbi Yehuda Spitz serves as the Sho’el U' Meishiv and Rosh Chabura of the Ohr Lagolah Halacha Kollel at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach in Yerushalayim.

[1] If you think this is a long time to be out of sync, wait until next year, 5776 / 2016, which although shares a similar calenderical structure as this year, with Pesach falling out on the same days of the week, nevertheless, it is also a leap year, with two Adars. This is significant, as in a leap year most ‘double parshiyos’ are not doubled; rather they are read separately. Therefore, the rest of the world will not actually catch up to Eretz Yisrael until Mattos / Maasei, around Rosh Chodosh Av, almost 3 months later! Thanks are due to Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff for pointing out this fascinating fact.

[2] See Halichos Shlomo (Moadim vol. 2, Pesach Ch. 10: 22) and Yom Tov Sheini Kehilchaso (Ch. 9: 13 - 17) at length, quoting Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Rav Elazar Menachem Mann Shach, and Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv; this is in contrast to the ruling of the Rema (Orach Chaim 135: 2; citing the Ohr Zarua, vol. 2: 45) regarding if an entire tzibbur did not lein one week, that they would be required to make it up. See also Rav Yechiel Michel Tukachinsky’s authoritative Luach Eretz Yisrael (5775; Minhagei Hashanah, Nissan: footnote 6). However, regarding a mix of Bnei Eretz Yisrael and Bnei Chutz La’aretz traveling on a boat together, with no minyan of each, see Shu”t B’tzeil Hachochma (vol. 1: 7), Shu”t Ba’er Moshe (vol. 7: pg. 228), and Yom Tov Sheini Kehilchaso (Ch. 9: footnote 42 - citing Rav Yechiel Michel Tukachinsky and Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv; and Miluim 14) regarding the different variables and scenarios and what to do in each case.

[3] Additionally, according to the Abudraham (pg. 372), and cited lemaaseh by the Levush (Orach Chaim 428: 4) and Elyah Rabbah (ad loc. 5), the reason why Parshas Tzav generally falls out on Shabbos Hagadol, the Shabbos immediately preceding Pesach, is that it mentions the halachos of Kashering Keilim (Vayikra Ch. 6: 21), albeit regarding the Korban Chataas, as ‘haga’alas keilim chometz lamud m’Korbanos’. Although in a leap year Parshas Metzorah is usually read directly before Pesach, it is also in sync, as it mentions ‘kli cheres yishaver’, which is quite apropos for Pesach as well.

[4] Although the famed Chacham Tzvi (Shu”t 167), and later the Shulchan Aruch HaRav (Orach Chaim 496, 11; although he also cites that ‘yesh cholkim’, nonetheless, this first opinion is ikar - see also vol. 1, Mahadura Tinyana 68), ruled that even one merely visiting Eretz Yisrael over Yom Tov should keep only one day of Yom Tov like the natives, (to paraphrase: ‘when in Israel do as the Israelis’), nevertheless, the vast majority of halachic authorities, including the Shulchan Aruch himself (Shu”t Avkas Rochel 26), and even the Chacham Tzvi’s own son, Rav Yaakov Emden (Shu”t Sheilas Ya’avetz vol. 1: 168), maintained that vistors’ status is dependent on whether or not their intention is to stay and live in Eretz Yisrael, known as ‘im da’atam lachzor’. Other poskim who rule this way include the Pe’as Hashulchan (Hilchos Eretz Yisrael 2, 15: 21), the Chida (Shu”t Chaim Sha’al 55, and Birkei Yosef, Orach Chaim 496: 7), Mahar”i Chagiz (Shu”t Halachos Ketanos vol. 1: 4), Shaarei Teshuva (496: end 5; he makes a sikum of the shittos), Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chaim 496: end 5), Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. 13), Kaf HaChaim (ad loc. 38), and Rav Yechiel Michel Tukachinsky (Ir HaKodesh V’Hamikdash vol. 3, Ch. 19: 8). See also Shu”t Igros Moshe (Orach Chaim vol. 3: 73 and 74). The majority of contemporary poskim rule this way as well.

See at length Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried’s classic Yom Tov Sheini Kehilchaso (Ch. Keveeyus Sheim Ben E”Y U’Ben Chu”l: ppg.156 - 208) and previous article titled Sukkah on Shmini Atzeres?

[5] This shittah is obviously not like the Maharam Mintz (Shu”t 85), who maintains that we never read more than two Parshiyos together, even if it will cause one to miss out hearing a parshah b’tzibbur. Although several poskim, including the Kenesses Hagedolah (Haghos al HaTur,Orach Chaim 135), the Olas Tamid (Orach Chaim 282: 4), Ateres Zekeinim (Orach Chaim 135 s.v. im bitlu) and Ba’er Heitiv (ad loc. 4), rule this way, nevertheless, the halacha seems to follow the Haghos HaMinhagim (Shabbos, Shacharis 41), the Elyah Rabbah (Orach Chaim 135: 2; and Elyah Zuta ad loc. 2), Magen Giborim (Magen HaElef ad loc. 4), and Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 6) who strongly argue that there is no reason not to allow a catching up of several parshiyos as long as it is done along with reading the correct Parshah of that week. Interestingly, several poskim including the Magen Avraham (ad loc. 4), Machatzis Hashekel (ad loc. 4), Pri Megadim (ad loc. Eshel Avraham 4), and Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. 7) simply cite both sides of this machlokes with no actual ruling, implying that this is issue is practically uncommon.

Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive guide, rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issues. In any real case one should ask a competent Halachic authority.

L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh HaYeshiva - Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben R' Yechezkel Shraga, Rav Yaakov Yeshaya ben R' Boruch Yehuda, and l'zchus for Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam and her children for a yeshua teikef u'miyad!

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