Parshat Hashavua - Why can't we get our acts together?
Reuven from London asked:
This year, since the 8th day of Pesach fell on Shabbat, we had a special Torah reading for Pesach on that Shabbat instead of the regular Parshat Hashavua (Acharei Mot) read in Israel. The next week we read Acharei Mot, and the week after that we read Kedoshim. We are a week "behind" Israel and don't catch up for about 3 months. Why didn't we just have a double Parsha reading of Acharei Mot/Kedoshim straight away as we do sometimes in other years?
I once heard that the Parsha readings sometimes stay behind for a while because "Chutz La'Aretz is 'slower' than Eretz Yisrael!" :-)
On a more serious note, your question is recorded in the renowned Responsa of Rabbi Yosef from Trani. He explains based on the following points:
- Shavuot is the "New Year" for the Fruits of the Trees - Just as Rosh HaShana is a day of judgment for individuals, on Shavuot judgment is passed on the growth of the coming year's fruits.
- Because Shavuot is the New Year for fruits, Ezra the Scribe enacted that the "curses" in Parshat Bechukotai be read before Shavuot. This fulfills the idea of "Tichleh HaShana v'Kileloteha" - i.e., the year's end should mark the end of curses, and the New Year should be a one of Bracha.
- In order that the curses not be "too close" to Shavuot - which celebrates the Giving of the Torah - the custom is to read Parshat Bechukotai two weeks beforehand. But Parshat Bechukotai is still not "too far" from Shavuot, and therefore makes the point about finishing the year's curses.
- Responsa of the Maharit - vol.2, Orach Chaim, #4.