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 parsha. This past Shabbos, the Jews in Eretz Yisrael read Parshas Shmini, but for those in Chutz La’aretz, Parshas Shmini is still on the “on deck circle”.
The reason for this uncommon phenomenon is that this year [5772/ 2012] the eighth day of Pesach, observed only outside Eretz Yisrael, falls on a Shabbos. On this Shabbos/Yom Tov the communities of the Diaspora read a Yom Tov reading, whereas in Eretz Yisrael communities read Parshas Shemini, the next parsha in the cycle. 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 27 Iyar (May 19th), 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 gives the rest of the world a chance to catch up. This causes all sorts of halachic issues for travelers to and from Israelduring this time period – which parsha should they be reading? If/how can they catch up? Some shuls in Eretz Yisrael offer a solution by hosting weekly “catch-up minyanim”, featuring the Torah reading of the previous week’s Israeli parsha, which is the Chutznik’s current one.
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 parsha, 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/Metzora, in Sefer Vayikra.
AchareiMos/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 parsha on Shabbos than the Jews living in Chutz La’aretz.
Similarly, 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, whereas in Eretz Yisrael, where the holiday is observed for only one day, the reading would be that of the next weekly portion, which usually would be Nasso.
When this happens, the people living in Eretz Yisrael stay one parsha 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 parsha” which is Chukas/Balak. In Chutz La’aretz it is read as a double parsha, whereas in Eretz Yisrael only Balak is read.
What is less known is that this causes an even rarer phenomenon: the potential combination of parshas Nasso and Beha’aloscha – creating the longest parsha by far, and potentially leading to the world record for the longest aliyah. This “extreme double parsha” is not for everyone, and actually can only be applicable to “Chutznikim” or Two-day Yom Tov keepers who happen to be in Israelfor 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, including reading only the special Yom Tov Torah reading . Therefore, although the vast majority of people in Israelread 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 parsha” - Nasso and Beha’aloscha - containing a whopping 312 pesukim! (The closest is the longest regular double parsha – Mattos/Masei with 244 pesukim.) Others make a special reading on that day itself, Shabbos/2nd Day Shavuos, at Mincha, 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 Kohein!
An interesting time of year, indeed.
There is an important reason for this as well. Tosafos in Megillah 31b (s.v. Klalos) states that since parshas Bechukosai contains tochacha (rebuke), there must be a “buffer week” [practically, Parshas Bamidbar] between its reading and Shavuos. 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, and they consequently are read separately, so that Bamidbar is the official buffer week. See also Shu"t Maharit (vol. 2, 4, quoting the Tikkun Yissachar) who clearly explains why 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. This might 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 Chu"l into account to slow down due to the independent luachs, and only does so when it needs the buffer week. Another theory is that we don’t want to have Nega’im, an intrinsically negative topic showcased in Tazria and Metzora, spread over two Shabossos if we can have it in only one. There were variant Minhagim in Eretz Yisrael over the centuries, and the Mishna Berura, in fact, brings both as being done in Eretz Yisrael – though by the time the Chafetz Chaim wrote this in 1905, the universal minhag was to split Behar and Bechukosai, and keep Tazria and Metzora together.
See at length Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried’s classic Yom Tov Sheini K’hilchaso (Ch. K’veeyus Sheim Ben E”Y U’Ben Chu”l, ppg.156 - 208).
For any questions, comments or for the full Mareh Mekomos / sources, please email the author: firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: These are just a few basic guidelines and overview of the Halacha discussed in this article. This is by no means a complete comprehensive authoritative guide, but rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issue. One should not compare similar cases in order to rules in any real case, but should refer his questions to a competent Halachic authority.