Insights into Halacha

For the week ending 12 March 2016 / 2 Adar II 5776

Configuring the "Arba Parshiyos" Puzzle

by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz

It is well known that during the current “simcha season” known as the joyous month of Adar, many changes were instituted to the normal weekly Torah readings, in the Maftir and Haftara, each for their own purpose and reason[1]. First is Parshas Shekalim (on the Shabbos before or of Rosh Chodosh Adar), which commemorates the communal mitzvah of the giving the Machtzis HaShekel, used to pay for the daily Korban Tamid for the whole year. Next is Parshas Zachor (always on the Shabbos before Purim), which evokes the unprovoked attacks of the evil Amalek on Klal Yisrael. Third is Parshas Parah (on the third week) commemorating the Parah Adumah (Red Heifer) used to purify Klal Yisrael for the upcoming Korban Pesach. Lastly, (on the Shabbos before or of Rosh Chodesh Nisan) is Parshas HaChodesh, to properly honor the coming of the “First Month” that we were commanded in the Torah to observe, Rosh Chodesh Nisan. These four changes are collectively known as the “Arba Parshiyos”.

The Gemara in Megillah (29a - 30b) devotes considerable attention to the details of the “Arba Parshiyos”, including how to compute the Jewish calendar’s nineteen-year-cycle of which exact week will host which special reading. It seems a bit confusing, but luckily several of our great early authorities, including the Rif, Rashi and the Rosh, give a simple mnemonic that allows anyone to figure out which week is which. This is especially practical for a shul’s gabbai who has to arrange the Sifrei Torah to the proper places on each of these weeks. In fact, this code is so useful that it is even cited as halacha by the Shulchan Aruch[2]!

ZAVD”U - זבד"ו- Unlocking the Code

In our Jewish calendar, the second day of Rosh Chodesh Adar (meaning the first actual day of Adar) can only fall out on four days of the week - Shabbos, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The mnemonic for these days is ZAVD”U (Zayin, the seventh day of the week = Shabbos, Beis = Monday, Dalet = Wednesday, Vav = Friday)[3]. The Rishonim teach us that each of these letters stands for an additional code: ZAT”U, B”O, DA”D, U”BIV; and knowing their meanings will help us calculate which week each of the Parshiyos will fall out on. The first letter of each of these codes refers to which day of the week Rosh Chodesh Adar falls out on, and the remaining letters refer to which day(s) of the week during the month is a “skip week”, with no special reading.

ZAT”U – ז"טו

ZAT”U refers to when Rosh Chodesh Adar falls out on a Shabbos (“Z”), then that day - Shabbos (the first week) is Parshas Shekalim, the next Shabbos is Parshas Zachor, the next Shabbos - “TU” or the fifteenth of Adar - is a “skip week”[4], the following Shabbos is Parshas Parah, and the last one is Shabbos HaChodesh. The same applies for all the rest as well.

B”O– ב"ו

B”O refers to when Rosh Chodesh Adar falls out on a Monday (“B”). Then the preceding Shabbos is Parshas Shekalim, that week (with Shabbos being the sixth day of Adar - “O”) is a skip week, and the remaining weeks are all special reading weeks consecutively: Zachor, then Parah and followed by HaChodesh.

DA”D– ד"ד

DA”D is similar, with Rosh Chodesh Adar falling out on a Wednesday (“D”), with Parshas Shekalim being the preceding week, that Shabbos (the fourth of Adar - “D”) being a skip week, and all remaining weeks are special reading weeks as well.

U”BIV- וב"יו

U”BIV is a bit more complicated, with two skip weeks. This occurs when Rosh Chodesh Adar falls out on Friday (“U”). The preceding Shabbos is Parshas Shekalim and the day after Rosh Chodesh (the second of Adar - “B”) is a skip week. The next week is Parshas Zachor, and the next (on the sixteenth of Adar - “IV”) is another skip week. The remaining weeks are Parah and HaChodesh, respectively. One may realize that this is actually this year’s (5772/2012) Adar code, with the two skip weeks.

In conclusion, although for many making calendar calculations seems to be out of the realm of their expertise, thankfully our great Rishonim have led the way, enabling even the layman to utilize Hashem’s tools to configure the Arba Parshiyos Puzzle.

[1]See at length Gemara Megillah 29a - 30b. For a brief summary of the Gemara’s conclusion see Mishna Berura 685, 1.

[2]Rif(Megillah 10b), Rashi (Megillah 30b s.v. v’ee), Rosh (Megillah Ch. 4, 10, end s.v. Yerushalmi), Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 685, 6).

[3]Each of the letters of the Hebrew Aleph-Beis has an equivalent numerical value. For example, Aleph equals one, Beis equals two, Dalet equals four, Vav equals six, Zayin equals seven, etc. Hence, Beis, which equals two, refers to the second day of the week, Monday. Dalet, which equals four, refers to the fourth day of the week, Wednesday, etc.

[4]Except of course for those fortunate enough to live in Yerushalayim (or other walled cities from the time of Yehoshua Bin Nun), for that skip week is actually Purim Meshulash, a rare three-day Purim extravaganza, with different mitzvos of Purim applying separately on Friday, Shabbos, and Sunday.

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

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.

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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