Insights into Halacha

For the week ending 28 May 2016 / 20 Iyyar 5776

The Parshah Dual Dichotomy 5776

by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

For many of us in the know, as well as to the surprise of anyone who might be thinking of traveling to or from Eretz Yisrael, say anytime from after Pesach until Shabbos Chazon, right before Tisha B’Av, something is off. I am referring to the weekly parshah, which would not be the same regularly scheduled one in Chutz La’aretz as it is in Eretz Yisrael.

Truthfully, this type of dichotomy actually happens not so infrequently, as it essentially occurs whenever the last day of a Yom Tov falls on Shabbos. In Chutz La’aretz where Yom Tov Sheini is halachically mandated,[1] a Yom Tov Krias HaTorah is publicly leined, yet, in Eretz Yisrael (unless by specific Chutznik minyanim[2]) the Krias HaTorah of the next scheduled parshah is read. This puts Eretz Yisrael a parshah ahead until the rest of the world soon ‘catches up’, by an upcoming potential double-parshah, which each would be read separately in Eretz Yisrael.

The hows and whys of this interesting phenomenon were addressed at length last year in an article titled “Parshah Permutations”. This is due to 5775’s similar calenderical setup to 5776, with the 8th day of Pesach falling out on Shabbos both years. On that 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 had already ended for them.

Calenderical Conundrum

But that is where the similarities end. First of all, this year, 5776 / 2016, since it is a leap year, containing a Double Adar, the next parshah in the cycle that was read in Eretz Yisrael was Acharei Mos. Second, and what is inexplicable to many, is that last year it took about a month for the rest of the world to “catch-up”. Yet, this year, the world will only be realigned by Matos / Masei - around Rosh Chodesh Av - a divergence of over three months (!) with Eretz Yisrael out of sync with the rest of the world, all the while passing over several potential double-parshah catch-up points. In Eretz Yisrael, Matos and Masei will be read separately on consecutive weeks, while in Chutz La’aretz they will be combined and read on a single Shabbos. The last time a split of this magnitude occurred was twenty-one years ago in 5755 / 1995. The next time scheduled is in 5779 / 2019, so we can all be prepared in advance.

Many ask [In fact, this author has personally been asked this literally dozens of times over the last few weeks], why not catch up right away by Acharei Mos / Kedoshim or Behar /Bechukosai? Or even Chukas / Balak? Why should three separate double parshiyos be passed over, with the world only amalgamating on the fourth possibility months later? In layman’s terms, why should we wait so long for the whole world to be realigned?

Moreover, 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,[3] nevertheless, commonly, special minyanim are set up expressly for this purpose. Many Yeshivos double-up the parshah when most of the bochurim return from Chutz La’aretz in order to catch them up. 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. But those flying back to Chutz La’aretz would presumably not have such a ‘safety-net’ to fall back on.

Although some cite alternate minhagim,[4] nevertheless, it is important to note that nowadays this long parshah split is indeed Minhag Yisrael, as codified by the Knesses Hagedolah, Magen Avraham, and Mishnah Berurah.[5] We should also realize that back then travel to and from Eretz Yisrael was far less of an issue, as since undertaking the trip would take several months, missing one parshah would be the least of one’s worries. But to properly understand the ‘whys’ of this fascinating dual dichotomy, one must first gain an understanding of the parshah rules and setup. In fact, this is not a new question, as several early Acharonim, including the Mahari”t,[6] Rav Yosef Tirani, addressed this exact issue almost 500 years ago.

Managing Mnemonics

While it is true that technically Eretz Yisrael does not have to take Chutz La’aretz into account, or vice versa, to slow down or join parshiyos together due to their independent luachs (or to be grammatically correct, ‘luchos’) and cycles, nevertheless, there is more to the story.

The Tur, when codifying the halachah, offered special codes, mnemonics, as to remember the proper order of parshiyos as they relate to various Yomim Tovim. In a regular year, he writes, ‘Pakdu U’Paschu’. This refers to Parshas Tzav being Shabbos Hagadol directly before Pesach.[7] However, in a leap year, like ours - 5776 / 2016, the mnemonic is ‘Sagru U’Paschu’, Metzora is right before Pesach, ‘Manu V’Atzru’, Bamidbar is directly prior to Shavuos, ‘Tzumu V’Tzalu’, the fast of Tisha B’Av is directly before Va’eschanan (also meaning that Devarim is always Shabbos Chazon andVa’eschanan alwaysShabbos Nachamu), and ‘Kumu V’Tik’u’, that Netzavim is before Rosh Hashanah.[8] These mnemonics are accepted lemaaseh as halachah pesukah by all later authorities.[9]

Bamidbar = Buffer Zone

Several of them directly affect our split situation. Tosafos, and later seconded by the Levush,[10] states that since Parshas Bechukosai contains tochachah (rebuke), there must be a noticeable “buffer week” [practically, Parshas Bamidbar] between its reading and Shavuos.This is because we pray that a year and its curses should end, in order to usher in a new year with its blessings.[11] This is apropos for Shavuos as it is Rosh Hashanah for Peiros Ha’Ilan, tree fruits (Gemara Rosh Hashanah 16a). Therefore, Bamidbar must be the stand-alone “buffer week” before Shavuos, in order to emphasize that we are getting Bechukosai in just before Shavuos.

Accordingly, the Mahari”t explains, if Chutz La’aretz would catch up to Eretz Yisrael prior to Shavuos, then Parshas Nasso would be read on Shabbos Erev Shavuos, as it will be in Eretz Yisrael, and then all of Klal Yisrael will miss the ‘buffer week’ from the tochachah of Bechukosai. Therefore, he avers, it is more important and preferable that at least Chutz La’aretz fulfill this dictate than it is that they catch up to Eretz Yisrael.[12]

So it turns out that the issue it is not why Eretz Yisrael doesn’t simply slow down for Chutz La’aretz, but rather that Chutz La’aretz will not speed up to catch up to Eretz Yisrael. This ‘Buffer Zone’ preference answers up for Acharei Mos / Kedoshim and Behar / Bechukosai. However, there is still the subject of not catching up by Chukas / Balak.

Pondering the Pearls of Parshas Pinchas

The Mahari”t, and later the Knesses Hagedolah, explain that since Chukas and Balak are not commonly read together, whereas Matos and Masei are (there is an important reason for this, addressed a bit further on), we do not simply combine the former, as opposed to the latter, just in order to save what amounts to a discrepancy of one week.

The Bnei Yisaschar[13] adds an additional reason. He explains that whenever possible, we attempt to ensure the public reading of Chalukas Ha’aretz, the apportioning of Eretz Yisrael, during the period of communal mourning known as Bein Hametzarim,[14] colloquially called ‘The Three Weeks’. This period commemorates the heralding of the beginning of the tragedies that took place prior to the destruction of both Batei Hamikdash, from the breaching of the walls of ancient Yerushalayim on the 17th of Tamuz, until the actual destruction of the Beis Hamikdash on the Ninth of Av.

The reason for these readings, which are found in the parshiyos ofPinchas, Matos, and Masei, to be leined specifically then, is to remind us of Hashem’s promise, that although we are currently in golus, exile, nevertheless, ‘le’aileh techalek ha’aretz’, we will still inherit Eretz Yisrael.

A similar assessment is given by the Minchas Yitzchok,[15] albeit regarding Korbanos, especially the Korban Tamid, which is also detailed in Parshas Pinchas. He explains that the Korban Tamid protected Klal Yisrael from sinning with Avodah Zarah.[16] When the Korban Tamid was no longer offered, it enabled the Yetzer Hara’ah of Avodah Zarah to strengthen; and it was due to this sinning that eventually led to the Beis Hamikdash’s destruction.

As such, and since we no longer have Korbanos, but at least we still have their recital, in the vein of ‘v’neshalmah parim sifoseinu’, that our tefillos are their current replacement,[17] the leining of the Korbanos is specifically read during the Three Weeks, when we are mourning the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. This serves to embolden and enable us to fight the reasons and causes for its destruction, and allow its rebuilding.

An additional point the Bnei Yisaschar raises is that Parshas Pinchas contains the Parshas Hamoadim, the reading detailing all the Yomim Tovim and their observances. He explains that this is also an apropos reading for the Three Weeks, to comfort us in our time of mourning. This is as the Navi Zechariah (Ch. 8: 19) prophesized that when the Geulah comes, this period will be turned into one of great rejoicing (‘l’sasson u’lsimcha ul’moadim tovim’).

For all of the above-mentioned reasons, it is simply not worthwhile for Chutz La’aretz to make Chukas and Balak into a double parshah merely to catch up to Eretz Yisrael, since if it would, then Parshas Pinchas will not fall out in the Three Weeks. Therefore, it is proper for Chutz La’aretz to wait and not catch up to Eretz Yisrael until Matos / Masei, thus ensuring that Parshas Pinchas be leined during Bein Hametzarim, and enabling us to glean and appreciate its veiled significance and promises for the future.

The Code for Consolation

The Mahari”t continues that the reason why Matos and Masei are generally combined is to a similar, yet reverse, reason to Bamidbar. As the Tur wrote, the code for this time of year is ‘Tzumu V’Tzalu’, the fast of Tisha B’Av is directly before Va’eschanan. This is not merely by chance.

Parshas Va’eschanan contains the pesukim of ‘Ki Soleed Banim U’vnei Vanim V’noshantem Ba’aretz’ (Devarim Ch. 4: 25), which although not a pleasant reading, as it is a tochachah (rebuke),[18] nevertheless, Chazal[19] glean that there is a hidden message of redemption buried within.V’noshantem in Gematria equals 852, letting us know that after 852 years of living in Eretz Yisrael, the Galus would start. Yet, we find that the Galus actually started two years early, after 850 years. This is because Hashem did not wantchas veshalom to have to destroy us (ad loc. verse 26), and therefore, as a kindness, brought the Exile two years early, to ensure Klal Yisrael’s survival.

Therefore, explains the Mahari”t, we commonly join up Matos and Masei to make certain that Parshas Va’eschanan is always immediately following Tisha B’Av as Shabbos Nachamu, thus offering us a message of consolation even amidst the destruction.

In conclusion, although it may seem complicated and confusing, on the contrary, each calenderical calculation is clearly consistent with the clarion call of our Chazal - parshah combination and separation, synchronized to showcase hope and consolation when we need it most, as well as serve as a buffer from condemnation.

The author wishes to thank Rabbi Dovid Heber of the Star-K, author of Shaarei Zemanim, for his assistance with this article.

This article was written 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: yspitz@ohr.edu.

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] As addressed at length in a previous article titled ‘Rosh Hashanah: The Universal Two Day Yom Tov, and why Yom Kippur is Not.

[2] 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 visitor 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).

[3] 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 Hilchos Shabbos 45) regarding if an entire tzibbur did not lein one week, that they would be required to make it up the next week along with the current Parshah. See also Rav Yechiel Michel Tukachinsky’s authoritative Luach Eretz Yisrael (5775; Minhagei Hashanah, Nissan: footnote 6). Although 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. On the other hand, when someone pointed this Maaseh Rav out to Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, after telling a questioner that he is not obligated to find a double-parsha-ed minyan as leining is a Chovas Hatzibbur, Rav Shlomo Zalman retorted rhetorically, ‘Do you truly believe that you are on the Vilna Gaon’s level to perform all of the Minhagei HaGr”a?!’(Halichos Shlomo, ad loc. footnote 90). 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.

[4] For example, the Mahari”t mentions that in a year such as ours the minhag in Syria was to catch up by Chukas / Balak. Whereas the Tikkun Yissachar mentions a certain Chacham, Harav Saadya, who combined Korach and Chukas, an interesting combination that, as the Tikkun Yissachar notes, the rest of the world never combines.

[5] Knesses Hagedolah (Orach Chaim 428, Haghos on Tur s.v.kishe’ira), Magen Avraham (ad loc. end 6; citing the precedent and rulings of the Mahari”t and Tikkun Yissachar; see next footnote), and Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. end 10).

[6] Shu”t Maharit (vol. 2 Orach Chaim 4), also quoting the Tikkun Yissachar (pg. 38 a -b), based on Tosafos (Megillah 31b s.v. klalos) and the Levush (Orach Chaim 428: 4).

[7] According to the Abudraham (pg. 372), and Tikkun Yissachar (pg. 38a), and cited lemaaseh by the Levush (Orach Chaim 428: 4), Knesses Hagedolah (ibid. s.v. shittah 44), 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 Metzora 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.

[8] According to the main commentaries on the Tur and Shulchan Aruch, ‘Pakdu’ means ‘commanded’, hence it is referring to Parshas Tzav, which also means ‘command’. ‘Paschu’ is referring to Pesach. ‘Sagru’ means ‘closing’, referring to Parshas Metzora, as a Metzora must be closeted for at least a week. ‘Manu’, ‘count’, refers to Parshas Bamidbar, which deals mainly with the counting of Bnei Yisrael. ‘Atzru’, ‘stop’, refers to Shavuos, by referring to its name that it is called by in the Torah, ‘Atzeres’. ‘Tzumu’, ‘fast’, refers to the fast of Tisha B’Av. ‘Tzulu’, ‘daven’, refers to Parshas Va’eschanan, as it starts with Moshe Rabbeinu’s entreaties to Hashem. ‘Kumu’, ‘stand’, refers to Parshas Nitzavim, literally ‘standing’. And ‘Tik’u’, ‘blow’ refers to Rosh Hashanah, when the Mitzvas Hayom is to blow the Shofar.

[9] These mnemonics are cited lemaaseh by all later authorities as well, including the Shulchan Aruch, Levush, and Aruch Hashulchan (Orach Chaim 428: 4).

[10] Tosafos (Megillah 31b s.v. klalos), and later seconded by the Levush (Orach Chaim 428: 4).

[11]Tichleh shana u’klaloseha,tachel shana u’birchoseha’. See Gemara Megillah (31b).

[12] Interestingly, and on a side point, this setup might cause a world-record for longest Krias HaTorah, a potential whopping 335 pesukim, in the following scenario. Some ‘Chutzniks’ go to Eretz Yisrael next year for Shavuos. On Erev Shavuos, in Chutz La’aretz they lein Bamidbar and in Eretz Yisrael they lein Nasso. Anyone who does this will miss Bamidbar, so they might make a special minyan for these visitors. The Kohen would lein all of Bamidbar and the Kohen aliyah of Nasso. The other six aliyos would be the rest of Nasso as usual. The grand total of Bamidbar (159 pesukim) plus Nasso (176 pesukim) equals 335 pesukim – a potential new record!

[13] Bnei Yisaschar (vol. 1, Ma’amarei Chodshei Tamuz - Av, Ma’amar 2: 2).

[14] This three-week season is referred to as such by the Midrash Rabbah (cited by Rashi in his commentary to Eichah Ch. 1, verse 3).

[15] Minchas Yitzchok al HaTorah (newer edition, vol. 2 pg. 185, Parshas Pinchas s.v. uvazeh).

[16] He proves this from different ma’amarei Chazal from Ta’anis (26a), Yoma (62b), Sanhedrin (56b), as well as the Kli Yakar (Pinchas Ch. 28: 4). His actual ma’amar was explaining why the fact that Batlu HaTamid on Shiva Asur B’Tamuz is reason enough for fasting.

[17] Hosheah (Ch. 14: 3). See also Gemara Taanis (27b), Megillah (31b), and Yoma (86b).

[18] In fact, it is also theKriah for Shacharis on Tisha B’Av itself [see Rema (Orach Chaim 559: 4)], thus making it read twice in the same week, perhaps to let its hidden message sink in.

[19] Gemara Sanhedrin (38a), cited by Rashi on the pasuk. See also Sifsei Chachamim (ad loc.).


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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