Insights into Halacha

For the week ending 21 April 2018 / 6 Iyyar 5778

Parashah Permutations 5778

by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
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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 parashah. A simple innocuous question of “What’s this week’s parashah?” will elicit a different response depending on where in the world the question is being asked. This is because the parashah will 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 parashah is read. This puts Eretz Yisrael a parashah ahead until the rest of the world soon ‘catches up’, by an upcoming potential double-parashah, which each would be read separately in Eretz Yisrael.

The reason for this current interesting phenomenon is that this year [5778 / 2018] 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 ‘Asser Te’asser’ (Devarim, Parashas Re’eh, Ch. 14: 22), whereas in Eretz Yisrael communities read Parashas Shemini, the next parashah 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 12th), 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.[3]

This causes all sorts of halachic issues for travelers to and from Israel during this time period – which parashah 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.[4] 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 parashah, 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 parashah, to make sure that we complete the Torah reading for the year on Simchas Torah.

As detailed by the Abudraham, there are seven potential occurrences when we read “double parshiyos”. These seven are:

  1. Vayakheil / Pekudei, the last two parshiyos of Sefer Shemos.
  2. Tazria / Metzora, in Sefer Vayikra.
  3. Acharei Mos / Kedoshim, in Sefer Vayikra.
  4. Behar / Bechukosai, in Sefer Vayikra.
  5. Chukas / Balak, in Sefer Bamidbar.
  6. Matos / Masei, the last two parshiyos of Sefer Bamidbar.
  7. Netzavim / Vayeileich, towards the end of Sefer Devarim.[5]

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 parashah 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 Rav Yissachar Ben-Sussan, one of the foremost experts on intercalation of the Jewish calendar and its minhagim, in his renowned sefer Tikkun Yissachar (written in 1538 / 5298; pg. 32a and 38b), 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 Parashas Bechukosai contains tochacha (rebuke), there must be a “buffer week” [practically, Parashas Bamidbar] between its reading and Shavuos.[6]

This is because we pray that a year and its curses should end, in order to usher in a new year with its blessings.[7] This is apropos for Shavuos as it is Rosh Hashanah for Peiros Ha’Ilan, tree fruits (Gemara Rosh Hashanah 16a). 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 stand-alone “buffer week” before Shavuos, in order to emphasize that we are getting Bechukosai in just before Shavuos.

This might also help 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.

Indeed, the Tikkun Yissachar relates that one year with a similar calenderical makeup to ours, the Sefardic Chachamim of Tzfas agreed to separate Tazria and Metzora, in order to be on par with the rest of the world. However, the response of the Rabbanim from the rest of Eretz Yisrael was not long in coming. They utterly rejected the idea, and demanded that they only catch up at Behar / Bechukosai, as that was already the established minhag for generations.[8]

Another theory posited by the Tikkun Yissachar 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 contain it in only one.[9]

There were variant Minhagim in Eretz Yisrael over the centuries, and the Magen Avraham (Orach Chaim 428: 6) and later the Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. 10), in fact, cite both as being performed 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 Metzora together. This is further confirmed by Rav Yechiel Michel Tukachinsky’s authoritative Luach Eretz Yisrael (5778; Minhagei Hashanah, Nissan), originally published in 1905, as 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. In that case the Torah reading would be that of the holiday (also ‘Asser Te’asser’), 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 parashah 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 parashah” which is Chukas / Balak. In Chutz La’aretz it is read as a double parashah, whereas in Eretz Yisrael only Balak is read.

What is lesser known is that this causes an even rarer phenomenon: the potential combination of Parashas Nasso and Beha’aloscha – creating the longest parashah by far, and potentially leading to the world record for the longest aliyah. This “extreme double parashah” 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, including reading only the special Yom Tov Torah reading. Therefore, although the vast majority of people in Israel read Parashas 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 parashah” - Nasso and Beha’aloscha - containing a whopping 312 pesukim! (The closest is the longest regular double parashahMattos / Masei with 244 pesukim).[10] Others make a special reading on that day itself, Shabbos / Second Day Shavuos, at Minchah,[11] where the entire Parashas 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![12]

An interesting time of year, indeed.

Postscript: Although there are times and places that necessitate a double-double parashah, for example this year (2018), several yeshivos in Eretz Yisrael that cater to Chutznikim who only return from Pesach Bein Hazmanim for Eretz Yisrael’s Parashas 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-parashah 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.[13]

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, 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. He also currently writes a contemporary halacha column for the Ohr Somayach website titled “Insights Into Halacha”.

[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’), ruled that even one merely visiting Eretz Yisrael over Yom Tov should keep only one day of Yom Tov like the natives (to paraphrase a common colloquialism: ‘when in Israel do as the Israelis do’), 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] If you think this is a long time to be out of sync, wait until next year, 5779 / 2019, which although it 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. The last few times this occurred was in 1995 and twenty-one years later in 2016. The next time will be next year - 2019.

[4] 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 parashah. 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.

[5] Abudraham (Seder Haparshiyos). See also Biur HaGr”a (Orach Chaim 428: 4 s.v. l’olam) and Biur Halacha (ad loc. s.v. B’midbar Sinai).

[6] Additionally, according to the Abudraham (ad loc. pg. 372), and cited lemaaseh by the Levush (Orach Chaim 428: 4) and Elyah Rabbah (ad loc. 5), the reason why Parashas 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 Parashas 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.

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

[8] Tikkun Yissachar (pg. 32b s.v. haghah). The exact quote of the sharply worded rejoinder of the Rabbanim is “Zehu Minhag Avoseinu U’Kadmoneinu B’Yadeinu Mei’Olam V’Shanim Kadmoniyos”.

[9]Tikkun Yissachar (pg. 32a).This author has recently heard from R’ Yossi Rabinowitz a fascinating potential solution, based on this Tikkun Yissachar, to explain why Eretz Yisrael does not simply split up Acharei Mos and Kedoshim the next week instead of waiting until Behar / Bechukosai. The Ramban, in his introduction to Sefer Vayikra (s.v. vehutzrach) writes that the laws of Tzaraas are dealt with in Sefer Vayikra to raise awareness of the issues pertaining to tuma’ah (ritual impurity). He then adds that ‘venigrar achar zeh sheyazhir al ha’arayos’ as they too are impure and ‘goremes lesiluk HaShechinah uleGalos’. In other words, the Ramban is teaching that the issues of illicit relations immediately follow the laws of Tzaraas as they too are intrinsically highly negative topics. If so, since these issues of arayos are mentioned in both Parashas Acharei Mos and Kedoshim, perhaps utilizing the logic of the Tikkun Yissachar, this might explain why we do not split them up either, unless absolutely necessary. Another possible explanation is that according to most Ashkenazic authorities [see, for example Haghos Rabbi Akiva Eiger (Orach Chaim 428, on Magen Avraham 10), based on the Rema’s ruling (ad loc. 8) that as opposed to any other ‘double parashah’ when the haftorah of the second parashah is read, on the other hand, when Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are combined, Acharei Mos’s haftorah is leined instead], whenever possible we do not read Parashas Kedoshim’s haftorahHasishpot’ as is references the ‘To’avas Yerushalayim’. [This issue was discussed at length in an article titled ‘The Case of the Missing Haftarah.]. In fact, due to this issue, according to mainstream Ashkenazic practice, ‘Hasishpot’ is read only 14 times in the Tur’s (Orach Chaim end 428) 247-year cycle, practically making it the rarest of all haftaros. There are even Kehillos that lein Acharei Mos’s haftarah two weeks in a row just not to leinHasishpot’. [See Shu”t Even Yisrael (vol. 8: 38) andHalichos Even Yisrael (Moadim vol. 1, pg. 217: 24).] However, if we were to split up Acharei Mos and Kedoshim this year in Eretz Yisrael just to allow Chutz La’aretz to catch up, then ‘Hasishpot’ would be mandated to be read, which is an untenable situation that we attempt to prevent in any way halachically possible. Although it might seem odd to suggest that a haftarah reading should mandate a specific Torah reading, nonetheless, this might be an additional potential reason why we do not separate the two simply to get Chutz La’aretz back in sync.

[10] It is technically possible to have Mattos / Masei even longer - at 251 pesukim. This occurs whenit falls out on Rosh Chodesh Av, as then there are seven added different pesukim for the Maftir of Rosh Chodesh.

[11] However, it must be noted that due to the ‘bitul melachah’ involved, as well as the fact that there never was a Takkanas Chazal to lein entire Parshiyos on a regular weekday, there is there is no inyan nor possible solution to attempt to catch up at a Monday or Thursday Torah reading; it must be done on a Shabbos. See Elyah Rabbah (Orach Chaim 135: end 2), Dagul Mervavah (ad loc. s.v. v’im), Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 6), andMishnah Berurah (ad loc. 5).

[12] Although this was reading is practically the longest possible, Rabbi Dovid Heber of the Star-K, and author of Shaarei Zemanim, pointed out that the longest kriah could potentially be longer than 312 pesukim next year (Pesach on Shabbos in a leap year) 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 a whopping 335 pesukim – a potential new record!

[13] 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 parashah 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 parashah of that week. In fact, as mentioned previously, 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, is that they would be required to make it up the next week along with the current parashah. The Ohr Zarua explains that Takkanas Moshe Rabbeinu was that every parashah be read every year; implying that it is not necessarily dependant on the correct weeks, but rather that they be actually read over the course of the year. 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. Interestingly, the Mishnah Berurah (ad loc. 6 and Shaar Hatziyun 8) writes that the Biur HaGr”a (ad loc. s.v. im bitlu) implies like the Maharam Mintz, as he equates the “catching up” of Parshiyos with that of Tashlumin for missed Tefillos; where halachah only allows catching up for one missed Tefillah (see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 108: 4). Yet, from the Tosefes Maaseh Rav we see that the Vilna Gaon personally did not follow the Maharam Mintz’s rule, but rather that of the Haghos HaMinhagim. 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-parasha-ed minyan as leining is a Chovas Hatzibbur, Rav Shlomo Zalman retorted rhetorically, ‘Do you truly believe that are you are on the Vilna Gaon’s level to perform all of the Minhagei HaGr”a?!’(Halichos Shlomo, Moadim vol. 2, Pesach Ch. 10: 22, footnote 90).

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.

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