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What is the Weekly Parsha/Portion? by FFOZ
Each week, synagogues across the world read a section from the Torah (the five books of Moses). In Hebrew, this passage is called Parashat HaShavua (פָּרָשַׁת הַשָּׁבוּעַ), which means “portion of the week.” Sometimes it is called the parsha or sidra. The Jewish community follows a schedule of readings based on the Hebrew calendar. Over the course of a year, the entire Torah is read publicly during the synagogue services.
Each reading has a name based on one of the important Hebrew words in the first sentence of the passage. There are fifty-four portions in the regular cycle, as listed below.
Note: On Jewish holidays, special readings often interrupt the regular cycle.
ORIGINS of the WEEKLY READING , by Jewish Virtual Library
The tradition of reading the Torah out loud dates back to the time of Moses, who would read the Torah publicly on Shabbat, festivals, and Rosh Chodesh. According to the Talmud, it was Ezra the Scribe who established the practice, which continues today, of reading the Torah also on Monday and Thursday mornings and Shabbat afternoons. These days were picked because Monday and Thursday were traditionally days that the Jews would go to the nearest towns to shop and trade. Also, this way the people would never go for more than three days without getting spiritual sustenance from the Torah. There were breaks in the practice, but since the Maccabean period in the 2nd century BCE, public Torah reading has been maintained continuously. It was also in the Maccabean period that the Jews started reading from the Torah consecutively, reading on Shabbat afternoon, Monday, and Thursday from the point at which they left off the previous Shabbat morning.
In the early times, there were two traditions as to how the reading on Shabbat mornings should proceed. In Israel, the Torah was divided into 155 portions and took three years to read. Today, Reform and some Conservative congregations follow this triennial cycle. In Babylonia, the Torah was split in 54 sections and took one year to read (some portions were read together in non-leap years). The size of the sections vary, containing anywhere between 30 and more than 150 verses. This latter custom became accepted for Orthodox and most Conservative Jews. The only break from the weekly cycle is when Shabbat is a holiday with a special Torah portion. The Torah is read on Shabbat and festivals between the shacharit (morning) and mussaf (additional) services and on weekdays at the end of shacharit.
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