Jewish Weekly Readings – Parashiyot

Boy reading from the Torah according to Sephar...
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Each week in synagogue a passage from the Torah is read (or, more accurately, chanted, because it is sung). This passage is referred to as a parashah. The first parashah, for example, is Parashat Bereishit, which covers from the beginning of Genesis to the story of Noah. There are 54 parashahs (parashiyot), one for each week of a leap year, so that in the course of a year, the entire Torah (Genesis to Deuteronomy) is read in services. During non-leap years, there are 50 weeks, so some of the shorter portions would be doubled up. The last portion of the Torah comes around a holiday called Simchat Torah (Rejoicing in the Law), which occurs in September or October, a few weeks after Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year). On Simchat Torah is read the last portion of the Torah, and proceeded immediately to the first paragraph of Genesis, showing that the Torah is a circle, and never ends.

In a synagogue service, the weekly parashah is followed by a passage from the prophets and writings (Nevi’im & Ketuvim) which is referred to as a haftarah. Contrary to common misconception, “haftarah” does not mean “half-Torah”. The word comes from a Hebrew root meaning end or conclusion. Usually, the haftarah portion is no longer than one chapter, and has some relation to the Torah portion of the week.

The Torah and haftarah readings are performed with great ceremony: the Torah is paraded around the room before it is brought to rest on the bimah (podium). The reading is divided up into portions, and various members of the congregation have the honor of reciting blessings over a portion of the reading and doing the reading. This honor is referred to as an “aliyah” (literally, ascension).

Celebrants of life events are customarily given the last aliyah, which includes blessings on the last part of the Torah reading as well as several blessings of the haftarah reading. The person given this honor is referred to as the “maftir”, from the same root as haftarah, meaning the one who concludes.

Jewish scriptures are sometimes bound in a form that corresponds to this division into weekly readings. Scriptures bound in this way are generally referred to as a chumash. The word “chumash” comes from the Hebrew word meaning five, and refers to the five books of the Torah. Sometimes, the word chumash simply refers to a collection of the five books of the Torah. But often, a chumash contains the entire first five books, divided up by the weekly parashiyot, with the haftarah portion inserted after each week’s parashah.

Parashiyot Table

Below is a table of the regular weekly scriptural readings. Haftarot in parentheses indicate Sephardic ritual where it differs from Ashkenazic. Also included are B’rit Chadashah (New Testament) readings which correspond to the Torah readings to give clarity and understanding as to how they connect together.


Published by Nathanstrom

Ordained Bishop with the Church of God; Cleveland, TN; Senior Pastor at Redemption Place Church of God Allegan, MI. Community Service Chaplain.

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