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YomTov, Vol. III, # 28

Topic: The Four Parshios, The Four Portions

by Rabbi Yehudah Prero


Beginning with the Shabbos before Rosh Chodesh (the start of the month of) Adar, we read what are known as the "Arba Parshios," "The Four Portions." These special portions are read after the regular weekly Torah portion, replacing the regular "Maftir" portion of the Torah reading.

Sefer Ta'amai Haminhagim writes that the reading of three of these Parshios is done as a remembrance of the time when the Temple was in existence. Part of the daily service in the Temple involved the bringing of communal sacrifices. Since these offerings were brought on behalf of the entire nation, the entire nation was expected to help defray the cost of the animals used for the offerings. A collection was taken each year. A year was calculated from one month of Nissan to the next month of Nissan. The collection was announced one month prior to Nissan, at the beginning of the month of Adar, so that there would be funds in the Temple treasury come the beginning of the new year. In order to recall this practice, we read the Torah portion that concerns the collection of the Half Shekel, the amount of the donation, the Shabbos before the month of Adar starts, which this year is Saturday, February 21, 1998 (or if Adar begins on Shabbos, it is read on that Shabbos). This portion is known as Parshas Shekalim, The Portion of Shekalim (Shmos 30:11-16).

The second special Parsha that we read is read for a reason other than remembering the times of the Temple. On the Shabbos that precedes Purim, we read what is known as Parshas Zachor, The Porion of Remembering (Devarim 25:17-19). Haman, whose downfall we acknowledge on Purim, was a member of the nation of Amalek. Amalek attacked the nation of Israel soon after they left Egypt. The act of attacking the Jewish nation was particularly brazen as the entire world had heard about the miraculous salvation of the Jews from Egypt. The Jewish people were victorious in their battle, and G-d commended that the entire nation of Amalek be remembered for what they did, and eradicated. We read of the attack and this related commandment right before Purim, the holiday which celebrates our victory over Amalek once again. This year, it will be read on Saturday March 7, 1998.

The third special Parsha we read is called Parshas Parah, The Portion of the Cow (Bamidbar 19:1-22). This special portion discusses the laws of the Red Heifer. In order for a person to become ritually pure, a requirement for participating in certain sacrifices, after contact with a corpse, one had to undergo a purification process that involved the ashes of the Red Heifer. People who were defiled because of contact with a corpse had to become ritually pure before partaking of the Korban Pesach, the special Passover sacrifice. Because the purification process took time, and people began making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem right when the month of Nissan began, people needed to start the process in advance of the onset of Pesach. As a remembrance of these preparations, we read this portion two Saturdays before the beginning of the month of Nissan, this year, Saturday, March 21, 1998.

The fourth special portion we read is called Parshas HaChodesh, The Portion of The Month (Shmos 12:1-20). This special portion discusses the significance of the month of Nissan, the month that G-d tells Moshe is the first month of the year, and Pesach preparations. We read this portion on the Shabbos before the start of the month on Nissan. At this time, people were reminded that Nissan was coming, and that plans had to be made for the upcoming Pesach pilgrimage. As a remembrance of these preparations, we read this portion the Shabbos before Nissan begins, this year Saturday March 28, 1998.

Beginning with the Shabbos before Rosh Chodesh (the start of the month of) Adar, we read what are known as the "Arba Parshios," "The Four Portions." These special portions are read after the regular weekly Torah portion, replacing the regular "Maftir" portion of the Torah reading.

Sefer Ta'amai Haminhagim writes that the reading of three of these Parshios is done as a remembrance of the time when the Temple was in existence. Part of the daily service in the Temple involved the bringing of communal sacrifices. Since these offerings were brought on behalf of the entire nation, the entire nation was expected to help defray the cost of the animals used for the offerings. A collection was taken each year. A year was calculated from one month of Nissan to the next month of Nissan. The collection was announced one month prior to Nissan, at the beginning of the month of Adar, so that there would be funds in the Temple treasury come the beginning of the new year. In order to recall this practice, we read the Torah portion that concerns the collection of the Half Shekel, the amount of the donation, the Shabbos before the month of Adar starts, which this year is Saturday, February 21, 1998 (or if Adar begins on Shabbos, it is read on that Shabbos). This portion is known as Parshas Shekalim, The Portion of Shekalim (Shmos 30:11-16).

The second special Parsha that we read is read for a reason other than remembering the times of the Temple. On the Shabbos that precedes Purim, we read what is known as Parshas Zachor, The Porion of Remembering (Devarim 25:17-19). Haman, whose downfall we acknowledge on Purim, was a member of the nation of Amalek. Amalek attacked the nation of Israel soon after they left Egypt. The act of attacking the Jewish nation was particularly brazen as the entire world had heard about the miraculous salvation of the Jews from Egypt. The Jewish people were victorious in their battle, and G-d commended that the entire nation of Amalek be remembered for what they did, and eradicated. We read of the attack and this related commandment right before Purim, the holiday which celebrates our victory over Amalek once again. This year, it will be read on Saturday March 7, 1998.

The third special Parsha we read is called Parshas Parah, The Portion of the Cow (Bamidbar 19:1-22). This special portion discusses the laws of the Red Heifer. In order for a person to become ritually pure, a requirement for participating in certain sacrifices, after contact with a corpse, one had to undergo a purification process that involved the ashes of the Red Heifer. People who were defiled because of contact with a corpse had to become ritually pure before partaking of the Korban Pesach, the special Passover sacrifice. Because the purification process took time, and people began making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem right when the month of Nissan began, people needed to start the process in advance of the onset of Pesach. As a remembrance of these preparations, we read this portion two Saturdays before the beginning of the month of Nissan, this year, Saturday, March 21, 1998.

The fourth special portion we read is called Parshas HaChodesh, The Portion of The Month (Shmos 12:1-20). This special portion discusses the significance of the month of Nissan, the month that G-d tells Moshe is the first month of the year, and Pesach preparations. We read this portion on the Shabbos before the start of the month on Nissan. At this time, people were reminded that Nissan was coming, and that plans had to be made for the upcoming Pesach pilgrimage. As a remembrance of these preparations, we read this portion the Shabbos before Nissan begins.


Head over to http://www.torah.org/learning/yomtov/ to access the YomTov Page. Then click on the icon for the holiday of your choice.
For questions, comments, and topic requests, please write to Rabbi Yehudah Prero.

 

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