Weekly Torah Portions

June 5, 2015

Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Judaic message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter. Below is the Shabbat message for Friday, June 5, 2015.

Weekly Torah Portions

This Shabbat, the Torah Portion, or Parshah, is “B’ha’a lot’cha” – Numbers 8:1 – 12:16. This same section will be read this Shabbat in EVERY SINGLE synagogue in the entire world. Some synagogues read all five chapters, some read only a few verses – but all synagogues read from the exact same Torah portion. So... how did this happen? Who decided how the Torah should be read in the synagogue? Who defined the portions?

Public reading of the Torah began during the Babylonian exile 586 bce – 520 bce. During those 60 odd years, the Jews, for whom the Torah (5 books of Moses) is the central document of faith, had been forgetting the Torah. The leadership in Babylon instituted the reading of the Torah on the Sabbaths, and Holidays. After the Persian King Cyrus permitted the Jews to return to Zion, the practice was brought with them. The system probably wasn’t finalized until the Torah was divided into “Official” sections  by the Masorites – a family of scholars in the 7-10 Century Gallilee. The Masorites – particularly the Ben Asher family in Tiberias – not only figured out how to add vowels to aid the pronunciation of the Torah, but they divided it into sections, including the current chapters and verses that we have today.

Shabbat Shalom