FAQ (frequently asked questions): Parsha (Torah of the week) differs inside Israel from outside

Why synagogues in Israel and outside Israel sometimes don’t read the same parsha

The Torah is divided into 54 readings and every Shabbat we read a parsha in a predetermined order. The same parshiot (plural of parsha) is read all over the world. But once every few years, for a few weeks, people in Israel read a parsha a week earlier than in the Netherlands and the other countries of the diaspora. This is temporary and this year (2022-5782) just happens to be one of those years where this takes place.

There are three reasons why this occurs, namely:
1. On a biblical feast, an extra parsha (in connection with the relevant feast) is always read, so that the ‘normal’ parsha comes a week later.
2. In the diaspora, so also in the Netherlands, an extra day to the biblical feast is added.
3. When in Israel the end of a biblical feast ends on Friday night.

About point 1 (additional parsha): When Shabbat coincides with a h biblical feast, the reading of the weekly portion is replaced by a portion of the Torah pertaining to that feast. On such a feast, the parsha that would usually be read (without a feast) is thus replaced by an extra parsha. And the usual parsha comes a week later.

About point 2 (extra added feast): In the diaspora, so outside Israel , the feasts of Sukkot and Shemini Atseret (with an eighth day), Pesach (with an eighth day) and Shavuot (with a second day) are celebrated, so with an extra day.

About point 3 (Feast in Israel ending Friday night): This year, the feast of Passover began on Shabbat. In Israel, it was celebrated for seven days, ending on Friday night. The next day it was Shabbat and everyone there read the Torah portion of Acharey Mot. But outside Israel, Passover was, as always, celebrated with an eighth day. With that, Passover ended there on Saturday night. So outside of Israel, the Torah reading for the last day of Passover was read by everyone. And so the Torah portion of Acharey Mot outside Israel was not read until the following week. And then the synagogues in Israel were already busy with the next parsha: Kedoshim. For example, in the diaspora, parsha readings were just a week behind!

And when will this difference be restored? On the Shabbat of 2 Av, which is July 30, the Torah portion of Mase is read in Israel. They then read the parsha Matot the week before. We then read the two parshiot – Matot and Mase – put together. And then we read the same parshiot again!

Lion S. Erwteman