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Why Israel and the Diaspora Read Different Parshahs

Why Israel and the Diaspora Read Different Parshahs

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Question:

I’m a regular visitor to your Parshah section as well as to some of your other specialty sites. Lately I’ve noticed something strange. Some websites are showing one Parshah, and others are showing another. What’s going on?

Response:

This happens every few years for a few weeks following either Passover or Shavuot. In both cases, the Jews in Israel are one portion ahead of the Jews in the rest of the world. How does this come about? There are two dynamics at play here:

  1. The Torah is divided into 54 portions, which we call Parshahs. Every Shabbat we read another portion. When Shabbat coincides with a holiday, we read the special holiday reading, and the weekly portion is deferred to the following week.
  2. For reasons you can read about here, most holidays are celebrated for an additional day in the Diaspora. This means that Passover is seven days long in Israel and eight days long in the rest of the world. Similarly, the one-day holiday of Shavuot becomes a two-day affair in the Diaspora.

Therefore, a holiday could extend into Shabbat in the Diaspora but already be over in Israel.

Thus, during some years, while our Israeli brethren read the portion of Shemini on the day following Passover, the rest of us get to it only one week later, since we are still celebrating Passover then, and we continue to lag behind.

The same thing can happen if Shabbat falls on 7 Sivan. While the Jews in Israel read the portion of Naso, Diaspora Jews read the portion associated with the second day of Shavuot.

But don’t worry. We always reunite. In years when Passover creates a split, when the Jews in Israel are up to Bechukotai, the Diaspora Jews combine Bechukotai with the previous portion of Behar, allowing them to catch up with their Israeli counterparts. (In a Jewish leap year, the split lasts until the Parshah of Massei, which in the Diaspora is combined with the previous portion of Matot while in Israel they are read separately.)

In years when we have a post-Shavuot divide, when Israeli Jews are up to Balak, we read the double portion of Chukat-Balak in the Diaspora.

Rabbi Mendy Kaminker is the editor of Beit Chabad, the Hebrew edition of Chabad.org.
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David L. May 19, 2015

Yes. In 2020 (5780), Parashas Naso will be read on 7 Sivan in Israel, and on 14 Sivan in the Diaspora.

There's a web site goes into great detail on how the Parashah readings are scheduled, but I don't know if it's permitted to post links here. Reply

Anonymous NY May 18, 2015

A search on Google for "Sukkot 2020" shows that its first day will be on Friday. So won't this apply also then? Reply

Eli Levy Johannesburg May 12, 2015

This happened to me, that I was in Israel in April and on Shabbat 11 April I was called for an Aliyah (I am Levy and get the second Aliyah) so in Israel on Shabbat there was no holiday and they read the regular Parsha of Shemini. That Tuesday I flew from Israel to South Africa and on Shabbat 18 April, I was called again in Johannesburg for the Levy Aliyah and they read exactly the same Parsha of Shmini, as they were one week behind from Israel. Reply

miriam bat ayin, Israel May 12, 2015

different parshas Why isn't the catching up as soon as possible? we could have been back together in 2weeks with tazria-metzora. It has been inconvenient having to use 2 different chayenus for Tanya and Chumash. How was it decided to wait 5 weeks instead of 2? Reply

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