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Why is the Torah read on Mondays and Thursdays?

Why is the Torah read on Mondays and Thursdays?

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On a typical week, the Torah is read publicly on Monday, Thursday, and twice on Shabbat. On holidays, fast days, and Rosh Chodesh, the Torah is read regardless of the day of the week.

When did this start?

Moses instituted that the Torah be read three days a week. The Talmudic sages1 find this alluded to in Exodus (15:22-27), where we read that our ancestors traveled for three days and thirsted for water—which allegorically also refers to the Torah. They had become spiritually ill after not studying Torah. In response, Moses and the prophets of his generation decided that three days should never pass without a public Torah reading. Thus, we read the Torah on Shabbat, then skip a day and read it on Monday, then skip two days and read it again on Thursday—then two days later we are back at Shabbat.2

At first glance, this would seem to contradict the tradition3 that Ezra the Scribe and the Men of the Great Assembly introduced the practice of reading the Torah on Mondays and Thursdays in the 4th century BCE.

The Talmud reconciles these two traditions by explaining that they refer to different stages in the evolution of this tradition. In Moses' times only three verses were read (corresponding to the three general groups within the Jewish community: Kohen, Levi, and Yisrael) on the weekdays. Ezra and associates lengthened this quota to a minimum of 10 verses (divided into three Aliyot).

Please let me know if this helps.

Yours truly,

Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson

Footnotes
1.

Bava Kamma 82a.

2.

The Tosafot (ad loc.) add that the choice of Monday and Thursday had additional significance to Moses since when he received the second set of Tablets he ascended Mount Sinai on the last Monday in Av and came down on Thursday, 10 Tishrei.

3.

Also found in the Jerusalem Talmud (Megillah 4:1).

Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson is a writer who lives with his family in Brooklyn, N.Y.
All names of persons and locations or other identifying features referenced in these questions have been omitted or changed to preserve the anonymity of the questioners.
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Yehuda Toronto June 5, 2017

If there wasn't a minian on Monday and the Torah was not read. If there is a minian on Tuesday can they read the Torah since they missed all missed the reading on Monday? Reply

Mendel Adelman June 7, 2017
in response to Yehuda:

This is a really good question!

The Gemara (Baba Kamma 82a) says that Moshe established the custom that the Jews should read the Torah so that they would never go three days without hearing it read publicly.

The days of Monday and Thursday were chosen so that there would never be three consecutive days without a Torah reading, and because Moshe went up the mountain on a Monday and came back down from it on a Thursday.

But after Monday, it still has not been three days from the last Torah reading, so logically, you should be obligated to read the Torah on Tuesday.

However, the Mishna Berurah (135:1) writes that if a group of people missed Torah reading in the morning, they may do it in the afternoon. He explains that they may do so because the enactment was to read the Torah on the days of Monday and Thursday, not specifically the morning.

From this, it seems that he would not allow a Torah reading on a different day. There are even some who don't allow an afternoon reading at all Reply

Baruch Davidson Brooklyn May 9, 2013

Re:Torah readings on non-reading days According to most opinions one must not add to the public readings that were instituted by our prophets and greats. Taking out the Torah is not taken lightly. Reply

Elliott May 8, 2013

Torah readings Does this mean that you CANNOT read publicly from the Torah on days other than on/Thurs/Shabbos - Rosh Chodesh - yomTov? Reply

Baruch Davidson (author) February 19, 2009

Re: Reading Torah On Monday and Thursday, the portion read is the opening verses of the Parshah – Torah portion – which will be read on the coming Shabbat. The Haftorah is not read on typical weekdays.

In addition to the cycle described above, if there is a Jewish festival, holiday, or fast during the week we read the unique Torah section designated for that occasion. If the festival is on Monday, Thursday, or Saturday, the weekly Parshah is "usurped" in favor of the holiday reading.

The market days when the villagers would go to the big city were indeed set on Monday and Thursday because of the Torah reading, and other public functions were set already on those days. Reply

Albert February 10, 2009

In response to the market days, I have learned that the market days were placed on Monday and Thursday specifically because those are the days the Torah is read Reply

aa February 7, 2009

Reading Torah Dear Rabbi,

This does help but which part of the Torah is read? I have heard it is the weekly portion only, then I read that it is the haftorah along with the Torah weekly portion.

Which is it? Reply

Daniel February 5, 2009

added info I thought that Mondays and Thursdays were somewhat like days of judgement, which is why many chassidim and people in general would fast on those days (especially the following Monday Thursday and Monday after Succos). To help with the 'din' (judgement) they also picked these days for some extra Torah to be read publicly. I may be wrong though... Reply

Chaya montreal, Canada February 5, 2009

added info I have learned in school that the reason why specifically Mondays and Thursdays were chosen was because those days were the market days when the Jews from small towns would gather together to the bigger towns. Such days (when all the Jews would be together) would be perfect times to read the Torah. Reply

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