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.