This Week’s Torah Portion
For the week of November 23, 2019
For further study on the history of the Weekly Torah Reading Cycle,
download the article below:
An examination of the various customs surrounding
the public reading of the Scriptures in the 1st Century Synagogue.
by Tim Hegg
Traditionally, the five books of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) are divided into “weekly parashot” (portions or readings) so that the entire volume can be read in the Synagogue every Sabbath over a period of one or three years. There are 54 portions in the Annual or One Year Reading Cycle and 151 portions in the Triennial or Three Year Reading Cycle. Typically, once the passage of Scripture is read, a teaching on the text is given or a commentary is read.
The commentary on the weekly parashot found in this section is comprised of the teaching notes created by Tim Hegg which were used for the Weekly Shabbat studies at his home synagogue of Beit Hallel in Tacoma, WA. When Beit Hallel first gathered as a synagogue on Shabbat, more than 20 years ago, the Annual Cycle of the Torah readings (parashot) was naturally adopted, along with the traditional haftarah portions (selections from the Prophets) assigned to each Torah parashah.
But the community soon came to realize that the portions of the Annual Cycle were often too large to allow serious study and discussion of the passage at Shabbat gatherings. So after completing the Annual Cycle that first year, Beit Hallel decided to use the Triennial Cycle of the readings which naturally had smaller sections, allowing a more in-depth study of each weekly parashah.
Since the Triennial Cycle is, in the estimation of most scholars, the older lectionary of synagogue, it also made sense to utilize it as the community considered how the synagogues of The Way might have read through the Torah in the pre-destruction era.