Finding Your Torah Portion

Excerpted from Reclaiming Bar/Bat Mitzvah as a Spiritual Rite of Passage 
by Rabbi Goldie Milgram 

The Torah, also known in book form as the Chumash, (pronounced khu-mahsh), meaning “Five,” as in the Five Books of Moses. The Torah is studied and chanted aloud in weekly segments known as the parsha, or “portion.” This annual process ends and starts all over again on the holy day known as Simchat Torah, which is a day of “rejoicing in the Torah.” Because Judaism follows a lunar cycle, with certain years containing leap months, one year’s Jewish calendar does not often help with the next. For the same reason, in some years a single date will have two portions. On festivals and holidays, special portions are read that go out of order with the sequence of the year.

Every parsha (Torah portion) has a particular name derived from an early word or phrase in its verses. For example the first portion is named after its first word, Bereshit “In the beginning.”

Your Haftorah portion will be drawn from the post-Biblical period Jewish sacred texts known as Neviim, Prophets. These are found in the TaNaKh, the full canon of the Jewish bible.

The TaNaKh contains three sections: the Torah (Five Books of Moses); the Neviim (Joshua, Judges, Kings, and prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Micah, Habakkuk, Zechariah, and Malachi); and the Ketuvim (Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Book of Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nechemiah, and Chronicles).

TIP: Advice regarding the Torah Portion

Always check carefully for what Torah portion is assigned to a given date--sometimes people start preparing the wrong one!

Hebcal.com is an easy place to look up which Torah and Haftorah (prophetic) portions are matched with any given Shabbat in the year.

On occasion two Torah portions will be assigned to one Shabbat in order to fit the full sequence of readings into a given year. 

Holidays have special portions assigned, not simply the next portion in the sequence.

Traditionally, there are certain blackout dates during which Jewish life-cycle events are prohibited due to their proximity to other sacred occasions. Check our site section on the Jewish Calendar to find out what they are.

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