What is the Parasha?

The weekly Torah portion or parasha

(Hebrew: פָּרָשָׁה, means “portion”) formally means a section of a biblical book in the masoretic text of the Tanakh. The Torah is traditionally divided into 54 parashas or parashiyot (plural). Each weekly Torah portion adopts its name from one of the first unique words in the Hebrew text. The traditional annual cycle begins and ends with the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah.

In many of our worship communities, the Torah is chanted publicly over the course of a year, with one major portion read each week during the Shabbat morning service, except when a holiday coincides with Shabbat. In the 19th and 20th centuries, many congregations in the Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Renewal Jewish movements have implemented an triennial cycle in which only one-third of each weekly parashah is read in a given year. Each of the parashot read are still consistent with the annual cycle but the entire Torah is completed over three years. The adoption of the triennial system was in order to shorten the weekly services and allow additional time for sermons.