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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Shabbat Shekalim’

Q & A: The Arba Parshiyot (Conclusion)

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Question: Why do we read four special Torah sections between Purim and Pesach. Also, why do we call each of the four Shabbatot on which we read these sections by a special name – such as Shabbat Shekalim, Shabbat Zachor etc.?

Celia Gluck
(Via E-Mail)

Answer: Last week we discussed the origin of weekly Torah readings and the additional arba parshiyot sections that we read beginning on the Shabbat preceding the first of Adar through the Shabbat preceding the first of Nissan. The four Shabbatot are Shabbat Shekalim, Shabbat Zachor, Shabbat Parah, and Shabbat HaChodesh.

* * *

Let us examine each of the arba parshiyot, and what our Sages have said about them. The first of the four parshiyot is Parshat Shekalim, which deals with the half-shekel coin given by every Jewish male of a certain age. The Torah (Exodus 30:11-16) states that this served two purposes. First, it served to count the Jewish people in an indirect fashion (since counting them directly may have caused the evil eye to plague them [Rashi ad loc.]). Second, it served as an atonement. Rashi (ad loc.) explains that some of that money was used for the communal sacrifices offered on the altar throughout the year.

The first mishnah in J.T. Shekalim (1:1) states, “On the first day of Adar [the bet din] would announce the shekalim contribution…” The Gemara asks, “Why on the first day of Adar?” It answers: “So that they will bring their shekalim in the proper time.”

The Rivan (Rabbenu Yehuda b. Binyamin HaRofeh) explains in his commentary (ad loc.) that the “proper time” is Rosh Chodesh Nissan, as the Gemara (B.T. Megillah 29b) explains concerning the verse (Numbers 28:14), “Zot olat chodesh bechadsho – This is the burnt offering sacrifice of each month in its month” – meaning the first of the month. Read this sentence as follows: “Chadesh – renew” from a new terumah (collection) the tamid and mussaf sacrifices brought on Rosh Chodesh Nissan. Acquire them with the new shekalim coins.

The Rivan then points out that the Gemara states (Pesachim 6a) that we should study the laws of Pesach 30 days before Pesach. He argues that we always should always prepare 30 days in advance. Therefore, since the shekalim collection was scheduled for Rosh Chodesh Nissan, we announce it 30 days prior, on Rosh Chodesh Adar. Hence, Parshat Shekalim is read on, or immediately prior to, Rosh Chodesh Adar. We may no longer have a Holy Temple, karbanot or a shekalim collection, but we still we read Parshat Shekalim to commemorate them.

Second on the calendar is Parshat Zachor, on which we read the verses in Deuteronomy 25:17-19 about Amalek: “Zachor et asher asah lecha Amalek baderech betzet’chem mimitzrayim – Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were leaving Egypt.” What did this nation do? The verse explains: “Asher karcha baderech va’yezanev becha kol ha’nechshalim acharecha ve’ata ayef ve’yage’a, velo yarei Elokim – He met you on the way and struck those of you who were hindmost, all the weak ones at your rear, when you were faint and exhausted, and he did not fear Hashem.”

The verse then instructs us, “Vehaya behani’ach Hashem Elokecha lecha mikol oy’vecha misaviv ba’aretz asher Hashem Elokecha noten lecha nachala lerishtah, timcheh et zecher Amalek mitachat hashamayim, lo tishkach – When Hashem your G-d has given you rest from all your enemies all around, in the land that Hashem your G-d gives you for an inheritance to possess it, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under the heavens; you shall not forget.”

Tosafot (Berachot 13a s.v. “b’lashon hakodesh ne’emra”) rules that the public reading of Parshat Zachor is a biblical requirement. Indeed, the Mechaber (Orach Chayim 685:7 citing “yesh omrim – some authorities”) codifies this as the halacha.

One might ask why Amalek deserves such a unique and severe punishment? Were there not other mortal enemies who fell upon our people? And yet, it is only Amalek that we are instructed to totally eradicate.

The answer is rather simple. Other nations that fought with us in the course of our entry into the land of Canaan were nations whom we were to displace when we entered the Promised Land. They fought us because they viewed their battles as a matter of survival. However, Amalek, a grandson of Edom (Esav), had no need to attack us. Hashem had commanded us not to conquer or harm Edom, Moab and Ammon since they were the children of Esav (Abraham’s grandson) and Lot (Abraham’s nephew) and their lands were their own by right of inheritance. Nonetheless, Amalek attacked us and thus sealed their destiny – eventual destruction and obliteration.

A mishnah (in Megillah 29a) explains that if Rosh Chodesh Adar falls on a Shabbat, we read Parshat Shekalim on that Shabbat. However, if rosh chodesh falls in the middle of the week, we read Parshat Shekalim on the Shabbat preceding rosh chodesh. The next week we don’t read any additional Torah section, and we resume with Parshat Zachor on the Shabbat after that. Rashi s.v. “Umafsikin le’shabbat haba’ah” explains that we endeavor to read Parshat Zachor on the Shabbat just before Purim in order to connect the eradication of Amalek with the downfall of Haman.

Q & A: The Arba Parshiyot (Part I)

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

Question: Why do we read four special Torah sections between Purim and Pesach. Also, why do we call each of the four Shabbatot on which we read these sections by a special name – such as Shabbat Shekalim, Shabbat Zachor etc.?

Celia Gluck
(Via E-Mail)

Answer: The four sections you refer to – the arba parshiyot – are read starting from the Shabbat preceding the first of Adar through the Shabbat preceding the first of Nissan. This year, the 25th of Shevat, Shabbat Parshat Mishpatim, was Shabbat Shekalim; Shabbat Parshat Tetzaveh on the 9th of Adar was Shabbat Zachor; the 23rd of Adar, Shabbat Parshat Vayakhel-Pekudei, was Shabbat Parah; and Rosh Chodesh Nissan, Shabbat Parshat Vayikra, will be Shabbat HaChodesh.

There are additional Shabbatot referred to by special names, such as Shabbat Nachamu after Tisha B’Av; Shabbat Shuva (also known as Shabbat Teshuvah) between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur; Shabbat Shira, the name given to the Shabbat on which we read Parshat Beshalach; and Shabbat Hagadol, which is always the Shabbat preceding Pesach.

On these Shabbatot we do not read a special Torah section in addition to the parshat ha’shavua, but their names denote a significant factor distinguishing them from a “regular” Shabbat. For example, Shabbat Shira is named such because it the Shabbat on which we read the Shirat Hayam – the songs of praise sung at the Red Sea by the Jewish people led by Moses and Miriam.

And now to the arba parshiyot. The gaon, Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin, zt”l, writes as follows in his HaMoadim BaHalacha (Jerusalem, 1956, p. 188): “The unique importance of these parshiyot is found in rabbinic literature. Even before the parshiyot of the Torah were divided among the Shabbatot of the year, the requirement [to read] the arba parshiyot was already noted [Megillah 29a]. However, in both the Mishnah and the Tosefta we find no mention of the names of the weekly parshiyot [nor the requirement to read parshat ha’shavua].

“The requirement to read the Torah every Shabbat (in a congregation of ten) actually dates back to the time of Moses [Bava Kamma 82a].”

This Gemara enumerates 10 enactments of the prophet Ezra. Among them is that the Torah be read publicly every Shabbat at Mincha, as well as on Monday and Thursday. The Gemara questions this list of 10, arguing that the enactment to read the Torah on Shabbat, Monday, and Thursday dates back to Moses.

The Gemara proves (or roots) its point based on two verses. Exodus 15:22 states, “Moses brought the Children of Israel from the Red Sea and they went out toward the Desert of Shur; they traveled three days in the desert without finding water.” And Isaiah 55:1 states “Everyone who is thirsty, go for water.” “Water” is often used metaphorically to refer to Torah. The verse makes evident that going for three days without water is not desirable and, hence, we learn that we should read the Torah, i.e. “water,” thrice weekly so that three days never pass without Torah.

In light of this point, the Gemara backtracks and clarifies that reading from the Torah began with Moses and states that Ezra’s enactment was merely an “upgrade” – Moses required that three verses be read while Ezra enacted that we must read 10 verses and call up three people to the Torah, a kohen, a levi, and yisrael.

Rabbi Zevin continues: “Dividing the Torah reading into 54 [weekly] parshiyot came at a much later time [than Ezra]. We find (in Megillah 29b) that the bnei ma’arava in Eretz Yisrael, [as opposed to the Jews in Babylonia] used to conclude reading the entire Torah every three years.”

The Mechaber (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 669:1) clearly states that on the second day of Shemini Atzeret, we in the Diaspora read Vezot HaBeracha, the last parshah of the Torah, until its conclusion and then begin reading Parshat Bereishit until “asher bara Elokim la’asot.” (We then read, for maftir, “Bayom hashemini atzeret.”)

Since the Gemara states that the bnei ma’arava would complete the Torah once every three years, we might infer that the Jews in exile in Babylonia completed the Torah every year. The Gemara does not state this specifically, but we can derive it from two statements in the Gemara. First, R. Yirmiyah (Megillah 30b) rules that the four parshiyot’s Torah readings only cause a change in the haftarah; on the succeeding Shabbat we resume reading the usual weekly haftarah (see Rashi sv. “l’seder haftarot…”). Second, the Gemara (ibid., 31a) states that on the last day of Shemini Atzeret (Simchat Torah in the diaspora) congregations would read Vezot HaBeracha.

Thus we have answered your second question first. The arba parshiyot and the times we read them are clearly mentioned in the Mishnah (Megillah 29a) by name. Therefore the Shabbatot on which one of them is read are referred to by its name.

Q & A: The Four Parashiyot (Conclusion)

Wednesday, April 21st, 2004
QUESTION: I would like to know why there are four special readings of the Torah during the period between Purim and Pesach. Also, why do we call each of those four Shabbatot by a special name, such as Shabbat Shekalim, Shabbat Zachor etc., which we don’t do otherwise?
Celia Gluck
(via e-mail)
ANSWER: Last week we described the four parashiyot, beginning on the Sabbath preceding the first of Adar through the Sabbath preceding the first of Nisan. They are: Shabbat Shekalim, Shabbat Zachor, Shabbat Parah, and Shabbat HaChodesh. These Shabbatot have Torah readings in addition to the regular Torah reading of the week. Other Shabbatot do have special names as well but have no additional readings – for example, Shabbat Shira. The Torah reading of the Sabbath we call Shabbat Shira contains, indeed, Shirat Hayam.

* * *

Let us examine each of the four parashiyot, the verses in the Torah that apply to them, and what our Sages have said in their regard.

The first parasha on our calendar is Parashat Shekalim, which deals with the half-shekel coin. The Torah (Parashat Ki Tissa, Exodus 30:11-16) states that this served two purposes. First, it was to count the Children of Israel in a census, as heads were not to be counted so that the evil eye would not plague them (Rashi ad loc). Instead, they were counted with coins valued at half a shekel. The verse explains that these coins were then to be used for a kappara – an atonement. Rashi (ad loc.) explains that some of that money was used for the communal sacrifices to be offered on the altar throughout the year.

The first Mishna in J.T. Shekalim (1:1) states that “on the first day [Rosh Chodesh] of Adar [the Beit Din] would announce the shekalim contribution…” The Gemara asks, “Why on the first day of Adar?” The Gemara answers, “So that they will bring their shekalim in the proper time.” The Riv’van (R. Yehuda b. Binyamin HaRofei) explains in his commentary (ad loc.) that the time referred to is Rosh Chodesh Nisan, as the Gemara (B.T. Megilla 29b) explains concerning the verse (Numbers 28:14), “Zot olat chodesh bechodsho – This is the olah (burnt offering) sacrifice of each month in its month,” meaning the first of the month. At this time, “chaddesh – renew” from a new Terumah (collection), the Tamid and Mussaf sacrifices which were brought on Rosh Chodesh Nisan. They were acquired with the new shekalim coins [collected at that time].”

Riv’van then compares this announcement to the laws of Pesach; the Gemara (Pesachim 6a) states that we are to query and expound on the laws of Pesach 30 days before Pesach begins, which would be the 15th of Adar. Thus, all announcements are always made 30 days ahead, which for shekalim would be Rosh Chodesh Adar. Therefore, Parashat Shekalim is read on, or immediately prior to, Rosh Chodesh Adar.

Now, since we are bereft of the Holy Temple and we have no korbanot, we read Parashat Shekalim to commemorate them.

Second on the calendar is Parashat Zachor, based on the verses in Parashat Ki Tetze dealing with Amalek (Deuteronomy 25:17-19), “Zachor et asher asah lecha Amalek baderech betzet’chem mimitzrayim – Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you were leaving Egypt.” The verse then explains, “Asher karcha baderech va’yezanev becha kol ha’nechshalim acharecha ve’ata ayef ve’yage’a, velo yarei Elokim – How he met you on the way, and he struck those of you who were hindmost, all the weak ones at your rear, when you were faint and exhausted, and he did not fear Hashem.”

The verse then instructs, “Vehaya behani’ach Hashem Elokecha lecha mikol oy’vecha misaviv ba’aretz asher Hashem Elokecha noten lecha nachala lerishtah, timcheh et zecher Amalek mitachat hashamayim, lo tishkach – It shall be when Hashem your G-d has given you rest from all your enemies all around, in the land that Hashem your G-d gives you for an inheritance to possess it, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven, you shall not forget.”

The Mishna (Megilla 29a) explains that if Rosh Chodesh Adar falls on a Sabbath, we read Parashat Shekalim on that Sabbath. However, if Rosh Chodesh falls in the middle of the week, we read Parashat Shekalim on the Sabbath preceding Rosh Chodesh; we then interrupt the reading of the parashiyot, and resume with Parashat Zachor on the Sabbath after that.

Rashi s.v. “Umafsikin leshabbat haba’ah” explains that we endeavor to read Parashat Zachor on the Sabbath just before Purim in order to connect the eradication of Amalek with the downfall of Haman. This is another reason for reading Parashat Zachor during this time of year.

The third of the four parashiyot on our calendar is Parashat Parah, the section found at the beginning of Parashat Chukkat (Numbers 19:1-22), which discusses the red heifer without a blemish that Moses was commanded to hand to Eleazar the priest, to be sacrificed. The verses detail the entire procedure, which the Torah refers to as a chok, a law for which we do not know the reason.

Rashi (Megilla 29a) s.v. “para aduma” explains that the red heifer was brought to warn the Jews to purify themselves of any ritual defilement in order to offer the korban pesach in a ritually pure state.

Thus we see that this parasha is timely to the weeks before Pesach, which is why we read it at this time. (Rashi ad loc. s.v. “Ba’revi’it – hachodesh hazeh lachem” quotes the Jerusalem Talmud, stating that in actuality this should be the fourth parasha, pursuant to the sequence of events in the Torah).

Finally, the last of the Four Parashiyot is Parashat HaChodesh (Exodus 12:1-20), which contains the concept of Rosh Chodesh, the first commandment given to the Children of Israel, upon which our calendar is based, including the festivals, the first of which is Pesach. This section also contains the commandment of the paschal sacrifice and its laws.

This parasha is read on the Sabbath preceding Rosh Chodesh Nisan, except if Rosh Chodesh occurs on a Sabbath, in which case it is read on that Sabbath. Rashi (Megilla 29a) notes that since this section contains the laws of Pesach, the Mishna instructs us to read it at this time.

Thus we see that all four parashiyot as delineated in the Mishna (Megilla 29a) are designated to be read in a timely manner on these four specific Shabbatot.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/q-a-the-four-parashiyot-conclusion/2004/04/21/

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