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Why do we sometimes read two Torah portions instead of one?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

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1. We have to conclude the entire Torah each year on Simchat Torah but there are too many Torah portions for the average year. There are 50.5 weeks in the average lunar year (which is 354 days), but there are 54 Torah portions. There are also at least two (and usually more) Shabbatot a year which fall out on Yom Tov, in which case we read the Yom Tov reading and not the weekly Torah Portion. The solution is to double up portions.

There are 50.5 weeks in the average lunar year (which is 354 days), but there are 54 Torah portions...The solution is to double up portions
Now which portions do we double up? Naturally whenever possible we choose the shortest portions to double. (Sometimes this isn't an option (for example, we sometimes double up Matot and Massei, although both are long parshot, because the rule is that we must read the portion of Devarim on the Shabbat before Tishah b'Av).

2. On a deeper level, the fact that these portions are read together shows  a deep connection that exists between these two portions. It must be that these portions convey lessons that sometimes can be applied individually and sometimes must be applied together. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneersohn, delivered many talks explaining the messages inherent in these portions and the connection between them.

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Shabbat » Reading of the Torah » Torah Reading

Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Simchat Torah
An extremely joyous one-day autumn festival following the holiday of Sukkot. In Israel it is the eighth day of Sukkot, outside of Israel it is celebrated the next day, the day after Shmini Atzeret. Every Sabbath we read a portion of the Torah. On this holiday we celebrate the completion of the yearly cycle.
Rebbe
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
Lubavitcher
One who follows the teachings of the Chassidic group which was formerly based in the Belarus village of Lubavitch. Today, the movement is based in Brooklyn, New York with branches worldwide. The Lubavitch movement is also widely known as "Chabad."
Shabbatot
Plural form of "Shabbat." Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Yom Tov
Jewish Holiday.
Av
The fifth month of the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to July-August. The saddest month of the year due to the destruction of the Temples, and the many other tragedies which befell the Jews in this month.
Torah Portion
The Five Books of Moses are divided into 54 portions. Every Sabbath morning we read one portion. Several weeks during the year a double portion is read, in order to accommodate the Torah's completion on the Simchat Torah holiday.