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What is the origin of the reading of the Torah in the synagogue?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg


Library » Shabbat » Reading of the Torah » Torah Reading | Subscribe | What is RSS?


Moses instituted that a portion of the Torah be read publicly on every Shabbat. For this purpose the Torah was divided into 54 portions and every Shabbat one (sometimes two) portions are read. We conclude the Torah every year on the holiday of Simchat Torah and the next Shabbat we start again.

The order of the reading of the Torah which we adhere to today was already common practice in Babylon at least 1500 years ago (see Talmud Megillah, 31a).

The order of the reading of the Torah which we adhere to today was already common practice in Babylon at least 1500 years ago
Moses also instituted the reading of the Torah on Yom Tov, Rosh Chodesh, and the intermediate days of the festivals. Though mini three verse only readings were established by Moses for Mondays and Thursdays, Ezra the Scribe (c. 450 b.c.e.) lengthened these readings to three aliyahs, with a minimum of ten verses each for each Aliyah. Ezra also established Torah readings on Shabbat afternoon (Jerusalem Talmud, Megillah 4:1).

[Ed. note: Also read "Why were Torah readings established for Mondays and Thursdays?"]


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(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 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.
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
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.
A scroll. Usually a reference to the Book of Esther, one of the books of the "Written Torah", which is read--from a scroll--on the holiday of Purim.
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
Literally means to rise up. Has two popular meanings: 1. Being called up to the Torah scroll and recite the blessings when the Torah is being read. 2. To emigrate to the Holy Land.
Rosh Chodesh
The "Head of the Month," Rosh Chodesh is observed the first day of every Jewish month. If the previous month had 30 days, then the last day of the previous month is also observed; hence a two-day Rosh Chodesh. Rosh Chodesh is a semi-holiday, marked by Torah-reading and special prayers.
Yom Tov
Jewish Holiday.
Established by King David to be the eternal capital of Israel. Both Temples were built there, and the third Temple will be situated there when the Messiah comes.
1. A Hebrew priest and scribe, who, together with Nehemiah, revived Judaism in the 4th century BCE. He was instrumental in the building of the 2nd Temple. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, which describes the events of Ezra's lifetime.