This article is about the divisions of the Torah into weekly readings. For this week's Torah portion, see Torah portion.
A Torah scroll and silver pointer (yad) used in reading.
The weekly Torah portion (Hebrew: פָּרָשַׁת הַשָּׁבוּעַ Parashat ha-Shavua, popularly just parashah or parshah[pronunciation?] or parsha and also known as a Sidra or Sedra[pronunciation?]) is a section of the Torah (Hebrew Bible). It is read publicly and aloud by a designated reader (ba'al koreh) in Jewish prayer services, usually in full during the Shabbat (Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath) morning service and in part during the Shabbat afternoon and Monday and Thursday morning services, in all cases except when pre-empted by a religious holiday. There are 54 such parshiyot or parshas (plural) in Judaism, and the full cycle is read over the course of a Jewish year.
Each weekly Torah portion takes its name from the first most distinct word in the Hebrew text of the portion in question. Dating back to the time of the Babylonian captivity (6th century BCE), public Torah reading mostly followed an annual cycle beginning and ending on the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah, with the divisions corresponding to the lunisolarHebrew calendar, which contains up to 55 weeks, the exact number varying between leap years and regular years.
In ancient times some Jewish communities practised a triennial cycle of readings. In the 19th and 20th centuries, many congregations in the Reform and Conservative Jewish movements implemented an alternative triennial cycle in which only one-third of each weekly parashah was read in a given year; and this pattern continues. The parashot read are still consistent with the annual cycle but the entire Torah is completed over three years. Orthodox Judaism does not follow this practice.
Due to different lengths of holidays in Israel and the Diaspora, the portion that is read on a particular week will sometimes not be the same inside and outside Israel.
^One week is always Passover and another is always Sukkot, and the final parashah, V'Zot HaBerachah, is always read on Simchat Torah. Therefore, there are in practice up to 53 available weeks for 53 portions. In years with fewer than 53 available weeks, some readings are combined to achieve the needed number of weekly readings.
^Though initially doubted by Umberto Cassuto, this has become the established position in modern scholarship. (See the Aleppo Codex article for more information.)