Congregation Etz Hayim at Hollis Hills Bayside

The consolidated communities of Hollis Hills Bayside Jewish Center and Marathon Jewish Community Center

Shabbat Vayikra/HaHodesh

This Shabbat, we have a guest giving the dvar Torah. I think you’ll be proud to hear her! In this space, instead of focusing on the content of the weekly Torah reading, I’ll focus on the form of what is a rather complex Torah service. This, my friends, is one of those rare Shabbatot when we read from three different scrolls! The first is the weekly portion, as we begin Leviticus, the book and parshah knows as Vayikra. The second scroll is the reading for Rosh Hodesh, as Shabbat is the first day of the month of Nisan. Third, we read from Exodus 12 to celebrateShabbat HaHodesh, the third of four special Torah readings that lead up to Pesah.

How do we manage the aliyot when we read three different passages? Instead of dividing the weekly portion into 7 aliyot, we’ll call 6 as we read Vayikra. Then we place the second scroll on the reader’s table and lift and dress Torah #1. The 7th aliyah is called as we read the Rosh Hodesh passage. That completes the usual quota of 7 aliyot, so we put scroll #2 on the table and say the half-kaddish and Mi Sheberakh, the prayer for those in need of healing. Then we lift scroll #2, and call the maftir aliyah to say the berakhot over the 3rd scroll. After lifting scroll #3, it’s finally time for the haftarah

Why do we read the passages in the above order? We’re working on the legal principle called tadir veshe-eino tadir, tadir kodem–“what is done more frequently is done first.” In other words, the weekly portion is read, well, weekly. Rosh Hodesh comes monthly, which is clearly less frequently than a weekly Shabbat. Finally, Parshat HaHodesh is a once-a-year happening, so it gets read last. Ultimately, all three passages are about sacrificial offerings. Chronologically, the last is really the first–HaHodesh is God’s instructions to Moshe that we should prepare the korban Pesah–that Paschal offering. It’s at this point in our history that we became a People, and we first encounter a communal mitzvah. In some ways, it’s the beginning of our national history. It may be read last, but it’s first in significance!

This all makes more sense when you can see it happen, so I hope to see you in shul on Shabbat–and that the weather cooperates so you can make it! 

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and Hodesh Tov,

Rabbi David Wise