Torah Readings

pahr-ah-SHAH or PAHR-shah

Level: Intermediate

  • Torah is divided into 54 portions for weekly reading in synagogue
  • There are also special readings for holidays and other days

Each week in synagogue, we read (or, more accurately, chant, because it is sung) a passage from the Torah. This passage is referred to as a parashah (פָּרָשָׁה), more commonly pronounced parshah. The first parshah, for example, is Parshat Bereishit, which covers from the beginning of Genesis to the introduction of Noah. There are 54 parshiyot (פָּרָשִׁיּוֹת, the plural of "parshah"), one for each week of the year with the most Shabbats, so that in the course of a year, we can read the entire Torah, Genesis to Deuteronomy, in our services. Most years have fewer Shabbats, so some of the shorter portions are commonly doubled up so we can always read the entire Torah in the year. We read the last parshah right before a holiday called Simchat Torah (Rejoicing in the Law), which occurs in October, a few weeks after Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year). On Simchat Torah, we read the last few verses of Deuteronomy, and proceed immediately to the first paragraph of Genesis, showing that the Torah is a circle, and never ends.

The weekly parshah is accompanied by a passage from the prophets, which is referred to as a haftarah (הַפְטָרָה). Contrary to common misconception, "haftarah" does not mean "half-Torah." The word comes from the Hebrew root Fei-Teit-Reish (פטר) and means "Conclusion." Usually, the haftarah portion is quite short and has some relation to the Torah portion of the week, though sometimes the portion is special for the date or time of year. Tradition teaches that haftarah portions began in a time when studying Torah was forbidden, so instead we read thematically related portions from the prophets to remind us of what the week's Torah portion would have been. The haftarah also shows us that the concepts discussed in the Torah portion were not limited to that one time but continued through Jewish history.

A reading applies to the whole week. Children may review it on Sunday in Hebrew School. A small taste of the week's Torah reading is read during morning services on Monday and Thursday. But the big deal is on the last day of the week, Shabbat, when the Torah and haftarah readings are the centerpiece of the morning service.

The Torah and haftarah readings are performed with great ceremony: the Torah scroll is paraded around the room with song, while members of the congregation touch the cover and kiss their fingers as it passes by, before it is brought to rest on the bimah (podium). On Shabbat, the reading is divided up into seven portions (appropriate for this holy 7th day), and various members of the congregation have the honor of reciting a blessing over a portion of the reading. This honor is referred to as an aliyah (עֲלִיָּה, literally, ascension). When two Torah portions are combined, as they commonly are, there are still seven aliyot, dividing the text up differently.

There is also an eighth aliyah and portion called a maftir (מַפְטִיר, from the same פטר root as haftarah, meaning "the one that concludes"), which usually repeats part of the seventh portion but is sometimes an additional piece for a holiday or time of year and usually puts a second or third Torah scroll in that initial procession.

The first aliyah of any day's reading is reserved for a kohein, the second for a Levite, and priority for subsequent aliyot are given to people celebrating major life events, such as marriage or the birth of a child. In fact, a Bar Mitzvah was originally nothing more than the first aliyah of a boy who had reached the age to be permitted such an honor. Celebrants of life events are ordinarily given the last (8th) aliyah, which includes blessing the last part of the Torah reading as well as blessing the haftarah reading. The person given this honor is referred to as the maftir, the term for that 8th reading.

Some holidays also have Torah readings in their morning services, with a procedure similar to Shabbat, but holidays have 5 or 6 aliyot instead of Shabbat's 7. If the holiday falls on Shabbat, the reading is divided into 7 aliyot.

For more information about services generally, see Jewish Liturgy.

Books of Jewish scriptures are sometimes bound in a form that corresponds to this division into weekly readings, providing each Torah portion followed by its corresponding haftarah, and then the next Torah portion with its haftarah and so forth. At the end of the book are haftarot for holidays and other special days. Scriptures bound in this format are generally referred to as a chumash (חֻמָּש, pronounced khu-MAHSH or KHUH-mish). The word "chumash" comes from the Hebrew word meaning five, and refers to the five books of the Torah. Sometimes, a chumash is simply refers to a collection of the five books of the Torah, but normally it refers to this format.

Table of Weekly Parshiyot

Below is a table of the regular weekly Torah readings with the Haftarah reading that usually accompanies it. Haftarot in parentheses indicate Sephardic ritual where it differs from Ashkenazic. There may be other variations on the readings -- a different Haftarah may be substituted on certain days or at certain times of the year -- but these are the most commonly used ones. If you want to know the readings for a specific date, check the Current Calendar.

There are additional special readings for certain holidays and other special days, listed in a separate table below.

Genesis 1:1-6:8
Isaiah 42:5-43:11
(Isaiah 42:5-42:21)
Genesis 6:9-11:32
Isaiah 54:1-55:5
(Isaiah 54:1-10)
Lekh Lekha
Genesis 12:1-17:27
Isaiah 40:27-41:16
Genesis 18:1-22:24
II Kings 4:1-4:37
(II Kings 4:1-4:23)
Chayei Sarah
Genesis 23:1-25:18
I Kings1:1-1:31
Genesis 25:19-28:9
Malachi 1:1-2:7
Genesis 28:10-32:3
Hosea 12:13-14:10
(Hosea 11:7-12:12)
Genesis 32:4-36:43
Hosea 11:7-12:12
(Obadiah 1:1-1:21)
Genesis 37:1-40:23
Amos 2:6-3:8
Genesis 41:1-44:17
I Kings 3:15-4:1
Genesis 44:18-47:27
Ezekiel 37:15-37:28
Genesis 47:28-50:26
I Kings 2:1-12
Exodus 1:1-6:1
Isaiah 27:6-28:13; 29:22-29:23
(Jeremiah 1:1-2:3)
Exodus 6:2-9:35
Ezekiel 28:25-29:21
Exodus 10:1-13:16
Jeremiah 46:13-46:28
Beshalach (Shabbat Shirah)
Exodus 13:17-17:16
Judges 4:4-5:31
(Judges 5:1-5:31)
Exodus 18:1-20:23
Isaiah 6:1-7:6; 9:5-9:6
(Isaiah 6:1-6:13)
Exodus 21:1-24:18
Jeremiah 34:8-34:22; 33:25-33:26
Exodus 25:1-27:19
I Kings 5:26-6:13
Exodus 27:20-30:10
Ezekiel 43:10-43:27
Ki Tisa
Exodus 30:11-34:35
I Kings 18:1-18:39
(I Kings 18:20-18:39)
Vayaqhel (often combined with Pequdei)
Exodus 35:1-38:20
I Kings 7:40-7:50
(I Kings 7:13-7:26)
Exodus 38:21-40:38
I Kings 7:51-8:21
(I Kings 7:40-7:50)
Leviticus 1:1-5:26
Isaiah 43:21-44:23
Leviticus 6:1-8:36
Jeremiah 7:21-8:3; 9:22-9:23
Leviticus 9:1-11:47
II Samuel 6:1-7:17
(II Samuel 6:1-6:19)
Tazria (often combined with Metzora)
Leviticus 12:1-13:59
II Kings 4:42-5:19
Leviticus 14:1-15:33
II Kings 7:3-7:20
Acharei Mot (often combined with Qedoshim)
Leviticus 16:1-18:30
Ezekiel 22:1-22:19
(Ezekiel 22:1-22:16)
Leviticus 19:1-20:27
Amos 9:7-9:15
(Ezekiel 20:2-20:20)
Leviticus 21:1-24:23
Ezekiel 44:15-44:31
Behar (often combined with Bechuqotai)
Leviticus 25:1-26:2
Jeremiah 32:6-32:27
Leviticus 26:3-27:34
Jeremiah 16:19-17:14
Numbers 1:1-4:20
Hosea 2:1-2:22
Numbers 4:21-7:89
Judges 13:2-13:25
Numbers 8:1-12:16
Zechariah 2:14-4:7
Numbers 13:1-15:41
Joshua 2:1-2:24
Numbers 16:1-18:32
I Samuel 11:14-12:22
Chuqat (often read with Balaq)
Numbers 19:1-22:1
Judges 11:1-11:33
Numbers 22:2-25:9
Micah 5:6-6:8
Numbers 25:10-30:1
I Kings 18:46-19:21
Mattot (often combined with Masei)
Numbers 30:2-32:42
Jeremiah 1:1-2:3
Numbers 33:1-36:13
Jeremiah 2:4-28; 3:4
(Jeremiah 2:4-28; 4:1-4:2)
Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22
Isaiah 1:1-1:27
Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11
Isaiah 40:1-40:26
Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25
Isaiah 49:14-51:3
Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17
Isaiah 54:11-55:5
Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9
Isaiah 51:12-52:12
Ki Teitzei
Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19
Isaiah 54:1-54:10
Ki Tavo
Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8
Isaiah 60:1-60:22
Nitzavim (often combined with Vayeilekh)
Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20
Isaiah 61:10-63:9
Deuteronomy 31:1-31:30
[when combined with Nitzavim, read that Haftarah; otherwise, read for Shabbat Shuvah]
Deuteronomy 32:1-32:52
II Samuel 22:1-22:51
Vezot Haberakhah
Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12
Joshua 1:1-1:18
(Joshua 1:1-1:9)

Table of Special Parshiyot

Below are additional readings for holidays and special Shabbats. If the date falls on Shabbat, any Torah or Haftarah readings override the regular weekly reading. Maftir readings are read after the regular Torah reading, usually from a separate Torah scroll. The Maftir portion is usually the Torah portion that institutes the holiday or specifies the holiday's offerings. Haftarot in parentheses indicate Sephardic ritual where it differs from Ashkenazic.

Rosh Hashanah, Day 1
Genesis 21:1-34
Numbers 29:1-6
I Samuel 1:1-2:10
Rosh Hashanah, Day 2
Genesis 22:1-24
Numbers 29:1-6
Jeremiah 31:1-19
Shabbat Shuvah
Hosea 14,2-10; Joel 2,15-27
(Hosea 14,2-10; Micah 7,18-20)
Yom Kippur, Morning
Leviticus 16:1-34
Numbers 29:7-11
Isaiah 57:14-58:14
Yom Kippur, Afternoon
Leviticus 18:1-30
Jonah 1:1-4:11
Micah 7:18-20
Sukkot, Day 1
Leviticus 22:26-23:44
Numbers 29:12-16
Zechariah 14:1-21
Sukkot, Day 2
Leviticus 22:26-23:44
Numbers 29:12-16
I Kings 8:2-21
Sukkot, Intermediate Shabbat
Exodus 33:12-34:26
Ezekiel 38:18-39:16
Sukkot, Chol Ha-mo'ed Day 1
Numbers 29:17-25
Sukkot, Chol Ha-mo'ed Day 2
Numbers 29:20-28
Sukkot, Chol Ha-mo'ed Day 3
Numbers 29:23-31
Sukkot Chol Ha-mo'ed Day 4
Numbers 29:26-34
Hoshanah Rabbah (Sukkot, Day 7)
Numbers 29:26-34
Shemini Atzeret
Deuteronomy 14:22-16:17
Numbers 29:35-30:1
I Kings 8:54-9:1
Simchat Torah
Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12
Genesis 1:1-2:3
Numbers 29:35-30:1
Joshua 1:1-18
(Joshua 1:1-9)
Chanukah, Day 1
Numbers 7:1-17
Chanukah, Day 2
Numbers 7:18-29
Chanukah, Day 3
Numbers 7:24-35
Chanukah, Day 4
Numbers 7:30-41
Chanukah, Day 5
Numbers 7:36-47
Chanukah, Day 6 (if Rosh Chodesh)
Numbers 28:1-15
Numbers 7:42-47
Chanukah, Day 7 (if Rosh Chodesh)
Numbers 28:1-15
Numbers 7:48-59
Chanukah, Day 7 (if not Rosh Chodesh)
Numbers 7:48-59
Chanukah, Day 8
Numbers 7:54-8:4
Chanukah, First Intermediate Shabbat
Zechariah 2:14-4:7
Chanukah, Second Intermediate Shabbat
1 Kings 7:40-50
Exodus 30:11-16
II Kings 12:1-17
(II Kings 11:17-12:17)
Deuteronomy 25:17-19
I Samuel 15:2-34
(I Samuel 15:1-34)
Exodus 17:8-16
Numbers 19:1-22
Ezekiel 36:16-38
(Ezekiel 36:16-36)
Exodus 12:1-20
Ezekiel 45:16-46:18
(Ezekiel 45:18-46:18)
Shabbat Ha-Gadol
Malakhi 3:4-24
Pesach (Passover), Day 1
Numbers 28:16-25
Joshua 3:5-7; 5:2-6:1; 6:27
(Joshua 5:2-6:1)
Pesach (Passover), Day 2
Leviticus 22:26-23:44
Numbers 28:16-25
II Kings 23:1-9; 21-25
Pesach (Passover)
Intermediate Shabbat
Exodus 33:12-34:26
Numbers 28:19-25
Ezekiel 37:1-37:14
(Ezekiel 36:37-37:14)
Pesach (Passover), Chol Ha-mo'ed Day 1
Exodus 13:1-16;
Numbers 28:19-25
Pesach (Passover), Chol Ha-mo'ed Day 2
Exodus 22:24-23:19;
Numbers 28:19-25
Pesach (Passover), Chol Ha-mo'ed Day 3
Exodus 34:1-26;
Numbers 28:19-25
Pesach (Passover), Chol Ha-mo'ed Day 4
Numbers 9:1-14;
Numbers 28:19-25
Pesach (Passover), Day 7
Exodus 13:17-15:26
Numbers 28:19-25
II Samuel 22:1-51
Pesach (Passover), Day 8 (if weekday)
Deuteronomy 15:19-16:17
Numbers 28:19-25
Isaiah 10:32-12:6
Pesach (Passover), Day 8 (if Shabbat)
Deuteronomy 14:22-16:17
Numbers 28:19-25
Isaiah 10:32-12:6
Shavu'ot, Day 1
Exodus 19:1-20:23
Numbers 28:26-31
Ezekiel 1:1-28; 3:12
Shavu'ot, Day 2 (if weekday)
Deuteronomy 15:19-16:17
Numbers 28:26-31
Habbakkuk 2:20-3:19
Shavu'ot, Day 2 (if Shabbat)
Deuteronomy 14:22-16:17
Numbers 28:26-31
Habbakkuk 2:20-3:19
Tisha B'Av, Morning
Deuteronomy 4:25-40
Jeremiah 8:13-9:23
Tisha B'Av, Afternoon
Exodus 32:11-14, 34:1-10
Isaiah 55:6-56:8
(Hosea 14:2-10; Micah 7:18-20)
Minor Fasts, Morning
Exodus 32:11-14; 34:1-10
Minor Fasts, Afternoon
Exodus 32:11-14; 34:1-10
Isaiah 55:6-56:8
Shabbat the day before Rosh Chodesh)
I Samuel 20:18-42
Rosh Chodesh (weekday)
Numbers 28:1-15
Rosh Chodesh (Shabbat)
Numbers 28:9-15
Isaiah 66:1-24

Related Pages

Torah Torah
The Torah and Maftir readings all come from the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) and the Haftarah readings all come from the writings of the Prophets found in the Bible. This page discusses these books and other writings.
Jewish Liturgy Jewish Liturgy
The readings listed above are read as part of standard Jewish services. Learn about the history and structure of the traditional Jewish prayer service here.
Trop (Cantillation) Trop (Cantillation):
Chanting Hebrew Scripture

Learn about the concept of trop, the musical melody used when Torah and haftarah are read aloud in synagogue.

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