What are Torah portions?

If you are relatively new to keeping Torah, you may have heard of Torah portions, but aren’t really sure what they are. This post will give you a basic understanding of Torah portions, and how you can use them to build a solid spiritual foundation in your home.

What are Torah portions?

The Torah consists of the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Moses directed Israel to read the entire Torah out loud during the fall feasts every seven years. As time went on, and Israel was exiled, they came up with a system to study the Torah in smaller parts each week. This way, they would read a few chapters out loud in the synagogue every Shabbat. It started as a three year cycle, and eventually led to a one year cycle, which we use today.

Read more about the history of the Torah reading cycle here.

In our current Torah reading cycle, the Torah is divided into 54 portions (parsha in Hebrew) and the reading begins in Genesis every year after Sukkot. The names of the Torah portions are taken from the Hebrew for the first few words of each Torah portion. For example, the first portion in Genesis is called Beresheet, which means “in the beginning” in Hebrew. Because 54 is not the number of weeks in a year, on our modern calendar or the Hebrew calendar, some Torah portions are bundled together into a single Shabbat, making them a double Torah portion. Vayakhel and Pekudei are often bundled together into a double portion, for example. We also use double portions because the Torah reading cycle is paused on feast days to read special passages related to the feast.

Haftarah portions are often listed with the references for the Torah portions. They consist of Old Testament passages that connect to the topics in the Torah portion for that week. Reading them enables you to get familiar with the prophets and writings which many of us glossed over in the past.

Why should we use Torah portions?

  • The Torah cycle is used by believers worldwide, and allows us to all be reading and studying the same passages at the same time.
  • Following an annual reading cycle enables us to learn the Torah very well, building each year on the foundation of knowledge from previous years. (The Torah portions journal is a great way to record your studies from year to year.)
  • If you were previously in the church where the New Testament is heavily studied at the expense of the Old Testament, the Torah portions are a great way to fill in your knowledge gaps.
  • All of Scripture is like a house. Torah is the solid foundation that the rest of the house is built on. Yeshua taught this in a parable in Matthew 7:24-29.
  • Most Torah teachings are organized by Torah portion, giving us an easy way to find teachings and learn more about a specific passage.

Torah portion resources

  • There are countless resources available to help you learn more about Torah. I will just list a few to get you started.
  • Torah portion teachings – list of websites with teachings, printables, and more
  • Torah portion archive – I have made a post for each Torah portion designed to help you teach each portion to your children.
  • Establishing a Torah time – how we set up a special time each Shabbat to teach Torah to our children

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2 Responses

  1. Ok. I’m saying this as a Jewish woman and (now) realize this is a Christian site and don’t want to give offense. However, if you want to be Torah observant ( as, by all indications, Jesus was), then it is jarring to read the Tanach, being referred to as the “old Testament “. To an observant Jew, God’s laws are immutable. The laws given to the world, the universal Noachide laws and the more particularistic rules for Jews, are not outmoded or old to be superceded.

    1. No offense is taken, and I will only say that old habits die hard. I was raised with “old” and “new” so it’s easy to fall back on old phraseology. We follow the Scriptures as a whole.

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