Q: What is the Parashat Ha’Shavua – the Weekly Torah Portion?
A: Before answering that question, we need more understanding of what the Torah is. Firstly, it’s a Gift.
THE GIFT OF TORAH
God revealed His Presence to His people, on the mountain in Sinai, and then presented His Word as a light and a path. It was a wilderness setting and our own journey through life can be compared to a wilderness sojourn. When we choose to walk in His path, in the illumination of His light, we find that we are enabled to live the life He gave us in the most fulfilled and rewarding manner possible.
We become aware, as we journey, that this walk primarily is a means of growing in loving covenant relationship with God; our Father and the Father of all. Enfolded in this relationship, we grow in ever-inreasing intimate knowledge of Him. All of God’s Word, we discover to our wonder, is a gift of life in that it is a gracious revelation of the One who is the Source of Life.
When, at Mount Sinai, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob made a powerful first appearance to His newly redeemed people, the family of Israel, His teaching and guidance were recorded in written form on tablets of stone by the “finger of God”, the Holy Spirit (Ex. 31:18; Deut. 9:10; Luke 11:20). They then were extended on scrolls of parchment by Moses. These became known as the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. It is our privilege and joy to study the timeless truth contained in this foundation upon which stands all consequent revelation of God. It is the rock, as it were, upon which the House of God is built on earth.
The regular study of Torah, as with all worthwhile endeavors, requires commitment and effort. However, if we approach this “Rock,” not impersonally and analytically as a geologist, but with our hearts open to respond, with ears eager to ear and eyes searching for wonder, we will discover that it too contains a heart and offers life beyond our greatest expectations. From the heart of this Rock flows a stream of living water that refreshes the weary, strengthens the weak, and brings healing and wholeness to the soul. It brings life where there is none and causes the desert to bloom…abundantly and to rejoice with joy and singing (Isaiah 35:1-2).
Now, a brief answer to the question: The weekly study of the Torah is based upon the framework of the Parshiyot haShavua (the designated weekly portions of the Annual Reading Cycle of the five books of Moses), which are read in synagogues on Shabbat.
After the destruction of the Second Temple and the scattering of the people, the sages of Israel compiled the communal reading list, each accompanied by a haftarah, reading from the prophets, as a means of encouraging Torah study and forming a common bond of the Scriptures between the people, no matter where they were scattered throughout the earth. And, it has worked! The practice was already in place at the time of Jesus, as we see in Luke 4:16-21, where he is called up to read a section of the prophets, however a three-year reading cycle was followed.
Each portion has a Hebrew name from a key word found in the opening sentence. Here is an example of a listing from July, 2014 of the portion that begins with a description of Aaron, the High Priest, lighting the menorah in the Holy Place:
06/07 Beha’alotkha – When you set up (the lamps) Numbers 8:1-12:16;
May you be encouraged to participate in this weekly study and reap all the fruitful blessings to be found!
~ Keren Hannah Pryor