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Reading from the Torah

The Torah is read on weekdays, Rosh Chodesh (the first day of the new Hebrew month) Rosh Hashana and the holidays of Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot then, Yom Kippur and finally, Shabbat. Each one of these occasions is marked by a different number of aliyot that we read. For example,

  1. Weekdays: Three aliyot are read from the Torah read every Monday and Thursday morning. Mondays and Thursdays were chosen as Torah reading days for both spiritual and practical reasons.The spiritual reason is that three days should never go by without hearing the reading from the Torah. Usually, the reading is the first aliyah – that is divided into 3 parts – from the entire Torah portion that is to be read on Shabbat.

  2. Rosh Chodesh: Four aliyot are read. This indicates that Rosh Chodesh is indeed special, still a weekday but not quite a full holiday.

  3. Rosh Hashana and the three Pilgrimage Festivals (Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot): On these “full holidays” when it was a mitzvah to ascend to Jerusalem,, five aliyot are read.

  4. Yom Kippur: Yom Kippur is unique in its observance (i.e. fasting, not wearing leather shoes, etc.) and this is also true as regards the number of aliyot. On Yom Kippur six people are called to the Torah.

  5. Shabbat: On Shabbat, seven people are called to the Torah but, given certain circumstances, more aliyot may be added.

On Shabbat, we read the entire portion (NOTE: there is also a custom to read 1/3 of the portion) according to the order prescribed in the five Books of the Torah: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deutoromony). On Rosh Chodesh or any one of the holidays, a special portion is read that relates to that particular holiday.

Return to Main Menu and read about the Torah portions that are read on the two days of Rosh Hashana.

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