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Parashat Hashavuah - Torah for this Week

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For Simchat Torah - Shabbat Bereshit

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Click on the Parashah name to read the Torah summary:

Yom Tov




Brit Chadashah

Simchat Torah
Oct. 25, 2016
Tishri 23, 5777

V'zot Berakhah

Deut. 33:1-34:12;
Gen. 1:1-2:3
[Table Talk]

Josh. 1:1-18

Rev. 22:1-5

Shabbat Bereshit
Oct. 29, 2016
Tishri 27, 5777


Gen. 1:1-6:8
[Table Talk]

Isa. 42:5-43:11

John 1:1-14;
Col. 1:15-17


Simchat Torah - The Cycle of Torah...

Each week in synagogues across the world a portion from the Torah (called a parashah) is studied, discussed, and chanted. Jewish tradition has divided the Torah into 54 of these portions - roughly one for each week of the year - so that in the course of a year the entire written Torah of Moses has been recited during services. The final reading of this cycle occurs on the holiday of Simchat Torah ("Joy of the Torah"), which immediately follows the holiday week of Sukkot. On Simchat Torah, we celebrate both the completion of the year's Torah Reading cycle as well as the start of a brand new cycle. Each Jewish year, then, we "rewind" the scroll and begin again. The sages have wisely noted that you cannot compare studying Torah for the 49th time to studying it for the 50th time....

Our spiritual inheritance is bound up with the Torah: it is part of our story, our history, and our heritage as follows of Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah (Deut. 33:4; Matt. 5:17-19; Gal. 3:7; Rom. 4:16; Luke 24:27). הַיְשׁוּעָה מִן־הַיְּהוּדִים - "Salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22). The stories, rituals, and laws of the Torah serve as parables and allegories that inform the deeper meaning of the ministry of Messiah: "Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come (1 Cor. 10:11). "For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Rom.15:4). Therefore you are no longer a stranger or outsider to the heritage of the LORD (Eph. 2:19). Disciples of Yeshua are called talmidim (תַּלְמִידִים) -- a word that comes from lamad (לָמַד) meaning "to learn." Among other things, then, following the Messiah means becoming a student of the Scriptures He loved and fulfilled (Matt. 5:17-18; Luke 24:44-45). Only after learning from Yeshua as your Teacher will you be equipped to "go to all the nations and teach" others (Matt. 28:19).

We read V'zot HaBerakhah ("this is the blessing") during the festive time of Simchat Torah, which is the final portion of the entire Torah itself... After reading this portion, we "rewind the scroll" back to the beginning to begin reading parashat Bereshit. We do this every year because Talmud Torah - the study of Torah - is an ongoing venture in the life of a Jew.  In this connection, it is interesting to note that the very first letter of the Torah is the Bet (בּ) in the word bereshit (בְּרֵאשִׁית), and the very last letter of the Torah is the Lamed (ל) in the word Israel (יִשְׂרָאֵל). Putting these letters together we get the word lev (לֵב), "heart," suggesting that the entire Torah - from the first letter to the last - reveals the heart and love of God for us... Moreover, the first letter of Scripture is a Bet (בּ), as explained above, and the last letter is a Nun (ן) in the word "Amen" (אָמֵן), so the whole Bible - from beginning to end - reveals the Person of God the Son (בֶּן) for us...

Since we are about to begin reading the Torah again for another year, it is worthwhile to remind ourselves about how the Torah itself begins... In this connection we note that it speaks from an omniscient, "third person" perspective. When we read, "In the beginning, God (אֱלהִים) created the heavens and the earth," we must ask who exactly is speaking? Who is the narrator of the Torah? The next verse states that the Spirit of God (רוּחַ אֱלהִים) was hovering over the face of the waters (Gen. 1:2), followed by the first "direct quote" of God Himself: i.e., יְהִי אוֹר: "Let there be light" (Gen. 1:3). The creative activity of Elohim (God) and the presence of Ruach Elohim (the Spirit of God) are therefore narrated by an omniscient Voice or "Word of God" (i.e., davar Elohim: דְּבַר הָאֱלהִים). Obviously the Spirit of God is God Himself, just as the Word of God is likewise God Himself, and therefore the first verses of the Torah reveal the nature of the Godhead. God is One in the sense of echdut, "unity," "oneness," and and so on, though not "one" in the monistic sense of a solipsistic mind (νοῦς). God is beyond all theological predications: there can be no sense of "person" apart from relationship, and therefore God's Personhood entirely transcends all our finite conceptions - and yet God forever is One....

Note:  For more on this subject, see "Every Letter of Torah."

Shabbat Bereshit - שבת בראשית

The first Sabbath after the holiday of Sukkot is called Shabbat Bereshit (שַׁבַּת בְּרֵאשִׁית) because the annual cycle of the Torah reading begins anew, and we therefore "rewind the scoll" to read the very first portion of the Torah all over again (i.e., parashat Bereshit).

Note that in Torah reading services (at the synagogue), it is customary for the person who read the first part of Bereshit during the holiday of Simchat Torah to likewise read the same part during Shabbat Bereshit...

Blessing before Torah Study:

Click for the blessing

Some terms:

  • Parashah is the weekly Scripture portion taken from the Torah. Each parashah is given a name and is usually referred to as "parashat - name" (e.g., parashat Noach). For more information about weekly readings, click here.
  • Aliyot refer to a smaller sections of the weekly parashah that are assigned to people of the congregation for public reading during the Torah Reading service. In most congregations it is customary for the person "called up" to recite a blessing for the Torah before and after the assigned section is recited by the cantor. For Shabbat services, there are seven aliyot (and a concluding portion called a maftir). The person who is called to make aliyah is referred to as an oleh (olah, if female).
  • Maftir refers to the last Torah aliyah of the Torah chanting service (normally a brief repetition of the 7th aliyah, though on holidays the Maftir portion usually focuses on the Holiday as described in the Torah).  The person who recites the Maftir blessing also recites the blessing over the Haftarah portion.
  • Haftarah refers to an additional portion from the Nevi'im (Prophets) read after the weekly Torah portion. The person who made the maftir blessing also recites the blessing for the Haftarah, and may even read the Haftarah before the congregation.
  • Brit Chadashah refers to New Testament readings which are added to the traditional Torah Reading cycle. Often blessings over the Brit Chadashah are recited before and after the readings.
  • Mei Ketuvim refers to a portion read from the Ketuvim, or writings in the Tanakh. Readings from the Ketuvim are usually reserved for Jewish holidays at the synagogue.
  • Perek Yomi Tehillim refers to the daily portion of psalms (mizmorim) recited so that the entire book of Psalms (Tehillim) is read through in a month. For a schedule, of daily Psalm readings, click here.
  • Gelilah refers to the tying up and covering the Sefer Torah (Torah Scroll) as an honor in the synagogue.
  • Divrei Torah ("words of Torah") refers to a commentary, a sermon, or devotional on the Torah portion of the week.

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