Parsha Halacha

Parshat VaYakhel/Pikudei

Shabbat Chazak – Parshat Parah – Shabbat Mevarchim Chodesh Nissan

Connected Parshiyot

When Do We Connect Them and Why?

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This week we read the joined Torah portions of Vayakhel and Pikudei. These are the first portions in the five books of Moshe that can be joined. There are another six possible joined portions in the Torah, to wit: Tazria-Metzorah, Acharei Mot-Kedoshim, Behar-Bechukotai, Chukat-Balak, Matot-Masei, and Nitzavim-Vayeilech.[1]

The determination of which parshiyot are joined on any particular year depends on how many Shabbatot there are in that year which do not coincide with Yom Tov. In addition, there are certain rules as to which Torah portions are supposed to be read at certain times of the year. Here are some of the rules about this:[2]

פקדו ופסחו/Pikdu UPis’chu – Command and Make Pesach

On a non-leap year, the Torah portion of Tzav is always read on the Shabbat before Pesach. The way to remember this is Pikdu UPis’chu which means “command” (an Aramaic translation of tzav) “and make Pesach.”

סגרו ופסחו/Sigru UPischu – Lock Up and Make Pesach

In a leap year, the Torah portion of Metzora is always read on the Shabbat before Pesach. The way to remember this is Sigru UPischu, which means “lock up” (as a metzora/leper was supposed to be sent out of the camp) and “make Pesach.”

The Reason

The Torah portions of Tzav and Metzora both discuss the laws of purifying and kashering utensils.[3] The sages wanted these to be read before Pesach to remind the people about the laws of kashering their utensils before Pesach.[4]


The exception to the above rule is that in a leap year on which Rosh HaShanah falls on a Thursday, if the year has either 383[5] or 385 days[6] then there is an “extra” Shabbat before Pesach, as a result of which the Torah portion of Acharei Mot is read on the Shabbat before Pesach.[7]

מנו ועצרו/Minu Ve’itzru – Count and Make Shavuot

The Torah portion of Bamidbar, in which the Jews are counted, is always read before the holiday of Shavuot (which is called Atzeret). This is based on the Talmud[8] which says that the curses at the end of the book of Leviticus should be read before Shavuot so that the curses should end before the new year begins. (Shavuot is like a new year since we are judged for the fruit trees on Shavuot). Tosfot adds[9] that we also read the Torah portion of Bamidbar before Shavuot so that we should not go straight from the curses into the holiday.

צומו וצלו/Tzumu VeTzalu – Fast and Pray

The Torah portion of Va’et’chanan (which means “And I prayed) is always read on the Shabbat after the fast of Tisha Be’Av (צומו means “fast”). The reason for this is that this portion discusses the exile of the Jewish people and alludes to the fact that G-d arranged for the exile to take place in a manner that would not wipe us out completely, Heaven forbid.

קומו ותקעו/Kumu VeTiku – Rise Up and Blow the Shofar

The Torah portion of Nitzavim (which means “to stand”) is always read before Rosh Hashana. This is done so that the curses in Ki Tavo are read before Rosh Hashana so that the previous year and its curses should finish before the new year begins. As mentioned above, we add one portion (Nitzavim or Nitzavim-Vayeilech) before the holiday so that we do not enter the holiday with a bad taste in our mouths.

פת ב”ג המלך[10] /Pat Bag HaMelech – Divide (Nitzavim and VeYelech) When Rosh HaShana is on Monday or Tuesday

This means that when the first day of Rosh Hashana (called HaMelech/the King since we start praying with the words Hamelech HaKadosh on that day) is on Monday or Tuesday (ב and ג means two and three respectively), in which case there are going to be two Shabbatot that do not coincide with a Yom Tov before Sukkot, then the Torah portions of Nitzavim and Vayelech are divided (פת means divided, see Levit. 2:6).

If, on the other hand, the first day of Rosh HaShanah is on Thursday or Shabbat, there is only one Shabbat (that does not coincide with Yom Tov) before Sukkot. So we read Nitzavim and Veyelech together on the Shabbat before Rosh HaShana and the Torah portion of Ha’azinu on the next available Shabbat. (Rosh HaShanah can never begin on Sunday, Wednesday, or Friday.)

Figuring it Out

In terms of which parshiyot are joined on a specific year, this depends on whether a given year is a leap year or not, whether the months of Cheshvan and Kislev have 29 or 30 days, and what day of the week coincided with the first day of Rosh HaShana. The Avudraham lists all of the possible configurations.

Chart of Parshiyot for Leap and Non-Leap Years

Here is a chart of the possible double parshiyot for both leap and non-leap years, depending on the formulation of the year.

May we merit to master all of the parshiyot of the Torah!

[1] See Siddur Rav Sa’adiah Gaon who writes that Nitzavim and Vayelech are one portion which are sometimes divided into two. (I’m not sure how that differs than two portions that are sometimes joined into one. AC)

He also cites the following customs:

●       Some had the custom to (occasionally) join the three Parshiyot of Korach, Chukat, and Balak and read them in the course of two weeks, i.e., In some years Korach would be read with the first half of Chukat (until Vayisu Mikadesh, Numbers 20:22) while the second half would be read together with the following portion (Balak).

●       In Constantinople it was customary to connect Shelach and Korach instead of Chukat and Balak (This custom is also mentioned in the Avudraham, order of Parshiyot.) while others would connect Korach and Chukat.

●       In Algiers the portion of Mishpatim was sometimes split into two with the second portion beginning “Im Kessef Talveh” (Exodus 22:24). This custom is also brought down in the Sefer HaChinuch.

●       Some (ancient) communities in Israel would divide Ki Teitzei into two portions with the second portion beginning with the words “Vechi Tidor” (Deuteronomy 23:22).

●       The Avudraham mentions that some had the custom to divide the portion of Ki Tissa into two portions the second of which would begin with the words Vayifen vayered (Exodus 32:15). A way to remember this is the verse (Jeremiah 32:18) “The calf that you made (i.e., the Torah portion about the golden calf), which you split into two.”

[2] See Avudraham, order of Parshiyot and O.C. 428:4

[3] Levit. 6:21 and 15:12

[4] Avudraham, ibid, quoted in Eliyahu Rabbah 5 on O.C. ibid

[5] This transpires if both Cheshvan and Kislev have 29 days. Such a year is called Chaseira (missing).

[6] This occurs if both Cheshvan and Kislev have 30 days. Such a year is called Sheleima (complete).

[7] O.C. 428:4

[8] Megillah 31b

[9] D.H Kelalot

[10] This expression comes from Daniel 1:5

Wishing you a Shabbat Chazak Shalom and Chodesh Tov Umevorach!

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