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I've noticed that some editions of Sefer Hachinuch (such as R. Chavel's edition based on the 1523 Venice edition) split Parashat Mishpatim into two sections.

The first starts from the beginning of Parashat Mishpatim and includes the 24 mitzvot until 'Im Kesef Talveh' (Shemot 22:24), and the second picks up from there and lists the 29 mitzvot until the beginning of Parashat Terumah.

Why was it printed this way? Was there a variant Torah-reading practice that split (what we call) Parashat Mishpatim over two weeks?

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Indeed there was such a custom. Traditionally, the Babylonian annual Torah reading cycle with which we are all familiar had four "checkpoints" to keep everyone roughly in sync: Nitzavim before Rosh Hashana, Devarim before Tisha Bav, Bamidbar before Shavuot, and Tzav before Pesach. If you were in a small town and didn't have a calendar, as long as you doubled up portions as necessary for those checkpoints you'd be ok and you wouldn't have to calculate too far ahead.

Now, Tzav before Pesach is not so practical during a leap year, so the checkpoint for leap years became Metzora. The mnemonic here is (OC 428:4) פקדו/סגרו ופסחו מנו ועצרו צומו וצלו קומו ותקעו.

In years when Simchat Torah is just before Shabbat on Thursday, but Pesach starts after Shabbat on Sunday or Tuesday, there is that one extra Shabbat between them and we have to split something to hit the checkpoint. If that year is not a leap year, we split Vayakhel and Pekudei apart. If that year is a leap year, then Vayakhel-Pekudei and Tzaria-Metzora are already split and there is no other double parsha before Metzora to split. In that case, the common contemporary practice is to read Metzora two weeks before Pesach and Acharei Mot just before Pesach. The checkpoint fails, but what option is there?

One option is two split a 'non-traditional' section from earlier over two weeks. In Provence, there was a practice to split Mishpatim in half, with the second week picking up at Im Kesef. This is the practice you see reflected in the Chinukh who lived in Provence. This custom is mentioned by Avudarham.

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  • Thanks for this. It’s interesting that he would list the two halves of Mishpatim separately, but not the two halves of Nitzavim. – Joel K Mar 18 at 21:21
  • @JoelK Indeed – Double AA Mar 18 at 21:29
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Yes, that is correct. There was a variant practice that split Parshat Mishpatim into two Parshiot. I saw that explained in the commentary on the Sefer HaChinuch.

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    please add a link or a quote – kouty Feb 17 at 17:30

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