I would like to know where the names for the sedras come from (who named a certain sedra Balak, Emor etc.) and if there is any meaning associated with the naming (as the Lubavitcher Rebbi seems to indicate). In other words, did it just become convention over time (and if so when was it 'canonnized') or did some person(s) assign those names with specific intent ?

  • 1
    Very similar: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/10942/472 Commented May 5, 2014 at 1:23
  • There are still disagreements about the names, for example "Acharei" or "Acharei Mos"
    – Ypnypn
    Commented May 5, 2014 at 1:42
  • General rule is that the names come from the first significant word.
    – Shmuel
    Commented May 5, 2014 at 5:23
  • Check out the reference in footnote 1 at your link which elaborates on why the names have significance and where they come from. Especially footnote 6 there, which finds the earliest clear indication of names to be from Rav Saadia Gaon (but they aren't all exactly the same as used today). If Yiddish is not familiar, it is translated into Hebrew, but I'm not aware of a place online.
    – Yishai
    Commented May 5, 2014 at 14:13
  • @Yishai not a yiddish speaker, but if you could translate it I think that would be the best answer so far Commented May 6, 2014 at 0:26

1 Answer 1


Rambam (Rambam Hilchos Tefilah 13:1) refers to parshas Metzorah as"vezos tehyeh Toras Hametzora" and refers to Parsha Bamidbar as "Bimidbar Sinai" among other parshas. Similarly, Sefer Hachinuch refers to Mishpatim as "ve'Elah hamishpatim" parsha Bo as "Bo el Paro" and even adds a break in Mishpatim to have another Parsha! (The minhag of Barcelona was to sometimes divide Mispatim into 2 portions so that Parsha Metzora is read before Pesach. That is why sefer haChinuch has a parsha called "Im Kesef Talveh" (see Sefer HaChinuch, Machon Yerushalayim edition, pg 308 footnote 1))

It is pretty clear that the standardized naming of parshas is of more recent vintage, perhaps when calendars with printed weekly parshios became popular.

At the same time, perhaps one has the right, as some do, to interpret the parsha names homiletically since "minhag Yisrael Torah" and the Hashgacha peratis that directs Israel through the years of exile has directed us in this direction. This approach is found in Hassidic literature in other contexts as well such as homilizing the driedel and its spin.

  • Note that in all cases discussed above, the names actually come from the first words of the parasha. When looking at each parasha, one can see that the name are basically the first significant (that is no parsha is named "vayomer" for example) word or words of the parasha. Commented May 5, 2014 at 13:51
  • @sabbahillel agreed. My understanding was that the questioner knows that they are the first significant word/phrase in parshs but was asking who and when did the naming.
    – Yoni
    Commented May 5, 2014 at 15:45
  • OK I had thought that he did not as he seemed to be asking about significance. It might be a good idea to mention it as part of the answer just to make sure that he realizes it. BTW the Acharei Mos Kedoshim Emor Behar Bechukosai Tailaichu is the only sentence I see in the list of names. Commented May 5, 2014 at 20:35
  • Related to this answer: mi.yodeya.com/posts/comments/6761
    – msh210
    Commented May 6, 2014 at 4:55

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .