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Rashi on Genesis 47:28 (excerpt)

ויחי יעקב לָמָּה פָּרָשָׁה זוֹ סְתוּמָה?

ויחי יעקב AND JACOB LIVED — Why is this section (weekly reading) totally closed?

Explanation for novices: The Torah scroll is written using paragraphs, which in this terminology is called a parsha. Common terminology uses the term "parsha' to refer to the weekly Torah reading. This is the term Rash"i is using, here.

Usually, the weekly Torah reading begins at the start of a new paragraph. Parshat Vayechi is the only exception that does not. In the Torah, all you see is a space of one letter between the end of the previous weekly reading (Vayigash) and the start of Vayechi.

I can understand that, perhaps, Rash"i is seeing a common pattern that all other readings began at the start of a paragraph, and this seems unusual. However, Rash"i feels a need to explain this anomaly.

Perhaps the incentive to decide where the weekly reading ends happens to make sense to complete a story, law, or some other meaningful unit, and it just happens to end at a paragraph. (I.e., it's incidental.) Maybe, this location was the most logical meaningful place to end Vayigash. Who or what dictated the notion that a weekly reading must end at the end of a paragraph (or that a reading should start at the beginning of one?)

  • Maybe the fact that every other sedra besides this one starts at the beginning of a parsha? – Daniel Dec 21 '15 at 20:07
  • @Daniel The question was, is this the significant reason for the break or is it an artifact of a different reaqn? – sabbahillel Dec 22 '15 at 0:45
  • @sabbahillel The question was "Who or what dictated the notion that a weekly reading must end at the end of a paragraph (or that a reading should start at the beginning of one?)" – Daniel Dec 22 '15 at 0:50
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    @DannySchoemann My question asks specifically about the weekly (Shabbat) readings. Until you mentioned it, I believe that even all other readings except for Ta'anit, also begin at the start of a parsha. Perhaps, you want to ask this as a separate question? – DanF Dec 22 '15 at 15:28
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    The Siftei Chachamim says that this is actually an "invisible" parsha break that the mesorah is to write as just one letter. I have no idea if anyone else says this. Potential nafka minah: if there's a natural disaster during the week of Vayigash and the community is making it up during Vaychi, can you end an aliyah within 2 pesukim of the end of Vayigash? – Heshy May 8 '18 at 19:34
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+100

Berachot 12a

גמירי כל פרשה דפסקה משה רבינו פסקינן דלא פסקה משה רבינו לא פסקינן

We have a tradition that every section which our master, Moses, has divided off we may divide off, but that which our master, Moses, has not divided off, we may not divide off. (Soncino translation)

  • So how come we can do so when it comes to vayigash/vayechi? – Joel K May 8 '18 at 20:11
  • @JoelK That wasn't the question in this post, so my answer was not addressing that. However, the general question of how we can read certain passages that do not have parsha breaks has been discussed by various poskim. The first point is that though it is stated in the Gemara, the Rambam, Tur, Shulchan Aruch, etc. all do not codify this. Also, various exceptions have been suggested. A simple one is that of R. Chaim Berlin (Shu"t Nishmas Chaim #9) that a new topic has the same status as a parsha break. – Alex May 8 '18 at 20:20
  • But doesn’t the fact that we seem to often ignore this rule mean that it is less likely to be the reason for splitting sidrot at a new parashah? – Joel K May 8 '18 at 20:23
  • Hi Alex. This isn't answering my question. My question focuses on the weekly Torah reading. Did you understand my usage of parsha vs. sidrah? Maybe that's still confusing? I'm asking if there's a rule that requires the weekly Torah reading to start at the beginning of a parsha. – DanF May 8 '18 at 20:25
  • @DanF My answer addresses the weekly Torah reading. You ask why the weekly reading should start/end at the beginning of a parsha. My answer is that the Talmud says that we are not allowed to break up the Torah in a way other than how Moshe did, i.e. the parsha breaks. – Alex May 8 '18 at 20:36

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