As far as I can tell, where the weekly Sidra breaks start and end are somewhat arbitrary: it doesn’t seem to matter how long the Sidros are, as long as there are enough Pesukim for seven aliyos, each of which are at least three Pesukim, cannot begin or end in certain places. The only restrictions, seemingly, is that the Tochacha in Bechukosai is read before Shavuos and that the Tochacha in Ki Savo is read before Rosh Hashanah.

Yet many questions are asked about why certain Sidros are the way they are: the famous question of why Moshe’s name is missing from Tetzaveh, Rabbi Dovid Feinstein’s sefer on the notes on the Sidros’ Pesukim counts, etc. etc.

As the Sidros seem to be pretty much arbitrarily broken up, such questions seem to be invalid. “Why does Tetzaveh lack Moshe’s name?” I dunno, because his name happens to be missing from those Pesukim, and whoever broke up the Sidros decided to make a Sidra split in those places such that Moshe’s name gets cut out? Such questions seem to be based on a false premise.

Yet many Gedolim still ask such questions (refer once again to Rav Dovid Feinstein’s Sefer, for instance). Is there something wrong with my logic? Are they just asking according to the common minhag, not that there’s anything inherent in the Sidros, per se? What am I missing here that such questions are asked without hesitation?

  • If you believe there are no coincidences then everything can have significance. – Double AA Jan 27 at 8:41
  • The division into 53 Sidrot in Bavel is quite old. The fact that they insisted on calling Vayelekh the second half of Nitzavim shows they assigned significance to the specific 53 divisions. Otherwise why institute both halved and doubled readings when only one is logically necessary? – Double AA Jan 27 at 8:44
  • @DoubleAA I don't follow. We see from the Eretz Yisrael minhag that there doesn't need to be 53. In Bavel, they divided it up in such a way that there were 53 sidros. Why 53? I don't know. But there's definitely precedent for other numbers being used. – DonielF Jan 28 at 2:56
  • I agree there doesn't need to be 53. But it's not at all arbitrary. It's clearly intentional and hence reasonable to ask about it. – Double AA Jan 28 at 2:58
  • @DoubleAA In any event surely there are other ways to divide up the 53. The most that would get you is asking why there are 53, not the specific divisions that come from that. Let me ask you: if someone asked why Mishpatim is exactly the length it is, shouldn’t the correct answer be that it might not be, that it could be split at Im Kesef? – DonielF Jan 28 at 3:12

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