PARASHAH (plural, Parashiyyot):
A section of the Pentateuch. The Sephardim apply the word to each of the fifty-four weekly lessons into which the Torah is divided in the one-year cycle, as well as to smaller sections; the Ashkenazim call the week's lesson a Sidra, giving the name "parashah" to the smaller portions that are read on festivals or to one of the seven subsections in which the week's lesson is read on Sabbath mornings. The 153 parts into which the Torah was divided in the cycle of three years, which prevailed in Palestine till the exiles from Spain brought their customs into the Holy Land, are known as "sedarim" (singular, "seder"), as is seen from the Masoretic colophon at the end of each of the five books. Thus Genesis has 12 parashiyyot and 43 sedarim; Exodus, 11 and 29 respectively; Leviticus, 10 and 22; Numbers, 11 and 32; Deuteronomy, 11 and 27. The weekly lessons are marked in all Hebrew Bibles either by the current number or by the names which they take from the first word (e.g., 1, "Bereshit") or from the first striking word (e.g., 2, "Noaḥ"), or sometimes from two words (e.g., 3, "Lek Leka"; 50, "Ki Tabo"). In Pentateuchs printed for use in the synagogues the seven subsections are marked by ordinals prefixed to all but the first. The sedarim representing the three-year cycle, which has so long been out of use, are not marked.
In regard to the so-called "Four Parashiyyot" read, after the weekly lesson, on certain Sabbaths (see Parashiyyot, The Four) the Mishnah (Meg. iii. 4), after naming them, proceeds: "On the fifth they return to their order." This would indicate that in those times the weekly lessons were omitted on the four Sabbaths in question; but this is very unlikely, because the 153 sedarim could not have been gone through with in three years, and moreover because two at least of the parashiyyot (Nos. 1 and 2) are too small for subdivision into seven parts. Hence Bertinoro (ad loc.) explains that only the Hafṭarah, which on the four Sabbaths has depended on the additional parashah, returns to the regular order, that is, dependence on the weekly lesson.
The first parashah of the weekly lesson is read on the afternoon of the Sabbath preceding that on which the whole is read. If this Sabbath falls on a festival, the same subsection is read on the previous Sabbath afternoon, or even on the second preceding Sabbath afternoon. For example, when "Shemini" is to be read on Sabbath, Nisan 29, its first parashah is read on the afternoons of Nisan 8, 15, and 22.
The first parashah of the weekly lesson is read also on the mornings of Monday and Thursday before the Sabbath on which the whole lesson is read, unless displaced by a new moon, feast, or fast falling on such day.