What is a Parashah?

Messianic Bible Study

If you divide the first five books of the Old Testament (which is also called the Torah and Pentateuch) into the number of weeks in a (leap) year, you would get 54 sections. These sections have become a yearly reading plan. These Bible portions are called parashahs ("Torah portions"). And the premise is that you will spend the entire year reading the entire Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy). 

If you are looking for a reading plan to join in, this is an amazing one! On any day, one can look up the parashah of that week and read scriptures. Reading the Lord's word helps to renew one's mind, it grounds us to His heart and His will. Reading His word, the Bible, can focus your mind and thoughts on "what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable" like Philippians 4:8 instructs us. 

Reading the word of God is also a way to bond with the Lord, by reading about Him, His character, and His history. Similar to the way a baby bonds with his mother in her womb, we can bond with our Father through reading His word.

Reading the Bible through the weekly Parashah readings is an ancient way of reading scripture. The Torah in a year reading plan has been read year after year for thousands of years. In Deuteronomy 17:19, we learn that Adonai specifically instructed the king of Israel to read the Torah every single day.

Today, Judaic and Messianic believers are reading the same scriptures, the same week, all over the world. It's quite the picture of unity or echad, and when many join in together, something like a beautiful harmony may arise. For the Messianic believer, scriptures from the New Testament are including in the weekly reading. Many have expressed that the New Testament scriptures come alive like never before, because their Hebrew context is linked for them. For example, in Parashah 22, when the instructions for the tabernacle are precisely given, one can see just how precise and special this place was. Then, when reading verses in 1 Corinthians 3, about how God's people are God's temple now, and that God's Spirit lives within us, making us holy, we can experience this truth even deeper. For in the tabernacle described in the Torah, only very privileged people were even permitted into the Holy of Holies, others would actually die from the glory of God. It's truly remarkable and unfathomable what all took place when Jesus died in our place, giving us access to a heavenly Father and eternal kingdom. 

We love reading out of the Complete Jewish Study Bible. It has the parashahs already separated out. Each one is named, and it includes the Torah reading (reading from the first 5 books in the Bible), Haftarah reading (a correlating reading from the Prophets), and B'rit Hadashah reading (correlated New Testament reading). Another incredible option is the Tree of Life version of the Bible. It is a little easier to read, and the Parashah’s are also included in the Bible!

Each parashah has a name. The name comes from the first few words of that reading. For example, parashah 1 is named b'resheet (in the beginning), which are the first three words in that portion reading. 

The reading cycle begins each new year, but not our Gregorian new year, the Hebrew new year, which is actually in the fall time. There is even a holiday that marks the cycle starting over again, called Simchat Torah. 

This is the traditional way of reading scripture in synagogues around the world, even in the time of Jesus (Luke 4:16-18, Acts 13:15, and Acts 15:21).

What we love about parashah reading is that is gives great framework to reading scripture throughout the year, it is aligned with the Hebrew calendar, and it makes understanding the rest of scripture so much easier, including the New Testament. Knowing the Hebrew roots, growing them deep, makes the riches in the New Testament so much sweeter. It also makes observing and celebrating the Biblical holidays much easier.  

Do we only read the parashah?

No, we don't. But the more we understand the Torah, the more we understand the rest of scripture. And it often leads to fun searched throughout scripture. Often times, a reading from the parashah will spark a question that leads to searching other parts of scripture. For example, in the Parashah 15: Bo (Go), we read about how precise God's timing was in delivering the people out of Egypt. 

"The time the people of Isra'el lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of 430 years to the day, all the divisions of ADONAI left the land of Egypt. This was a night when ADONAI kept vigil to bring them out of the land of Egypt, and this same night continues to be a night when ADONAI keeps vigil for all the people of Isra'el through all their generations." Exodus 12:40-42

From these verses, the importance and specificity of God's timing really stuck out to us. It said "to the day", and how this day is still important to God, where He still keeps a vigil to remember. After reading this, we wanted to know if 430 was mentioned anywhere else in scripture, so it led us to a few other places in the Bible, including Galatians 3-4, where another reference was made to this time of 430 years. And so much more was revealed about Abraham's seed, and how the seed of salvation was Messiah Yeshua Jesus.  

From those verses in Exodus, we also just realized how incredible it is that God still keeps a vigil on that night. And suddenly, it became even more important to us to celebrate and remember Pesach Passover every year. Both because He asked us to over and over ("you are to celebrate it by a perpetual regulation" Exodus 12:14, "perpetual regulation" Exodus 12:17, "You are to observe this ... forever" Exodus 12:24), and because we know He is doing the same thing. He is literally keeping a vigil. We want to join it. Do what He does and set our minds on what He is setting His mind on. It also revealed more about who God is, and how timing is very important to Him. 

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A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years approached him from behind and touched the tzitzit on his robe. For she said to herself, “If I can only touch his robe, I will be healed.” Yeshua turned, saw her and said, “Courage, daughter! Your trust has healed you.” And she was instantly healed.

Matthew 9:20-22 (CJB)