Our sages of blessed memory enacted the recitation of four sections of the Torah during the month of Adar, "close" to Nisan. This means that if the year is a leap year these would be read in the second Adar. These sections are:
- The section of Shekalim, which is in memory of the command to donate a half shekel to the Tabernacle (and the Temple). This Mitzvah devolved upon each member of the Jewish people, and required him to contribute to the upkeep of the sanctuary, covering the costs associated with purchasing animals for the daily offerings and other communal sacrifices.
- The section of Zachor, so as to precede the command to destroy Amalek before the story of the downfall of Haman, who was of the descendants of Amalek. This is designed to be read before Purim.
- The section of the Parah Adumah (Red Heifer), which was burned (when offered) close to the beginning of Nisan, so that the people may bring the Peasach sacrifice in a state of ritual purity.
- The section of Hachodesh Hazeh Lachem [the commandment of declaring the new month and keeping an accurate calendar], whose text contains within it the details of the Mitzvah of bringing a Peasach sacrifice.
The Yiryshalmi in Gemara Megillah notes that "by right the section regarding the Peasach sacrifice should precede that of the Parah Adumah, since the Tabernacle was erected on the first day of 'Nisan'[which would more closely follow the theme of Hachodesh Hazeh Lachem - 'Let this time be for you the beginning of the new month']. Why then does the Parah Adumah precede it? Because it is 'the purifier of Israel' [allowing the subsequent reading's instructions to take place]. (Rashi, Megillah 29.2 [WHERE IS THIS RASHI?])
The section of Shekalim is read on the Shabbos preceding Rosh Chodesh Adar, or on the Shabbos that Rosh Chodesh Adar falls out on. The reason is that Adar was the month in which the annual collection of half shekalim was announced, as is reported in the beginning of Mishnayos Shekalim. To further explain, the month of Nisan is considered the beginning of year in regard to bringing new communal sacrifices purchased by the newly collected funds, as is written in the verse: "...this is the burnt offering of each new month in its month, for all the months [Chodshei, related in meaning to renewal]of the year." The phrase "for all the months" is extra, and is expounded as if the Torah is stating "Bring these sacrifices from the new donations". [OR PERHAPS "These sacrifices pertain to the funds of the new donations", following the construction 'Li-Chadshei'.]
How do we know that the month referred to is Nisan? We learn that from the verse "This particular month shall be to you...", which is the same reference as the verse "This particular one should be for you as the first of the months of the year". Just as the former refers to Nisan, so does the later in regard to the months of the year, for Nisan is also written in the Torah portion of Pinchas [where the festivals are discussed].
Therefore the collection of Shekalim is in Adar, thirty days before, so that the funds will be available at the beginning of Nisan. Nowadays we 'repay' this obligation through our reading of the section [Lit. And we - "let us render [for] bulls [the offering of] our lips" (Hoshea 14.3) in commemoration].
Therefore, on the Shabbos preceding Rosh Chodesh Adar, after the weekly Torah portion read, the Maftir is the beginning of Parshas Ki Seesa until "...to atone for your souls.". The Haftorah is from Melachim [2.14.1 - 2.14.17], the section of "Yehoash was seven years into his kingdom...", which specifically speaks about the subject of Shekalim, until the words "...to the Kohanim they would go."
There are those who begin the Haftorah earlier, from the words "And Yehoyuda cut off...". This is the custom of the Sefard communities. Their reason appears to me to be based on the rule established in chapter 284, which is that a Haftorah should always contain at least 21 verses, if possible, unless the topic has been completed (see there). From "Yehoash was seven years into his kingdom..." until "...to the Kohanim they would go" there are only 17 verses. Therefore, they start 34 verses previously, since this they also involve Yehoyada and Yehoash. Nevertheless, the custom of Ashkenazim is not so, and appears to be more correct, for though the previous verses involve Yehoyada and Yehoash, they have no connection to the topic of Shekalim, so that it is more akin to a situation where the topic has been completed.
If Rosh Chodesh falls on Shabbos, three Torah scrolls are taken out:
- The first one is used for six people's readings from the weekly Torah portion.There should only be six and no more, in order to allow the seventh reading to be from the second scroll, whose special reading is an obligation I wrote about previously in the previous chapter in regard to when Rosh Chodesh Teves falls on Shabbos (see there in section 4).
- The second scroll is used for the seventh person's reading of the Rosh Chodesh section, though in the situation he begins with the verse "And on the day of Shabbos".
- The third scroll is used for the MAftir reading of the Shekalim portion.
The Rosh Chodesh reading precedes that of Shekalim because it is a more common occurrence ["Tadir V'SheAino Tadir, Tadir Kodem" - 'The more common occurence takes precedence']. This causes the Haftorah to be about the topic of Shekalim, for the Maftir reading dictates the nature of the Hatorah reading.
(The 'Levush' writes that "at least six should read in a locale where it is normal for seven to read...", (see there). He seems to intimate that more than six can read from the first scroll if the custom in a locale is to have more people called up to the Torah than the required amount. This is a wonder to me: How is it possible that the second scroll should not have one of the seven required readings read from it? The Tur's language requires this, and a proof to this can also be drawn from the Talumd in 'Megillah' 29.2 (see there). Attend to the sources and you will find it is so.)
On the second Shabbos, before Purim, the section of Zachor is read.
Many authorities rule that the reading of Zachor is a Biblical obligation, that there is an obligation to read the section concerning the destruction of Amalek once a year. In the generation of Mordechai and Esther it was enacted that this reading was to occur on the Shabbos before Purim, in order to join the destruction of Amalek to the downfall of Haman, as I have previously written. This is referred to in the Megillah itself: "That these day may be days of remembrance and active commemoration..." - that is, the remembrance of the command to destroy Amalek precedes the command to commemorate Purim.
There is a position that one can also fulfill his obligation of this remembrance through the Torah reading on Purim, which is the section of "And Amalek came..." (Magen Avraham, at the end of this chapter). In my humble understanding this cannot be so, for the Rambam has already written in his work on the commandments, in Mitzvah 188, that "we are commanded to destroy the progeny of Amalek...", and in Mitzvah 189 he writes that "We are commanded to recall what Amalek has done to us...", (see there). This account is only written in the section in the Torah that we refer to as Zachor: "Remember what Amalek did to you...And when you are granted respite...destroy...". However, the section of "And Amalek came.." has no command to the Jewish people to remember Amalek at all, nor to ensure their destruction, for there it is only written: "For I will destroy..." and not "you shall destroy" - that we would be commanded to do so.
In addition, in Gemara Megillah (18.1) it is clear that the obligation pertains to "Zachor", for the Braisa there teaches: "Zachor- I would think in one's heart is sufficient, therefore the verse also states "Do not forget"[in the Zachor section] - this relates to the heart, [as a separate and distinct commandment,] leaving the word Zachor to be understood as requiring an oral recitation." (see there). From here it can be determined that the obligation requires the Zachor section. Of course, this can be accomplished on a Biblical level when the weekly portion of Ki Saytzei occurs [later in the year]. Nevertheless, the Rabbis enacted that "Zachor" be read before Purim.
The Haftorah read after Zachor is found in Shmuel, chapter 15, from "So says the L-rd of the H-sts: I have now decided to recall what Amalek has done" until "Givat Shaul". Some start from the previous verse: "And Shmuel said to Shaul...", since that is the beginning of the narrative.
On the third Shabbos the Section of Para (the Red Heifer) is read, from the beginning of the Torah portion Chukas until "he is impure until evening". This is the section where the laws of the Red Heifer are explicated.
Its Haftorah is Yechezkel 36, from "And it was that word of G-d...son of man..." until "So I spoke and so I did". Some add on two more verses until "...and know that I am G-d" because that is the actual end of the section (see there). The relevance to Parah is that the prophet is reproving the people on their impurity, and the Parah Adumah purifies people from their impurity. Therefore it is set as the Haftorah.
On the fourth Shabbos the section of "This should be the new month for you..." is read, concluding with the words "...you shall eat Matza".
Its Haftorah is taken from Yechezkel 45. Sephardic communities start from "So says the L-ord: In the first month, on the first day..." until "the daily offering", which speaks of the topics related to the beginning of Nisan. Ashkenazic communities begin two verses earlier, from "all the simple people of the land", and finish three verses later than the Sephardim, continuing from "the daily offering" until "...each man from his inheritance." The reason for this is apparent: Even though these verses do relate to actvities in the month of Nisian, they do refer to the other subject in the topic, that of the actions of the leader in messianic times. Since these verses continue in that vien they are included in the reading.
Remember that these sections discussed above only relate to the Maftir. The other seven called to read from the Torah, or any additional Aliyot added are all from the weekly Torah portion, as I wrote when discussing the section of Shekalim.
When Rosh Chodesh Nisan falls out on Shabbos three Torah scrolls are used. Six read from the first, the Rosh Chodesh" section is read from the second, and the special reading of Chodesh is read from the third, just as was done with Shekalim when Rosh Chodesh Adar fell on Shabbos, as was explained previously.
The following was written by our Rabbis who authored the Shulachan Aruch (section 7):
"There are those who say that both Zachor and Parah are Biblical obligations. Therefore, those who live in settlements that have no Minyan (prayer quorum) must travel to place where there is a Minyan on these Sabbaths in order to be able to hear these readings, which are Biblically decreed [congregational Torah readings requires a Minyan]. Even if they cannot travel to these places they should take care to read these sections themselves with the proper cantillation."
Until here is the quote. These readings are even stronger in this regard than reading the Megillah, which though usually taking precedence over all else, as I will write in chapter 687, nevertheless can be read individually. In contrast, reading from the Torah always require a Minyan (Taz in comment 2 in the name of the Terumas Hadeshen).
This ruling has given rise to surprise among the later authorities, who question where the Bibilical source is for the Parah reading. As far as they can tell, there is not even a reference to its Biblical nature in the Talmud. Because of this, they rule that it is not a Biblical obligation (Magen Avraham).
In my humble understanding it appears to me that there is hint to this in the Torah itself, for in the section of the Red Heifer it is written "This should be for the Children of Israel...an everlasting decree", which the Sifrei [Legal Midrash] expounds as "It is a practice for the generations" (see there). This is the source for the ruling that ashes of the Red Heifer do not require the Temple to be in existence, and in fact we even find the ashes used during the era of the Amoraim [Talmudic era], as is implied by the Talmud (Chagiga 25.1, Rashi on Niddah 6.2) "The Chaver [a person trusted to be careful regarding ritual purity] in the Galil would purify his wine and oil for the altar [which did not exist at that time]." Once this ruling is known, the repetitive use of the phrase "And it will be an everlasting decree" in a later verse in this same section can be understood to obliquely refer to the requirement to read the section of the Red Heifer even when the ashes are no longer in existence. [This may in fact be the more correct understanding of the phrase "everlasting decree", in that it is applicable whether the ashes exist or not, but the Torah's first verse is still used first as a reference for the ashes use when the Temple does not exist, and this Biblical style is not unknown,] As is similarly seen in in Gemara Zevachim (90.1) with the phrase "The Torah wrote it first, though in practice it is not done first". [Here is reference to the Biblical style of writing first about a detail that should be conceptually or temporally referred to later]. Rashi refers to this in his comment in Niddah (90.1) "...it was already speaking of this topic [so it addressed a detail related to it]" (see there). Now that in our era we lack the ability to practice the core Mitzva [of the ashes of the Red Heifer], which would be possible if we had access to these ashes, we should certainly have an obligation to recite its section in the Torah. [NOT SURE ABOUT THIS PARAGRAPH]
From the foregoing discussion it should be clear that these four reading cannot all occur on consecutive weeks. Since Shekalim is read before Rosh Chodesh and Zachor needs to precede Purim there must be a Sabbath interspersed between each. As a general rule, if Rosh Chodesh occurs within the week, even on Friday, Shekalim is read the previous Shabbos. This causes the following Shabbos to be interspersed between this reading and Zachor, as the coming Shabbos will not be the one immediately preceding Purim. The result is that Zachor is read on the third Shabbos.
There are also times when the separating Shabbos will fall between Zachor and Parah. When is this? If Rosh Chodesh Adar falls on the seventh, second, fourth or sixth day of the week. When it falls on the seventh day Shekalim is read that very day. In this instance there is no separation between Shekalim and Zachor, as the next Shabbos will have the reading of Zachor since Prim falls out on the Friday following that Shabbos. Here the separation occurs between Zachor and Parah, as the fifteenth day, which is the Shabbos after purim, will not have Parah read because aside from it there are still another two Shabbaths before Rosh Chodesh Nisan, and it is preferable to read Parah close to Chodesh due to the fact that they both discuss the same subject of bringing the Paesach sacrifice in a pure state.
Now if Rosh Chodesh falls on a Monday the separating Shabbos will occur on the sixth of the month, between Shekalim and Zachor, in order that Zachor should immediately precede Purim. Aside from this there will be no other interruption. Similarly, when Rosh Chodesh falls on a Wednesday the interrupting Shabbos will occur on the same Shabbos that now falls on the fourth of the month.
The notable difference is when Rosh Chodesh Adar falls on a Friday, causing two interrupting Sabbaths. The first is onthe second of the month, between Sheklaim and Zachor, in order to precede Purim with Zachor. The second is between Zachor and Parah, on the sixteenth of the month, in order to keep Parah and Chodesh consecutive.
I have created a mnemonic to remember this schedule: 7-15, 2-6, 4-4, 6-2-16 (זט"ו ב"ו ד"ד ובי"ו )
When Rosh Chodesh Adar falls on Shabbos, the interrupting Shabbos is on the fifteen. This is 7-15 (זט"ו). When it falls on Monday, the interrupting Shabbos is on the sixth of the month. This is 2-6 (ב"ו). When it falls on Wednesday, the interrupting Shabbos is on the fourth. This is 4-4 (ד"ד). When it falls on Friday there are two interrupting Sabbaths, the second and the sixteenth, which is 6-2-16 (ובי"ו).
The Rambam writes in Chapter 13, Law 36 the following:
"It turns out that there may be an interruption between the first and second Sabbaths [of readings], or between the second and third. There are also times when it will occur twice, between the first and second and between the second and third. However, there is never an interruption between the third and fourth."
Until here is the quote. The reason for this is that Shekalim and Zachor, as well as Zachor and Parah do not have any connection to each other in topic, so a separation may be created between them. Parah and Chodesh, however, do share a topic, and so they should not have a separation created between them.
(The 'Magen Avraham' writes: "on the Sabbaths of these four readings one does not recite prayers over the dead, though 'Tzedkascha Tzedek' is said." Until here are his words. regarding 'Av Harachaman', the custom is to recite it, though in my humble understanding it seems that it should not be recited, since prayers over the dead are not said and these are supposed to be Sabbaths of special rejoicing. These four sabbaths should really not be any different than a Sabbath when the new month is blessed [when 'Av Harachaman is not said'].)