Not sure which Torah portion we are supposed to read this Shabbat? Blame the Cutheans. Beginning some 2,736 years ago, division within the Jewish community led to a power struggle over who controlled the calendar: the early Rabbis or the Cutheans (also known as the Shom’rim or the Samaritans). The Rabbis ultimately won and instituted an infiltration-resistant system for verifying the full-moon – involving two witnesses and a rabbinic court in Jerusalem – that incidentally created the 8th day of Passover. Traditional communities in the diaspora continue to observe this additional day in our time, while progressive communities and all Jews in the land of Israel observe only the biblically-mandated seven days of Passover.
On years such as this, when Passover begins and ends on Shabbat, this divergent practice becomes a practical division. Parashat Shemini (Leviticus 9:1 – 11:47) is read by Orthodox communities in the United States this week; Parashat Tazria/M’tzora (Leviticus 12:1 – 15:33) is read by Orthodox communities in Israel. Because Reform Jewish practice is to observe Passover for 7 days, as do our co-religionists in Israel, we have opted to continue with the Israeli cycle of Torah readings and will read Tazria/M’tzora on Shabbat. Join us at Torah Study at 9:30am on Saturday and for services at 10:30am to learn more!
Rabbi Aaron Meyer