This article is about section divisions throughout the Tanakh. For the weekly portion (Parashat HaShavua), see Weekly Torah portion.
A page from the Aleppo Codex, Deuteronomy 32:50-33:29. Parashah breaks visible on this page are as follows: {P} 33:1-6 (right column blank line 8th from top) {S} 33:7 (right column indentation line 23) {P} 33:8-11 (right column blank line 2nd from bottom) {S} 33:12 (middle column 1st indentation) {S} 33:13-17 (middle column 2nd indentation) {S} 33:18-19 (left column indentation at top) {S} 33:20-21 (left column space in middle of 6th line) {S} 33:22 (left column 13th line indentation) {S} 33:24-39 (left column 17th line indentation).

The term parashah (Hebrew: פָּרָשָׁה Pārāšâ "portion", Tiberian /pɔrɔˈʃɔ/, Sephardi /paraˈʃa/, plural: parashot or parashiyot) formally means a section of a biblical book in the Masoretic Text of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible).[1] In the Masoretic Text, parashah sections are designated by various types of spacing between them, as found in Torah scrolls, scrolls of the books of Nevi'im or Ketuvim (especially megillot), masoretic codices from the Middle Ages and printed editions of the masoretic text.

The division of the text into parashot for the biblical books is independent of chapter and verse numbers, which are not part of the masoretic tradition. Parashot are not numbered, but some have special names.

The division of parashot found in the modern-day Torah scrolls of all Jewish communities is based upon the systematic list provided by Maimonides in Mishneh Torah, Laws of Tefillin, Mezuzah and Torah Scrolls, chapter 8. Maimonides based his division of the parashot for the Torah on the Aleppo Codex.[2] The division of parashot for the books of Nevi'im and Ketuvim was never completely standardized in printed Hebrew bibles and handwritten scrolls, though important attempts were made to document it and create fixed rules.

Incorrect division of the text into parashot, either by indicating a parashah in the wrong place or by using the wrong spacing technique, halakhically invalidates a Torah scroll according to Maimonides.[3]


A parashah break creates a textual pause, roughly analogous to a modern paragraph break.[4] Such a pause usually has one of the following purposes:

  1. In most cases, a new parashah begins where a new topic or a new thought is clearly indicated in the biblical text.
  2. In many places, however, the parashah divisions are used even in places where it is clear that no new topic begins, in order to highlight a special verse by creating a textual pause before it or after it (or both).
  3. A special example of #2 is for lists: The individual elements in many biblical lists are separated by parashah spacing of one type or another.[5]

To decide exactly where a new topic or thought begins within a biblical text involves a degree of subjectivity on the part of the reader. This subjective element may help explain differences amongst the various masoretic codices in some details of the section divisions (though their degree of conformity is high). It may also explain why certain verses which might seem like introductions to a new topic lack a section division, or why such divisions sometimes appear in places where no new topic seems indicated. For this reason, the parashah divisions may at times contribute to biblical exegesis.[6]


Parashot appear in manuscripts as early as the Dead Sea Scrolls, in which the division is generally similar to that found in the masoretic text.[7] The idea of spacing between portions, including the idea of "open" and "closed" portions, is mentioned in early midrashic literature[8] and the Talmud. Early masoretic lists detailing the Babylonian tradition include systematic and detailed discussion of exactly where portions begin and which type they are.

As a group, Tiberian masoretic codices share similar but not identical parashah divisions throughout the Bible. Unlike the Babylonian mesorah, however, Tiberian masoretic notes never mention the parashah divisions or attempt to systematize them. This is related to the fact that the Babylonian lists are independent compositions, while the Tiberian notes are in the margins of the biblical text itself, which shows the parashot in a highly visible way.

In the centuries following the Tiberian mesorah, there were ever-increasing efforts to document and standardize the details of the parashah divisions, especially for the Torah, and even for Nevi'im and Ketuvim as time went on.

Spacing techniques

Illustration of a closed section followed by an open section in a modern Torah scroll (closed at Numbers 10:35 and open at 11:1). Note the rare occurrence of "inverted Nun" at these two points.

In most modern Torah scrolls and Jewish editions of the Bible, there are two types of parashot, an "open portion" (parashah petuhah) and a "closed portion" (parashah setumah). An "open portion" is roughly similar to a modern paragraph: The text of the previous portion ends before the end of the column (leaving a space at the end of the line), and the new "open" portion starts at the beginning of the next line (but with no indentation). A "closed portion", on the other hand, leaves a space in the middle of the line of text, where the previous portion ends before the space, and the next portion starts after it, towards the end of the line of text.

In some manuscripts and in many printed editions, an "open portion" (petuhah) is abbreviated with the Hebrew letter "פ" (peh), and a "closed portion" (setumah) with the Hebrew letter "ס" (samekh), often in place of the visual gap in the line.[9] Rough English equivalents are "P" and "S" respectively.[10]

In masoretic codices and in medieval scrolls, these two spacing techniques allowed for a larger range of options:

Open portions often seem to reflect the beginning of a new topic or a major subdivision within a biblical book, while closed portions seem to reflect smaller units or minor subdivisions.[11]

Most printed Hebrew bibles today represent the parashot using the more limited techniques found in typical modern Torah scrolls: A space in the middle of a line for a closed portion, and beginning at the start of the next line for an open portion (not a blank line). A notable exception is The Jerusalem Crown (The Bible of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 2000), whose typography and layout is fashioned after the Aleppo Codex, and follows the medieval spacing techniques for parashah divisions by leaving an empty line for {P} and starts {S} on a new line with an indentation.

Medieval Ashkenazic sources beginning with the Mahzor Vitry also refer to a third spacing technique called a parashah sedurah. This involved starting a new parashah at the same point in the line where the previous parashah ended on the line above.

Halakhic significance

Validity of scrolls

According to the ruling of Maimonides (Laws of Tefillin, Mezuzah and Torah Scrolls 10:1), any error regarding a parashah completely invalidates a Torah scroll. This includes a parashah in the wrong place, of the wrong type, or a missing parashah.

However, there is also a responsum by Maimonides [12] in which he ruled that one may recite a blessing over reading from an invalid scroll, based on the reasoning that the commandment is in the reading itself, not in the text being read from.

Maimonides' strict ruling that any error in the parashot completely invalidates a Torah scroll led to a major halakhic debate that continues to this day.[13] Among those who ruled against Maimonides' stricture in practice were his son, Rabbi Abraham,[14] Rabbi Menachem HaMeiri,[15] Maharam Halava,[16] Mahari Mintz,[17] and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.[18]

All of the above authorities rule that a scroll containing parashot based on alternative scribal traditions that disagree with Maimonides' list of parashot (Laws of Tefillin, Mezuzah and Torah Scrolls, chapter 8) is nevertheless a valid scroll. However, even according to the lenient opinion, a blatant error with no source in any scribal tradition invalidates a Torah scroll.

Rules and customs for public reading

See also: Torah reading

One basic halakhic rule for public reading of the Torah is that no fewer than three verses at a time be read. As a corollary to this, there is a specific rule regarding parashot: One may not leave off reading less than three verses before the end of a parashah, nor may one end off reading by starting a new parashah but leaving off less than three verses from its beginning.[19]

When a Torah portion is read in public from a scroll as part of the synagogue service, it is divided into smaller sections among several people (for instance, 3 short sections on weekdays or 7 on the Sabbath). The points at which the portion is subdivided often take the parashot into account, but there is no hard and fast rule for this.

The selections from Nevi'im that are read as haftarot are based on custom. At times, some of these customs choose the exact beginning or end of a haftarah because it coincides with a parashah division.


Due to the influence of Maimonides, parashah divisions in the Torah have become highly standardized, and there is close to exact agreement among Torah scrolls, printed Jewish bibles, and similar online texts.[20] The following list thus presents the parashah divisions as found in (a) modern Torah scrolls, (b) Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, and (c) the Aleppo Codex (based on several witnesses besides Maimonides to the parashot in its missing parts). Rare inconsistencies between these three sources are explained in footnotes.

The list is constructed as follows:



A page of the Aleppo Codex was photographed in 1887 by William Wickes, containing Genesis 26:35 (החתי) to 27:30 (ויהי אך). It shows a single open parashah break {S} at 27:1 (ויהי כי זקן יצחק); that parashah is in bold within the list below for Parashat Toledot.









Two consecutive pages of the Aleppo Codex from the now-missing part of Deuteronomy were photographed in 1910 by Joseph Segall, containing the Ten Commandments. The image shows Deuteronomy 4:38 (גדלים) to 6:3 (ואשר), including the following parashah breaks: {P} 4:41 אז יבדיל {P} 5:1 ויקרא משה {S} 5:6 אנכי {S} 5:10 לא תשא {S} 5:11 שמור {S} 5:15 כבד {S} 5:16a לא תרצח {S} 5:16b ולא תנאף {S} 5:16c ולא תגנב {S} 5:16d ולא תענה {S} 5:17a ולא תחמד {S} 5:21b ולא תתאוה {S} את הדברים 5:22. These parashot are shown in bold within the list below for Parashat Va'etchannan.

The Aleppo Codex is intact starting at Deuteronomy 28:17 (משארתך). Parashot from the extant parts are in bold, as are the parashot shown in the Segall photograph (image at right).



Parashot in Nevi'im are listed here according to the Aleppo codex, with variants from other masoretic traditions noted at the end of each book's section.

The Aleppo codex is intact for the bulk of Nevi'im. The few parashot noted here from its missing parts are listed according to the notes taken by Joshua Kimhi, who recorded the parashot of the Aleppo codex in the nineteenth century in the bible of Rabbi Shalom Shachna Yellin. These are indicated by an asterisk.





The Aleppo codex is missing three folios from II Kings that included 14:21 (את עזריה) to 18:13 (שנה). Parashot listed from the missing section are based upon Kimhi's notes on the codex[29] and marked with an asterisk (*).



Jeremiah is divided into distinct prophecies, each of which begins with an announcement of "the word of the Lord to Jeremiah" or a similar phrase. Each such prophecy begins a new open parashah {P} in the Aleppo Codex, with the single exception of the sixth prophecy (14:1) that begins with a closed parashah {S}.

The Aleppo codex is missing two folios from Jeremiah, and the folio following them is also partly torn. The missing text included parts of chapters 29-32.[32] Parashot listed from the missing parts are based upon Kimhi's notes on the codex[29] and marked with an asterisk (*).

Prophecies of Destruction (1-25):

Prophecies interwoven with narratives about the prophet's life (26-45):

Prophecies against the nations (46-51):

Narrative (52):


Twelve Minor Prophets

The Aleppo Codex leaves four empty lines between each of the books of the Twelve Minor Prophets. The Leningrad Codex leaves three lines. Parashot within each of the twelve individual books are listed below.

The Aleppo Codex is missing seven folios from two different sections of the Twelve Minor Prophets. Parashot listed from the missing sections are based upon Kimhi's notes on the codex[34] and marked with an asterisk (*). The two sections are: (a) three missing folios that included Amos 8:13 to the end, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah until 5:1 (מקדם); (b) four missing folios that included Zephaniah 3:10 (הארץ) to the end, Haggai, Zechariah until 9:17 (דגן).

Poetic layout of Psalms, Proverbs and Job

The three poetic books of Psalms, Proverbs and Job are collectively known as Sifrei Emet (see the article on Ketuvim). These three books share a unique system of cantillation unlike that of the other 21 books in Tanakh, a system designed to highlight the parallelisms in their verses.

In the Tiberian masoretic codices, the unique system of cantillation for Sifrei Emet is complemented by a scribal layout unlike that of the rest of the Bible: Instead of the three narrow columns per page typical of these codices, Sifrei Emet are written in two wide columns per page. In each line of these wide columns text begins on the right, followed by a gap, and then continued by further text until the left margin of the column. Although there is ample evidence that the scribes attempted to place the gaps in the middle of the lines at the points where the cantillation divides the verses, they often did not succeed in doing so because of space limitations. Modern editions based upon the Aleppo Codex have implemented the idea fully by allowing wide full-page columns for Psalms, Proverbs, and Job.[35]

In poetic layout, parashah divisions are typically indicated by a blank line for an open parashah. The gaps in the middle of lines are not considered parashah divisions, and each scribe formatted the verses as he saw fit for aesthetic and practical reasons. An exception to this rule, however, is for the introductory titles of many individual psalms which are followed by formal parashah breaks, often by continuing the text at the beginning of the next line. These formal breaks will be indicated in the list of parashot for Psalms.

The special poetic cantillation and layout are not implemented for the narrative opening and conclusion of the book of Job (1:1-3:1 and 42:7-17).


Parashot in Ketuvim are listed here according to the Aleppo codex, with variants from other masoretic traditions noted at the end of each book's section. The books of Ketuvim are presented in the order they appear in most printed Hebrew bibles. In Tiberian and early Sephardic masoretic codices (such as the Aleppo Codex) the order is as follows: Chronicles, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah.

The Aleppo codex is largely intact until the word ציון ("Zion") in Song of Songs 3:11. It is missing the rest of Song of Songs, as well as the final books of Ketuvim in their entirety: Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel and Ezra-Nehemiah. It is also missing two folios which included about 10 psalms (15:1-25:1). Parashot listed here from its missing parts are according to the notes taken by Joshua Kimhi, who recorded the parashot of the Aleppo codex for Rabbi Shalom Shachna Yellin in the nineteenth century. These are indicated by an asterisk. For some of the books that are largely or completely missing, charts have been provided below to allow for easy comparison of the parallel data found in the masoretic manuscripts.

Key to symbols for variants:


The Aleppo Codex leaves two empty lines between the five Books of Psalms (following psalms 41, 72, 89, 106). Otherwise there is one blank line between each two psalms, the standard way of indicating an open parashah break {P} in poetic layout.

There is no break at all, however, between psalms 114-115, which were apparently considered a single psalm by the scribes. Psalm 119, which has sets of eight verses for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet, has an open parashah break (a blank line) between each set of eight verses.

The titles of individual Psalms have formal rules. Symbols for representing these rules are as follows, based on examples:

Book One (Psalms 1-41):

Book Two (Psalms 42-72):

Book Three (Psalms 73-89):

Book Four (Psalms 90-106):

Book Five (Psalms 107-150):



I. Narrative Opening (1:1-3:1):

II. Poetic Disputations: The disputations, which constitute the bulk of the book of Job, employ the special poetic layout in common with Psalms and Proverbs, along its associated poetic cantillation. In Tiberian masoretic codices, the formal title of each individual speech appears in the center of its line, while the body of the reply appears in poetic form (as in Psalms and Proverbs). The break between the title and the body is considered an open parashah, and the verse numbers for these titles appear in bold in the list. Blank lines as open parashot are also used occasionally, and these are noted as {P}.

III. Narrative Conclusion (42:7-17):

Song of Songs

The Aleppo codex is extant until the word ציון ("Zion") in Song of Songs 3:11. Bibles that show parashot in the Song of Songs based upon the Aleppo Codex (with reconstruction of its missing parts based on Kimhi's notes) include two editions following the Breuer method (Horev and The Jerusalem Crown). The flow of text in such bibles is as follows:

The Tiberian masoretic codices are nearly identical in the parts at which they show parashah breaks in the text. However, while A and L have {S} almost exclusively, Y (which is usually very close to A) shows {P} for the large majority of parashot,[39] as shown in the chart below:

Words Verse no. Tiberian tradition Other traditions
A/A* L Y[39] Finfer[40]
שחורה אני 1:5 {P} {S} {P} {S}
לססתי 1:9 {P} {S} {S} {S} Ff={P}
הנך יפה... עיניך יונים 1:15 {S} {S} {S} {S}
קול דודי 2:8 {S} {S} {S} {S}
יונתי 2:14 {S} {S} {P} {S}
אחזו לנו 2:15 {S} {S} {P} {S}
על משכבי 3:1 {S} {S} {P} {S}
מי זאת עלה... כתימרות 3:6 {S} {S} {P} {S}
אפריון 3:9 {S} {S} {P} {S}
הנך יפה... מבעד לצמתך 4:1 {S*} {S} {P} {S}
אתי מלבנון 4:8 {S*} {S} {P} {S}
גן נעול 4:12 {-*}[41] {S} {-} {S}
אני ישנה 5:2 {S*} {S} {P} {S} Ff={P}
יפה את רעיתי כתרצה 6:4 {-*}[42] {S} {P} {P}
מי זאת הנשקפה 6:10 {S*} {S} {S} {S} Ff={P}
אל גנת אגוז 6:11 {S*} {S} {P} (-)
לכה דודי נצא 7:12 {S*} {S} {P} {-} Fo={S}
מי זאת עלה... מתרפקת 8:5 {-*}[42] {S} {P} {S}
אחות לנו קטנה 8:8 {S*} {S} {P} {S}
כרם היה לשלמה 8:11 {-*}[42] {P} {P} {-}
Ff={S} Fo={P}


In the Tiberian masoretic codices, the only parashah found in Ruth is for the short chronology at the end of the book:



The Aleppo codex lacks Lamentations in its entirety. Parashot listed here are based upon Kimhi's notes on the codex.[44]



The Aleppo codex lacks Ecclesiastes in its entirety. Parashot listed here are based upon Kimhi's notes on the codex.[46]

There are no further parashah divisions at all in the rest of the book (3:9-12:14) according to Kimhi's notes on the Aleppo Codex, an unusually large amount of unbroken text (170 verses) that is confirmed by Y. The Leningrad codex has a solitary parashah break: {S} at 9:11. The following chart compares the meager parashah breaks for Ecclesiastes as found in manuscripts:

Words Verse no. Tiberian tradition Other traditions
A*[47] Y[48] L L34[48] Finfer[49]
אין זכרון לראשונים 1:11 {-*} {-} {-} {-} {-} Ff={S}
אני קהלת הייתי מלך 1:12 {P*} {S} {P} {S} {-} Ff={S}
לכל זמן ועת לכל חפץ 3:1 {-*} {-} {-} {-} {-} Ff={S}
עת ללדת 3:2 {S*} {S} {S} {P} {-} Ff={S}
עת ללדת... ועת שלום 3:2-8 {S/P} Song of the Seasons {SONG} {S}
שמר רגלך 4:17 {-*} {-} {-} {S} {-}
טוב שם משמן טוב 7:1 {-*} {-} {-} {-} {-} Fo={S}[50]
לך אכל בשמחה לחמך 9:7 {-*} {-} {-} {-} {-} Ff={S}[50]
שבתי וראה תחת השמש 9:11 {-*} {-} {S} {S} {-}
שמח בחור בילדותיך 11:9 {-*} {-} {-} {S} {-} Fo={S}


The book of Esther is traditionally read by Jews on the holiday of Purim from a handwritten scroll on parchment that must be halakhically valid. This means that the rules of open and closed parashot are of more practical relevance for Esther than for any other book in Nevi'im or Ketuvim. Despite this—or perhaps because of the large numbers of scrolls of Esther that have been written, and the special attention that has therefore been paid to the problem by rabbis and scribes—manuscripts of Esther and opinions about how they should be written betray a relatively large number of discrepancies regarding the parashah divisions.

In the nineteenth century, Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried published a manual for scribes called Keset HaSofer, in which he follows the rule that all parashot in Esther are closed {S} (Keset HaSofer 28:5).[51] This is currently the dominant tradition for Ashkenazic and Sephardic megillot (scrolls of Esther) today. But the Tiberian masoretic codices contain both open and closed portions. Also, Yemenite scribes did not entirely adopt the tradition of closed portions, leaving the divisions in many scrolls of Esther similar to what is found in the masoretic codices.

Ganzfried ruled that a scroll of Esther with open portions is invalid, but added that "some authorities validate" it (Keset HaSofer 28:5).[52] When discussing these authorities in his additional notes,[53] Ganzfried cites a list open parashot found in the book Orhot Hayyim, and concludes: "And even though our custom is that all of these are closed, it nevertheless seems that if some or all of these are open one may read from the scroll with a blessing." These have been listed in the chart below under at "OH" under Keset HaSofer, and they are very similar to what is found in the Tiberian masoretic codices.[54]

Words Verse no. Tiberian tradition Other traditions
A* Y[55] L L34[55] Finfer Keset HaSofer
גם ושתי המלכה 1:9 {-} {-} {-} {S} DC={P} {S}
ביום השביעי 1:10 {S} {S} {S} (-) {-}
ויאמר המלך לחכמים 1:13 {-} {S} {-} (-) {S}
ויאמר ממוכן 1:16 {P} {P} {S} {S} DC={P} {S} OH={P}
אחר הדברים האלה כשוך 2:1 {P} {P} {P} {P} {S} C={P} {S} OH={P}
איש יהודי 2:5 {P} {P} {S} {P} {S} C={P} {S} OH={P}
ובכל יום ויום 2:11 {S}[56] {-} {-} {-} (-) {-}
בימים ההם ומרדכי יושב בשער מלך 2:21 {S} {S} {S} {S} {S} C={P} {S}
אחר הדברים האלה גדל 3:1 {P} {P} {P} {P} {S} C={P} {S} OH={P}
ויאמר המן למלך 3:8 {S} {S} {S} {S} {S} C={P} {S}
ומרדכי ידע 4:1 {S} {S} {P} {P} {S} C={P} {S} OH={P}
ויאמר מרדכי להשיב 4:13 {P} {P} {P} {P} (-) {-}
ויהי ביום השלישי ותלבש 5:1 {S} {S} {S} {S} (-) {-}
ויאמר לה המלך מה לך 5:3 {S} {-} {S} {S} (-) {-}
בלילה ההוא נדדה 6:1 {S} {S} {P} {P} {S} C={P} {S}
ויאמר המלך אחשורוש ויאמר לאסתר המלכה 7:5 {S} {S} {S} {S} {S} C={P} {S}
ויאמר חרבונה 7:9 {S} {S} {S} {S} (-) {-}
ביום ההוא נתן המלך אחשורוש 8:1 {P} {P} {P} {P} {S} C={P} {S} OH={P}
ותוסף אסתר ותדבר 8:3 {S} {S} {P} {P} {S} C={P} {S}
ויאמר המלך אחשורוש לאסתר המלכה ולמרדכי 8:7 {S} {S} {S} {S} {S} C={P} {S}
ומרדכי יצא מלפני המלך 8:15 {S} {S} {P} {S} C={P} {S}
ויכו היהודים בכל איביהם 9:5 {-} {-} {P} (-) {-}
ואת פרשנדתא... ואת ויזתא 9:7-9 {S} Haman's Sons {SONG} {S}
ויאמר המלך לאסתר המלכה בשושן הבירה 9:12 {-} {-} {S}[57] (-) {-}
ויכתב מרדכי את הדברים האלה 9:20 {S} {S} {P} {P} (-) {-}
ותכתב אסתר המלכה 9:29 {S} {S} {S} {S} {-}
וישם המלך אחשורוש מס 10:1 {S} {S} {P} {P} {S} C={P} {S}

Most printed Jewish bibles, even those based on manuscripts, show the flow of text in Esther according to the widespread tradition based on Keset HaSofer (only closed parashot). Such editions include the Koren edition (Jerusalem, 1962), Breuer's first edition (Jerusalem, 1982) and Dotan's editions (which are otherwise based upon the Leningrad Codex). The flow of text in such bibles is as follows:

Bibles that show the parashot in Esther based upon a reconstruction of the Aleppo Codex include two editions following the Breuer method (Horev and The Jerusalem Crown). The flow of text in such bibles is as follows:


The Aleppo codex lacks Daniel in its entirety. Parashot listed here are based upon Kimhi's notes on the codex.[58]


The Aleppo codex lacks Ezra-Nehemiah in its entirety. Parashot listed here are based upon Kimhi's notes on the codex.[59]


Songs with special layout

Image of a modern Torah scroll open to the Song of the Sea (Exodus 15:1-19) with special layout visible.

In addition to the common "open" and "closed" parashot, the masoretic scribal layout employs spaces in an elaborate way for prominent songs found within narrative books, as well as for certain lists. Each such "song" is formatted in its own exact way, though there are similarities between them. These sections include:




The following sections discuss the layout and formatting of each of these songs in detail.

Haman's Sons (Esther)

The list of Haman's sons in a standard Scroll of Esther.

Esther 9:7-9 lists Haman's ten sons in three consecutive verses (three names in 7, three in 8, and four in 9). Each name is preceded by the Hebrew particle ואת. The {SONG} format for this list is as follows:

The {SONG} format described here originated in the typically narrow columns of the Tiberian masoretic codices, in which a line of text containing only two words at opposite margins with a gap between them appears similar to a standard closed parashah. However, in many later scrolls the columns are much wider, such that lines with single words at opposite margins create a huge gap in the middle. In many scrolls these eleven lines are written in very large letters so that they form one full column of text in the megillah.

See also

Compare to (Masoretic tradition):

Compare to (similar concepts in other traditions):

Related masoretic topics:


  1. In common usage today the word often refers to the Weekly Torah portion (a shortened form of Parashat HaShavua). This article deals with the first, formal meaning of the word.
  2. Though initially doubted by Umberto Cassuto, this has become the established position in modern scholarship. As Goshen-Gottstein, Penkower, and Ofer have shown, Cassuto's doubts were based upon apparent discrepancies he noted between the parashah divisions in the Aleppo Codex and those recorded by Maimonides. However, the most striking of these apparent discrepancies are rooted in the faulty manuscripts and printed editions of Maimonides that Cassuto consulted (as noted in his personal journals), while the remaining cases can be reasonably explained as differing interpretations of very small spaces in the Aleppo Codex. Furthermore, the best manuscripts of Maimonides describe highly unusual implementations of spacing techniques that are found in no other masoretic manuscript besides the Aleppo Codex. Full explanations of each individual discrepancy appear in the notes to this article.
  3. For more details see the section on Halakhic significance below.
  4. For a general description of the section divisions and their purpose, see Emanuel Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, 2nd revised edition (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001), pp. 50-51.
  5. This phenomena often borders on "song" format. The various types and degrees of "song" format as a sophisticated expansion of the parashah spaces in the Tiberian masoretic manuscripts has been analyzed at length by Mordechai Breuer in The Aleppo Codex and the Accepted Text of the Bible (Jerusalem: Mosad Harav Kook, 1976), pp. 149-165 (Hebrew).
  6. Tov, p. 51: "The subdivision into open and closed sections reflects exegesis on the extent of the content units... It is possible that the subjectivity of this exegesis created the extant differences between the various sources. What in one Masoretic manuscript is indicated as an open section may appear in another as a closed section, while the indication of a section may be altogether absent in yet a third source. Nevertheless, a certain uniformity is visible in the witnesses of M."
  7. "The division of the text in the Qumran scrolls into content units reflects in general terms the system of parashiyyot that was later accepted in M: a space in the middle of the line to denote a minor subdivision and a space extending from the last word in the line to the end of the line, to denote a major subdivision..." (Tov, p. 210). "Although the medieval manuscripts continue the tradition of the proto-Masoretic texts from Qumran in general, they often differ with regard to the indication of individual section breaks..." (ibid., p. 50). Data on the manuscript evidence for parashot beginning with the Dead Sea Scrolls is collated in the Hebrew University Bible Project.
  8. Dibbura de-Nedava (introduction to Sifrei on Leviticus).
  9. The abbreviations are most often used in Hebrew editions of the Bible with commentaries, and in older one-volume editions of the Tanakh published through the first half of the 20th century. Though most current Jewish editions use the actual spacing techniques instead of the abbreviations, they are still used some in one-volume editions, most prominently in Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia.
  10. As implemented here.
  11. Tov, pp. 50-51, 210-211. However, no comprehensive and systematic study of the matter has even been done.
  12. Blau, responsum #294; also appears in Shu"t HaRambam Pe'er HaDor #9, and is thus cited by Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef in Yehaveh Da'at VI:56.
  13. An English-language survey of the halakhic sources that deal with discrepancies in the transmission of details in the masoretic text of the Torah, regarding both its spelling (letter-text) and its parashah divisions, may be found in Barry Levy's Fixing God's Torah: The Accuracy of the Hebrew Bible text in Jewish Law (Oxford University Press, 2001). Levy discusses most of the sources listed here and translates some of them.
  14. Responsum #91.
  15. Commentary Beit HaBehira to Kiddushin 30a and in the introduction to his Kiryat Sefer on the laws of writing Torah scrolls.
  16. Responsum #145. Maharam was a student of Rashba in thirteenth century Spain.
  17. Responsum #8. Rabbi Judah Mintz flourished in Italy in the fifteenth century.
  18. Yehaveh Da'at VI:56. Basing himself on previous authorities who disputed Maimonides ruling entirely, in addition to Maimonides' own ruling that a blessing may be recited upon reading from an invalid Torah Scroll, Rabbi Yosef permits Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews to recite a blessing upon reading from a Yemenite Torah Scroll. Yemenite scrolls differ from both Ashkenazic and Sephardic scrolls for exactly one parashah division: an open section at Leviticus 7:22 (Yemen) instead of at 7:28 (Ashkenaz and Sepharad). Yemenite scrolls also differ regarding certain spellings (exactly 9 letters), while Ashkenazic and Sephardic scrolls are identical in all of these details.
  19. The talmudic source for this isMegillah 22a. In later halakhic literature, these rules are discussed in Orah Hayyim 138.
  20. Such as the text found at Mechon Mamre.
  21. 1 2 Parashat Vayechi is the only one of the weekly Torah readings whose opening verse (Genesis 47:28) is not the beginning of an open or a closed section. Its parashot are thus listed here sequentially along with those of the previous weekly reading.
  22. Numerous testimonies verify that the Aleppo codex had a closed section at 20:13b (לא תחמד אשת רעך). Though this data does not agree with what is found in several editions of Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, it accords with the original reading of Maimonides based on early manuscripts and testimonies. See Penkower, Maimonides, pp. 50-64 (at length); Ofer, Cassutto, p. 326; Ofer, Yelin, p. 306.
  23. 1 2 For Exodus 34:1, פסל-לך, the vast majority of accurate Tiberian manuscripts have {S} here instead of {P} (the latter is as listed by Maimonides and found in current Torah scrolls). Testimony about the text of the Aleppo codex when it was still intact (by Kimhi) reveals that the form of the parashah at this point was a line of text that didn't reach the end of the column, followed at 34:1 by a line that began close to the beginning of the column. Identifying the type of parashah in such a context depends on whether the reader considers there to be a significant gap at the beginning of the line (in which case it is setumah) or does not consider the gap to be significant (in which case it is petuhah). This form of parashah is often indicated by a very small indentation in the extant parts of the Aleppo Codex, sometimes no wider than the space of one or two letters. Therefore, Penkower (p. 51 n. 125) and Ofer (pp. 306-307) suggest that Maimonides judged 34:1 to start at the beginning of its line without a significant gap, and was thus followed in later Torah scrolls. Other observers noted it as setumah (Kimhi, Sithon) or wrote conflicting notations (Amadi).
  24. 1 2 3 4 Ashkenazic and Sephardic Torah scrolls lack an open portion at 7:22 (וידבר... דבר... כל חלב) while Yemenite scrolls have one. Conversely, Yemenite scrolls lack an open portion at 7:28 (וידבר... דבר... המקריב) while Ashkenazic and Sephardic scrolls have one. This situation derives from Maimonides' ambiguous formulation in Laws of Tefillin, Mezuzah and Torah Scrolls, chapter 8, where he lists a series of six consecutive open parashot at this point in Leviticus, one of them beginning with the words "וידבר... דבר אל בני ישראל" ("The Lord spoke to Moses... Speak to the children of Israel..."). However, there are actually two places where this is found (Leviticus 7:22 and 7:28), and it is unclear which of them Maimonides was referring to. Thus, the scrolls that have a section break at 7:22 and those with a break at 7:28 are both implementing Maimonides' ambiguous formulation in two different ways. How this formulation by Maimonides accords with the Aleppo Codex has been discussed at length by Ofer (Cassuto, pp. 328-330) and Penkower (New Evidence, pp. 76-90). If the Aleppo Codex was indeed missing a parashah break at either 7:22 or 7:28, that would be unique among the 71 occurrences of "The Lord spoke to Moses..." in the Torah. Furthermore, all other Tiberian masoretic manuscripts have parashot in both places. Available data on this now-missing part of the codex is as follows: Rabbi Judah Ityah, who examined the codex to answer questions posed by Umberto Cassuto, reported that there were open parashah breaks at both 7:22 and 7:28. Earlier, Rabbi Samuel Vital (Responsa Be'er Mayyim Hayyim 27) also confirmed an open parashah at 7:22. Amadi, however, wrote two opposing notes at 7:22—that a parashah break is lacking and that the "Codex of Ezra" has a parashah here—which apparently refer to two different codices but it is unclear which ones. Ofer deals with the evidence by assuming that Ityah's report was correct and that Maimonides, in the process of adding sums to the final version of his list of parashot for Mishneh Torah, counted "וידבר... דבר אל בני ישראל" once instead of twice. Penkower prefers an alternative explanation, namely that there was a small space at the end of the line preceding 7:22 which Maimonides did not consider significant, but which other witnesses thought indicated an open parashah break (pp. 79-80). Modern editions based on the Aleppo Codex show these parashot as follows: Breuer's first edition, published before most of this evidence became available, shows a break only at 7:28 (following the Yemenite tradition). His two later editions (Horev and Jerusalem Crown) show breaks at both 7:22 and 7:28, noting in the margin that "the scrolls of Ashkenaz and Sepharad" or "the scrolls of Yemen" lack a break in either place. The Feldheim Simanim edition shows a break only at 7:28, keeping to the tradition of Ashkenaz and Sepharad.
  25. Deuteronomy 27:20 is the only one in a series of verses beginning with ארור ("cursed") not preceded by a closed break in Maimonides' list of parashot (and hence in current Torah scrolls). But other Tiberian masoretic codices have {S} here as for the other verses in the series, while testimonies about the Aleppo Codex from when it was still intact are conflicted. Ofer (pp. 307-8) suggests that since 27:19 has more words than usual for this series of similarly constructed verses, its relative length resulted in a very small space between 27:19 and 27:20 in the narrow columns of the Aleppo Codex, a space which Maimonides interpreted as no more than the space between words and not a closed section break, while other readers evaluated it as a closed section break.
  26. The word ladonai appears at the beginning of a line followed by a space and then the first place-name (le-Ashdod) at the end of the line (left side of the column). Each subsequent occurrence of "one" (ehad) appears below ladonai at the beginning of a line followed by a space, with the place-names at the end of the line (left side of the column).
  27. The thirteen occurrences of la-asher or vela-asher (3 each in 30:27-30 and once at the beginning of 30:31) are arranged above each other at the end of each line (left end of the column), with the appropriate place-names following at the beginning of the next line (right side of each column) and a space in the middle of the line. Some modern editions follow the same principle with different layout by presenting place names followed by two columns of vela-asher on each line.
  28. The closed portions found in the Aleppo Codex for this list mostly appear in the middle of its narrow columns, leaving just a single word (or a short phrase) at the beginning and end of each line.
  29. 1 2 Ofer, Yellin, p. 320 and p. 332 n. 1.
  30. The Aleppo Codex has no break at all where 2 Kings begins in the Greek textual tradition; text continues on the very same line with no interruption (see the relevant image at In the Leningrad codex there is a closed parashah break where 2 Kings begins, such that in printed editions reflecting that tradition, text continues at the end of the same line after a gap.
  31. The Leningrad codex has an open section at 16:7 (וישלח אחז), but Kimhi did not note any parashah. The possibility that Kimhi erred by neglecting to note a parashah at 16:7 is lessened by the fact that Codex Cairensis also lacks a parashah at this point (Ofer, Yellin, p. 332 n. 1). For this reason Breuer's editions based on the Aleppo Codex and Kimhi's notes (Horev and The Jerusalem Crown) do not show a parashah at 16:7. Finfer similarly does not record this verse in his list of parashot (p. 130), and thus no break is shown in the Koren edition. However, the volume of Mikraot Gedolot Haketer on Kings does show an open parashah break {P} at 16:7 as found in the Leningrad Codex.
  32. These include 29:9 (יהוה) to 31:34 (נתן); 32:1 (לנבוכדראצר) to 32:5 (כי); 32:8 (שדי) to 32:12 (בספר); 32:14 (רבים) to 32:19 (עיניך); 32:21 (ובמורא) to 32:24. However, a few words from 32:4-5 and 32:24 remain.
  33. The Leningrad codex has a closed section break {S} at 31:17 (שמוע), but Kimhi did not note any parashah. The possibility that Kimhi erred by neglecting to note a parashah at 31:17 is lessened by the fact that Codex Cairensis also lacks a parashah at this point, as well as the fact that Finfer records lack of a parashah break here in most manuscripts (Ofer, Yellin, p. 332 n. 1). For this reason Breuer's editions based on the Aleppo Codex and Kimhi's notes (Horev and The Jerusalem Crown) do not show a parashah at 31:17, nor does a break appear in the Koren edition based on Finfer's list. However, Finfer does note that "a few manuscripts" have {S} here (p. 133).
  34. Ofer, Yellin, p. 321.
  35. Editions which have implemented the poetic layout in full includeJerusalem Crown: The Bible of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (2000); Mikraot Gedolot Haketer, ed. Menachem Cohen (Bar-Ilan University, 1992-present) on Psalms (two volumes); and theSimanim editions of Psalms and the full Tanakh (Feldheim, 2005). For a clear explanation of the phenomenon see Cohen's remarks in his introduction to the first volume of Psalms (p. 8).
  36. See BHQ, General Introduction, pp. xxiii-xxiv. This was one of the four main codices consulted by Breuer for his Horev edition and the Jerusalem Crown. See n. 6 to Breuer's explanatory essay at the end of Jerusalem Crown. It was also collated for BHQ, where it is referred to as MY. With regard to the parashot it is very close to the Aleppo Codex, as shown in Yeivin, Division, and also borne out in this article's lists.
  37. BHQ, ibid. pp. xxiv-xxv. This was also one of the four main codices consulted by Breuer for his Horev edition and the Jerusalem Crown and was also collated for BHQ, where it is referred to as MS1.
  38. BHQ, ibid. p. xxv.
  39. 1 2 BHQ Megilloth, pp. 8-9*.
  40. P. 145. Besides the verses listed below, Finfer records that there are no parashah breaks in the manuscripts he consulted at 2:1, 6:1, 7:1, 8:1.
  41. Kimhi made no notation here, and no parashah break appears in the Breuer editions as in Y but as opposed to L.
  42. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Not listed in Ofer, Yellin, pp. 322-328, but appears thus in Horev and Jerusalem Crown editions as stated in the editorial essays as the back of these volumes: "In a few places where Kimhi did not note anything but a parashah appears in other accurate codices, I have added a parashah based on the Leningrad Codex. These include..." (Breuer, Horev, p. 14). These additions assume that Kimhi failed to note a parashah accidentally.
  43. BHQ Megilloth, p. 6*; Finfer p. 145. Besides this verse, Finfer records that there are no parashah breaks in the manuscripts he consulted at 1:19. 2:1, 3:1, 3:8, 4:1.
  44. Ofer, Yellin, p. 323.
  45. 1 2 Kimhi omits notation of individual verses in Lamentations at the following points: 1:2, 1:5, 1:14, 4:4, 4:5, 4:6, 4:7, 4:14 (Ofer, Yellin, p. 323). The Breuer edition supplies these parashot, apparently missing based upon an oversight by Kimhi (see Breuer, Horev, p. 14).
  46. Ofer, Yellin, p. 322.
  47. In addition to the verses listed below, Kimhi specifically noted that the Aleppo Codex lacks parashah breaks at the following points: 2:1, 5:1.
  48. 1 2 BHQ Megilloth, p. 14*.
  49. P. 145. Besides the verses listed below, Finfer records that there are no parashah breaks in the manuscripts he consulted at 2:1, 4:1, 5:1, 6:1, 7:1, 8:1, 9:1, 10:1. 11:1, 12:1. "A few manuscripts" have {S} at 1:11,12; 3:1,2; 9:7. "Other manuscripts" have {S} at 3:9, 7:1, 11:9.
  50. 1 2 This verse also begins one of the four sedarim in Ecclesiastes: 1:1, 3:3, 7:1, 9:7 (BHQ Megilloth, p. 14*).
  51. These closed portions are noted with the word סתומה at each relevant verse in Ganzfried's notes on Esther towards the end of the book (beginning on page 133a). A digital image of the text may be found here. The rule is codified in Shulhan Arukh Orah Hayyim 691:2 (Rema), and its source is Hagahot Maimoniyot on Maimonides' Laws of Megillah chapter 2.
  52. Page (40a) in the digital image of the text found here.
  53. Lishkat HaSofer, note 5 (40a). Ganzfried cites Magen Avraham as allowing such a scroll to be used in difficult circumstances, while Peri Megadim is unsure whether a blessing should be recited over it.
  54. Another medieval list of open and closed sections in Esther is found in Isaac ben Moses of Vienna's Or Zarua (Part II, Laws of Megillah 373), citing his teacher Eliezer ben Joel HaLevi (Ra'avyah). Arukh Hashulchan Orah Hayyim 691:6 notes an internal contradiction in Or Zarua and concludes that a scroll of Esther written with open sections may still be used; but see Israel Isserlin, Terumat HaDeshen, Rulings and Essays 23.
  55. 1 2 BHQ Megilloth p. 21*. An empty cell in the table under L34 indicates a gap in that manuscript.
  56. 1 2 Kimhi simply noted "ס" at 2:11 (ובכל יום). No other textual tradition, Tiberian or otherwise, has a parashah at this point in the text, nor does the narrative indicate that one would be appropriate. Editions based on the Breuer method or close to it (Horev, The Jerusalem Crown, and Mikra'ot Gedolot ha-Keter) nonetheless show {S} here.
  57. Mistakenly listed as both {P} and {S} in the notes at the back of the Dotan edition.
  58. Ofer, Yellin, p. 324-325.
  59. Ofer, Yellin, pp. 325-328.

Literature cited

Books and articles cited in the references to this article:

Bible editions consulted (based on the Aleppo Codex):

  1. Mossad Harav Kuk: Jerualem, 1977-1982. Mordechai Breuer, ed.
  2. Horev publishers: Jerusalem, 1996-98. Mordechai Breuer, ed.
  3. Jerusalem Crown: The Bible of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Jerusalem, 2000. Yosef Ofer, ed. (under the guidance of Mordechai Breuer).
  4. Jerusalem Simanim Institute (Feldheim Publishers), 2004.
  5. Mikraot Gedolot Haketer, Bar-Ilan University Press, 1992–present.
  6. Mechon Mamre, online version.

Bible editions consulted (based on the Leningrad Codex):

  1. Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft: Stuttgart, 1984.
  2. Adi publishers. Tel Aviv, 1986. Aharon Dotan, ed.
  3. The JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh. Philadelphia, 1999.
  4. Biblia Hebraica Quinta: General Introduction and Megilloth. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2004 (BHQ).

Bible editions consulted (based on other traditions):

  1. Koren Publishers: Jerusalem, 1962.

External links

Note: Links concerning the Weekly Torah portion do not belong here.

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