Four Parshiyot

Among the special Shabbatot in the calendar year, there are four preceding Pesach known as the Four Parshiyot (Arba Parshiyot – ארבע פרשיות), during which special maftir and haftarah portions are read. In distinction to special Shabbatot that coincide with holidays,1 the Four Parshiyot do not have a coinciding occasion. Rather, they are tied to their relationship to Purim and Pesach and happen in sequence (though not consecutively).2 Like Shabbat Shirah, the Four Parshiyyot are designated by the important section of the reading; like Shabbat Shuvah and the Shabbatot surrounding Tisha’ be-Av, they are keyed to calendar events. For each of the Four Parshiyyot, a special maftir is added to the regular Torah reading and is followed by a special haftarah, from which each special Shabbat gets its name:

  • Shabbat Shekalim – The Shabbat before or on Rosh Chodesh Adar (Adar Bet in leap years). The special maftir comes from parashat Ki Tissa that describes the half-shekel tax, hence its name; the haftarah is 2 Melakhim 12:1-17.
  • Shabbat Zaבhor – The Shabbat preceding Purim. The maftir comes from Ki Tetze, including the commandment to remember what Amalek did to Bnei Yisrael, from which its name, Zakhor (remember), is taken; the haftarah is 1 Shemuel 15:2-34.
  • Shabbat Parah – The Shabbat before Shabbat ha-Chodesh (see immediately below). The maftir comes from Chukkat, in which the ritual of the parah adumah (red heifer) is described; the haftarah is Yechezkel 36:16-38.
  • Shabbat ha-Chodesh – The Shabbat before on on the first of Nisan. The maftir comes from Bo, describing the first month of the year (Chodesh Nisan); the hatarah is Yechezkel 45:16-46:18.3

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  1. That is, Rosh Chodesh, the Shalosh Regalim, Chol ha-Moed, Chanukah, or Purim.
  2. See here for all the four possible configurations of the Four Parshiyyot.
  3. Not to be confused with Shabbat Rosh Chodesh, on which we read a maftir, , describing the special Rosh Chodesh korbanot and a special haftarah, Yeshayahu 66:1-24. If one of the special Shabbatot, including Shabbat ha-Chodesh, also coincides with Rosh Chodesh, then these are also read, from a third scroll.