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The Triennial Torah Reading Cycle

(OH 282)

Question:
Is it permitted to introduce a triennial Torah reading cycle and, if so, how?

Responsum:
It is clear that there is a need for a change in the custom of reading the Torah in a one-year cycle. Reform rabbis already understood in the nineteenth century that the public in our time has difficulty in sitting through and absorbing so much material. In addition, the darshan cannot cover all the ideas contained in one parashah. The same problem exists for educators and parents who want to teach the parashah to young people – they are always obliged to forgo some subjects.

In modern times, several methods of shortening the reading have been proposed by Reform and Conservative Rabbis, but each one of the proposed methods is problematic. The only acceptable way is to go back to the ancient custom of the Land of Israel in which the Torah is read in a consecutive fashion for three years. Although it might be preferable to go back to the custom of a special cycle for each congregation – which was probably the original method in the Land of Israel – this would be too complicated. Therefore, we recommend the method proposed by Rabbi Simchah Roth, which is laid out in the following responsum. [This responsum has not been summarized here in English because it consists primarily of tables of the Torah and Haftarah readings – Ed.] This cycle begins and ends every three years on Shemini Atzeret.

Of course, one should precede every change in the custom of a community by educational activities, which include studying the sources pertaining to the subject.

Rabbi David Lazar
In favor: Rabbi David Frankel
Rabbi David Golinkin
Rabbi Simchah Roth
Opposed: Rabbi Gilah Dror
Rabbi Michael Graetz
Rabbi Yisrael Warman

A Reaction to the Responsum on the
Triennial Torah Reading Cycle
(OH 282)

Rabbi Lazar and Rabbi Roth question the validity of the American triennial cycle in which a third of every weekly position is read every Shabbat. In our opinion, this method, which has taken root in many congregations in the Diaspora and in some congregations in Israel, is permissible.

Rabbi Zeira’s ruling in Bavli Megilah 31b and the tannaitic dispute in Bavli and Tosefta Megilah were not originally related to our question at all and thus cannot be used to forbid the American cycle. The American cycle is preferable to the ancient Palestinian cycle because it retains a connection to the weekly portion accepted by Kelal Yisrael. According to a group of Sephardic and North African rabbis, including Maimonides, the main purpose of reading the Torah in public is Torah study; the American cycle supports this approach by allowing time for serious Torah study. Furthermore, the American cycle has taken root as an accepted custom in many congregations, and custom, on occasion, “uproots halakhah”. Finally, an innovation can be absorbed into the halakhah if the innovation improves the observance of that mitzvah according to the reason for that mitzvah.

Rabbi Michael Graetz and Rabbi Gilah Dror
Opposed: Rabbi David Frankel
Rabbi David Golinkin
Rabbi David Lazar
Rabbi Simchah Roth
Rabbi Yisrael Warman

A Reaction to the Responsum on the Wearing of a Kippah by Men and Women

(OH 91:3-5)

I agree with Rabbi Frankel’s responsum, aside from the last section regarding women and girls. Inasmuch as wearing a kippah is a symbol of Fear of Heaven, of modesty, and of respect for tradition, which became a binding custom in times of sanctity, we have to require the wearing of the kippah not only of men and boys but also of women and girls. By so doing, we give women and girls the same opportunity to enrich their religious experience and to give the sacred moments in their lives the additional dimension that wearing a kippah adds.

Rabbi Gilah Dror
In favor: Rabbi Michael Graetz
Opposed: Rabbi David Frankel
Rabbi David Golinkin
Rabbi David Lazar
Rabbi Simchah Roth
Rabbi Yisrael Warman

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