New OU Program, Shnayim Mikra to Provide Torah Commentary on Weekly Parsha, Debuts October 9

29 Sep 2009


It happens the same way every Shabbat in synagogues around the world. The Torah is removed from the Aron Kodesh, paraded around the shul, and then those honored with an aliyah are called forth from the congregation – first the Kohen, then the Levi, then five Israelites – and they receive an aliyah for each of the seven portions into which the parsha is divided. (An eighth person is called for maftir, an additional aliyah preceding the reading of the Haftara.) Then, as the ba’al keriyah reads each aliyah out loud, the congregation follows in their chumashim.

Now, through a first-time Orthodox Union program that will begin with Bereshit and the new Torah cycle, the OU will provide enlightening Torah commentary the way the Torah is read in the shul – aliyah by aliyah, seven lectures in all. They will be delivered by some of the most popular teachers from the various OU Torah programs, including Nach Yomi, the daily study of the books of the Hebrew Bible, which follow the Five Books of Moses.

The new program is called Shnayim Mikra, meaning The Text Twice, referring to the requirement to read each Torah portion twice in the original Hebrew, as well as once in the Targum, or translation. The title of the program is derived from the full name of this weekly obligation, Shnayim Mikra v’Echad Targum – The Text Twice and the Translation Once.

“The OU’s Shnayim Mikra is an opportunity for people not only to read the weekly Torah portion, but to understand it in new ways,” declared Rabbi Jack Abramowitz, Associate Director of the OU’s Pepa and Rabbi Joseph Karasick Department of Synagogue Services and the coordinator of the program. In addition to the seven audio lectures, he said, “there will be a text synopsis of each aliyah, plus access to the original text in Hebrew with English translation. Finally, there will be a text analysis of each portion’s Haftara.”

The program will be available on With Shabbat Bereshit taking place on October 17, the seven aliyot will be available the preceding Friday, October 9.

“In terms of Torah education, the OU is in the forefront of technology, enabling study in homes and offices so people can complete the reading of the parsha twice each week,” noted Rabbi Steven Burg, Chief Program Officer of the OU. The development of programs such as Shnayim Mikra, Nach Yomi, Daf Yomi, Take Five For Torah, Online Classes in Basic Judaism and Weekly Tefillah Tips, show the Orthodox Union’s commitment to furthering online Torah studies worldwide.”

According to Rabbi Abramowitz, the lecturers for the Book of Genesis will include Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom, author of “Between the Lines of the Bible”; Rabbi Menachem Leibtag, founder of the Israel Koschitzky Virtual Bet Midrash and the Tanach Study Center; and Rabbi Eric Levy, principal of Judaic Studies, North Shore Hebrew Academy High School, Great Neck, NY.

The analyses of the Haftara will be provided by Rabbi Dr. Gidon Rothstein, a prolific writer and speaker who has also lectured for the OU’s Nach Yomi program, while Rabbi Abramowitz will be providing the synopses of the aliyot, as he did for Nach Yomi.

“One can listen to one aliyah at a time or the whole parsha at once. It depends of course, on the time available and the length of the various aliyot,” Rabbi Abramowitz said.

All aliyot are not created equal, ranging from the two three-verse aliyot in Nitzavim and the three in Vayeilech (when they are not recited together in leap years) to the overwhelming 63-verse shishi (sixth aliyah) of Ki Tavo, the tochacha, the verses of admonition. (According to a D’var Torah found on, the entire tochacha is in one aliyah “so as not to prolong the discomfort.”) Rabbi Abramowitz estimates that the daily lectures could range from five to 40 minutes. The same lecturer will do each of the aliyot for a given parsha.

When there are double portions, aliyah breaks will reflect the way they are when the portions are read individually, making 14 shorter aliyot rather than seven longer ones. With the exception of Simchat Torah, on which we read the portion of V’Zot HaBracha, holiday readings do not have to be learned Shnayim Mikra v’Echad Targum, because the weekly portions from which they are taken are read during the year, Rabbi Abramowitz explained.