Numbers in [square brackets] are the Mitzva-Count from Sefer HaChinuch.
On the first day of Sukkot we read from Parshat Emor, Vayikra 23, the portion of the Festivals. We actually start the reading several p’sukim earlier with the mitzvot of not taking an animal from its mother to use it as a korban before it is 8 days old. And the prohibition of slaughtering an animal and its offspring on the same day. This second mitzva applies to korbanot and to “secular” use of animals for food. The first mitzva is specifically for korbanot (but its spirit belongs to profane animals too.).
Next the Torah teaches us the mitzvot of Kiddush HaShem and its opposite.
Then we come to the Festivals portion. The Torah begins with Shabbat, followed by Pesach, the Omer, Shavuot, Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur, ansd Sukkot.
This 52-pasuk portion is read for 5 people, the usual number for Yom Tov. (In Chutz LaAretz, the same reading is repeated on the second day.)
The Maftir is read from a second Torah, from Parshat Pinchas. It is a 5-pasuk presentation of the Korban Musaf of the first day of Sukkot.
The Haftara comes from Zechariya and contains the famous prophesy of the time in the future when other nations will recognize the One G-d and those nations that persecuted Israel will be severely punished. There is a universal message of Sukkot in that people from other nations will also be challenged with the mitzva of Sukka. The universal nature of Sukkot can also be seen by the 70 PARIM of the Musafs of the seven days. So too, the fact that the world is judged for rainfall on Sukkot gives the holiday a universal flavor.
The Torah reading for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday, and Monday is the “same”. 4 people are called to the Torah and the same set of p’sukim is read for each of the Aliyot. Each Aliya consists of three p’sukim (the minimum length), comes from Parshat Pinchas and deals with the Musaf offering of each day. Unlike Pesach, whose days have the same Musaf, those of the days of Sukkot differ in the number of bulls offered. One Torah is used on Chol HaMoed Sukkot, in contrast to the two Torahs of Chol HaMoed Pesach.
Shabbat Chol HaMoed
Before Torah reading, many communities have the custom of reading Kohelet. See the box on BackPage VI for details.
The reading in the first Torah – to 7 people – is the same as Shabbat Chol HaMoed. (BTW, last year, 5761, there was no Shabbat Chol HaMoed for either holiday, a very rare occurrence. This year we have the usual two.) The 38-pasuk portion is from Ki Tisa and begins with Moshe “reminding” G-d that He told Moshe to bring the People to Eretz Yisrael. What follows is the presentation of the 13 Divine Attributes (which ironically are omitted at Torah-taking-out time because of Shabbat, but are the focus of the Sh. Chol HaMoed reading). Towards the end of the reading, we find Chag HaMatzot, Chag HaShavuot, and Chag Ha’Asif, plus the command to appear in the Beit HaMikdash on the Three Pilgimage Festivals. Bikurim are mentioned too, as is the prohibition of Meat in Milk.
The Maftir is read in the second Torah – this year it will be the 3-pasuk Musaf of the 5th day of Sukkot.
The Haftara of Sh. Chol HaMoed Sukkot deals with prophecies of the “End of Days” and the Battle of Gog and Magog, which will cleanse the Earth. In light of the recent attacks in the U.S. and the talk of war between Moslems and Christians, one cannot help but wonder if that is this.
On Shabbat Chol HaMoed Mincha, we read the first parts of V’ZOT HABRACHA, which we read on Simchat Torah.
Speaking of which… On the night of Simchat Torah, we also read the beginning of VZOT HABRACHA. This is the only night of the year that we read from the Torah, after joyously dancing with the Torahs and making Hakafot around the Bima. It reflects the joy and love we feel towards the Torah on this day of its celebration. The Old Minhag Yerushalayim (GR”A) is not to read the Torah on Simchat Torah night. And, just for your knowledge, Shulchan Aruch does mention Torah reading on Leil Simchat Torah, but not from V’zot HaBracha. Rather different Parshiyot are read for each Aliya. (I don’t know if anyone does that, but its still on the books.
On Simchat Torah morning, after Hakafot, we read the sedra of V’Zot HaBracha, first to 5 people (as on all Yom Tov days). The reading goes through Moshe’s brachot to the Tribes. These five portions are reread over and over again, many times with several Torahs being read simultaneously at different locations in shul. This allows everyone to receive an Aliya on Simchat Torah. There are shuls that read only five Aliyot, treating Simchat Torah the same as any other Yom Tove day. Following the five Aliyot (once or many times through), the Chatan Torah is called for the last Aliya in the Torah. A chupa is often made over the Bima by four tall guys with a talit, as the Torah is completed. There is a custom that the last of the 5 Aliyot over and over again, the last one, is given to one of the oldest men in shul, and with him, all young boys (who cannot take their own Aliya) are invited to share this KOL HA’NE’ARIM Aliya.
After V’zot HaBracha (and the Book of D’varim, and the whole Torah) is completed, it is lifted, closed, and “dressed” and a second Torah is read from. This time, the honor of the Aliya goes to the Chatan B’reishit, for whom will be read the beginning of the Torah. We never finish with the Torah. Again a Chupa is made for this Aliya (customs might vary from shul to shul). The whole first chapter of B’reishit is read, plus the first four p’sukim of the 2nd chapter, which describes the first Shabbat.
Then Maftir is read from a third Sefer Torah. It comes from Parshat Pinchar and presents the Musaf of Shmini Atzeret.
Finally, the Haftara of Simchat Torah picks up where the Torah left off – with the beginning of the Book of Yehosha. Aside from it being the natural choice for Haftara of V’zot HaBracha because it is its continuation, it also contains G-d’s encouragement to Yehoshua to cling to the Torah and immerse himself in it day and night. This portion is particularly suited for Simchat Torah.