Parashah: The term parashah (Hebrew: meaning portion) is a set of verses that is written in the Torah Scroll without any break within the text. In most cases, a new parashah (phonetically pronounced paw-raw-shaw) begins where a new topic or a new thought is clearly indicated in the biblical text. 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.
Each Shabbat a passage from one of the five books of Moshe is read. This passage is referred to as a parashah. The first parashah, for example, is Parashat Bereshit, which covers from the beginning of Genesis to the story of Noah. There are 54 parashahs, one for each week of a leap year, so that in the course of a year Genesis to Deuteronomy is read. During non-leap years, there are 50 weeks, so some of the shorter portions are doubled up. The last portion of the Torah is read right before a holiday called Simchat Torah (Rejoicing in the Torah), which occurs in October, a few weeks after Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year). On Simchat Torah, the last parashah is read, and then immediately Parashat Bereshit in Genesis is read, showing that the Torah is a circle that never ends.
In the synagogue service, the weekly parashah is followed by a passage from the prophets that is referred to as a haftarah (which doesn’t mean “half-Torah”). The word comes from a Hebrew root fei-teit-reish, which means concluding portion. Usually, the haftarah portion is no longer than one chapter, and has some relationship to the Torah portion of the week. Some of the scriptures have an (A) after them; and others have an (S).
The (A) represents those scriptures read by the Ashkenazim, who originate from Jews who settled along the Rhine River, in Western Germany and Northern France, speak Yiddish, and are prominent today in Central and Eastern Europe. Most American Jews today are Ashkenazim, who descended from Jews who emigrated from Germany and Eastern Europe from the mid 1800s to the early 1900s.
The (S) represents those scriptures read by the Sephardic Jews, who originate from Spain, Portugal, North Africa and the Middle East and their descendants. The adjective Sephardic and corresponding nouns Sephardi (singular) and Sephardim (plural) are derived from the Hebrew word “Sepharad,” which refers to Spain. The beliefs of Sephardic Judaism are basically in accord with those of Orthodox Judaism, though Sephardic interpretations of halakhah (Jewish Law) are somewhat different than the Ashkenazic ones.
In messianic synagogues, after the haftarah is read, there are suggested readings from the B’rit Chadashah for that particular parashah.