The Four Parshiyos

 Courtesy of Ohr Olam Mishnah Berurah

Question: What is the significance of the unique Torah-readings read over the month of Adar?

Discussion: Chazal instituted that four special Torah-readings are read on different Shabbosos throughout the period of the month of Adar. The first is Parashas Shekalim. This parashah is read in remembrance of the half-shekels that were donated to the Beis Hamikdash every year. These half-shekels were used to fund the communal korbanos in the Beis Hamikdash throughout the coming year. We read this parashah on the Shabbos preceding Rosh Chodesh Adar,91 because this was the time of year when the shekalim were collected in the time of the Beis Hamikdash. The second, Parashas Zachor, recounts Hashem’s command to remember Amalek’s attack on the Jewish people, and to obliterate their memory. It is read on the Shabbos before Purim, since it is appropriate to remember Amalek’s deeds at the time of year when Haman – a descendant of Amalek – attempted to destroy the Jewish people. The third is Parashas Parah – the passage of the red heifer – which delineates the purification process for those who are tamei meis (impure on account of contact with the dead). At this time of year, many people would come to purify themselves in preparation for bringing the korban pesach. We therefore read this parashah as a form of prayer to Hashem to purify us as well. The fourth is Parshas Hachodesh, which teaches about sanctifying the new month. We read this as a commemoration of our sanctification of the month of Nisan.92

Question: Must a woman come to shul to hear the readings of the four parshiyos?

Discussion: Women do not need to hear the readings of Parashas Shekalim, Parashas Hachodesh, and Parashas Parah.93 However, Parashas Zachor is an actual fulfillment of the Torah’s command to remember the actions of Amalek. The Poskim differ as to whether this command applies to women as well. Many Poskim rule that it does.94 Others disagree, arguing that since the Torah commands us to remember the actions of Amalek in order to obliterate them, it is incumbent only upon men, as only they would be commanded to wage war against Amalek.95 In practice, women do customarily attend the reading of Parashas Zachor.96 Since it is often difficult for women to leave their home and come to shul early on Shabbos morning, many shuls will have a special Parashas Zachor reading for women later in the day. A women who cannot utilize even this option should read Parashas Zachor for herself (or listen to someone else reading) from a printed Chumash, as some Poskim hold that she can fulfill her obligation in this way as well.97

91 When Rosh Chodesh Adar falls on Shabbos, it is read on Rosh Chodesh Adar itself.

92 Mishnah Berurah 685, note 1.

93 Moadim Uzemanim II:168; Halichos Bas Yisrael Chapter 22, note 4.

94 Minchas Chinuch 423; Binyan Tzion II:8; Chasam Sofer, Megillah 23b; Teshuvos Maharil Diskin, kuntreis acharon, 102; R’ Moshe Feinstein (quoted in Halichos Bas Yisrael, 22, note 4).

95 Sefer HaChinuch 603. See also Kaf Hachaim, 685, note 30; and Chazon Ish, quoted in Ta’ama De’kra, Hanhagos HaChazon Ish, 23.

96 Halichos Bas Yisrael 22:1.

97 Toras Chesed 37; Teshuvos Vehanhagos II:344. Teshuvos Vehanhagos ibid. adds that another possibility is for the woman to have intention to fulfill the obligation of Parshas Zachor through the Megillah reading.