Why do we read this week’s Torah portion over two different weeks?
At the end of the week of Passover, a fifth question arises as we look at the Torah portion for this week:
Why is this week different from all other weeks? On all other weeks we read one parashah (Torah portion) each week; on this week we read only half the portion, postponing the second half to the following week. Why do we do this?
It is one of the rare examples where the lectionary (cycle of Torah readings) in the Reform Movement in the Diaspora differs from that of the rest of the Jewish world in the Diaspora. In the rest of the Diaspora, festivals are observed for two days (stemming from the time before the calendar was fixed), so some years Shabbat is considered to be the eighth day of Passover (that is, the second day of the conclusion of the festival), on which a special Torah portion is read (Deuteronomy 14:22-16:17). But because the calendar has been fixed for millennia, the Reform Movement has never observed the second day of festivals. So for us, even if the day considered to be the eighth day is Shabbat, we do not read the special portion. The problem is that if on the following week we were to read the next portion, we would be completely out of sync with the rest of the Jewish world.
Striving to balance Reform festival practice with our simultaneous commitment to K'lal Yisrael, "the whole community of Israel," the Reform Movement decided when this happens to split the portion read on the first week into two and read it for two weeks. It means that by the next week the Diaspora Reform Movement joins the rest of the Diaspora community with the same Torah reading.
The splitting of a portion over two weeks would be required in any year when the first seder falls on a Friday evening.