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In Hebrew, K’riat HaTorah. The reading of the Law is a distinct part of the prayer service, observed during the morning and afternoon assemblages on Sabbaths, holidays, and each Monday and Thursday. One portion of the Five Books of Moses is read each week, divided so that the entire Five Books are read each year. Simhat Torah (the Rejoicing of the Law) is the day on which the last portion of one year’s cycle is read and the first portion of the following year is begun.

During the reading of the Law, the Torah scrolls, written on parchment by special scribes, are removed from the Ark of the Law. Originally, the portion was read by various members of the congregation, who were “called up to the Law.” Later, it became customary for a special reader to chant the entire portion to a melody handed down from ancient times. The older practice, however, is preserved in the custom of “calling up” seven readers, each of whom chants a blessing before the reading of each section of the weekly portion. An eighth reader is “called up” for the reading of the Haftorah, the short passage from the Prophets which follows the weekly portion of the Law. Sabbaths and holidays are also the occasion for the reading of other portions of the Bible and other holy books. Pirke Avot (See Ethics of the Fathers), is read every Saturday afternoon during the summer, while one of the five megillot, or scrolls, is read on each of five holidays: the Song of Songs on Passover, Ruth on Shavuot, Ecclesiastes on Sukkot, Esther on Purim, and Lamentations on the Ninth of Ab.

In the synagogue, the reading of the regular portion of Law is often followed by a derashah, or sermon, delivered by the rabbi or some member of the congregation. Based on the portion of the week, it generally deals with some religious or ethical subject.

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