Megillah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Two



This mishnah continues to teach how many aliyot there are on the different occasions in which the Torah is read.  Yesterday’s mishnah dealt with occasions in which there are only three, the minimum number of aliyot. Today’s mishnah lists occasions with four, five, six and seven aliyot.  It seems that the more holy a holiday is, the more aliyot there are, and the more Torah is read. 


Mishnah Two

1)      On Rosh Hodesh and on the intermediate days of festivals four read.

a)      They do not add [to this number] nor decrease [from it], nor do they conclude with [a haftarah] from the Prophets.

b)      The one who begins the Torah reading and the one who concludes the Torah reading blesses before it and after it.

c)      This is the general rule: on any day which has a musaf and is not a festival four read.

2)      On a festival five.

3)      On Yom Hakippurim six.

4)      On Shabbat seven; they may not decrease [from this number] but they may add [to it], and they conclude with [a haftarah] from the Prophets.

a)      The one who begins the Torah reading and the one who concludes the Torah reading blesses before it and after it.



Section one: Rosh Hodesh and the intermediate days of the festival both have a musaf service (and when the Temple still stood there was a musaf sacrifice).  However, they are not festivals, meaning that work is permitted on these days.  These are sort of “in-between days.”  Therefore they have four aliyot—more than a normal day but less than a festival. The mishnah reiterates the rule that the first person who receives an aliyah recites the blessing before and the last person recites the blessing after.

Section two:  On the first and last day of Pesah, on the first day of Sukkot, on Shmini Atzeret (the last day of Sukkot), on Shavuot and on Rosh Hashanah there are five aliyot. 

Section three:  On Yom Kippur there are six aliyot.  Note that this makes Yom Kippur unlike all other holidays.

Section four: Shabbat differs from other occasions in several key ways.  First of all, there are more aliyot on Shabbat than at any other time of the year.  On other occasions there are a maximum of six aliyot and the mishnah states explicitly that they may not add to this number.  Indeed, the mishnah may emphasize this to make sure that people do not try to turn other holidays into Shabbat by adding more aliyot.  In contrast, on Shabbat they may add aliyot.  Finally, there is a haftarah on Shabbat. Today we read a haftarah on festivals and on Yom Kippur as well.  Finally, the same rule about the blessings still applies.