In this week’s Torah portion, Vayelech, Moses commands the Israelites to read the Torah aloud every seven years on Sukkot in the Sabbatical year. Why Sukkot? Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Torah. No medieval commentator explains why Sukkot was chosen, but I digress. My focus is, “to read the Torah every seven years.”
Why can’t we do that?
From the time of Ezra in the fifth century b.c.e. until the gaonim (the leading sages in Babylon in the ninth and the tenth centuries c.e.), we read 20 to 50 verses of the Torah every week, completing the Torah in three and half years. In the Talmudic era, the practice began to read the Torah annually, and in most congregations read the Torah annually.
The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards approved a triennial cycle, which means that any congregation doing so will complete the Torah in three years. There have been four or five t’shuvot about the triennial cycle, and the gist of them is how to adjust the Torah reading to include the juicy parts.
We have at Ahavas Sholom debated going to the triennial cycle, and we have always rejected it. The triennial cycle, in my mind, is like The Perils of Pauline. You need to wait a year until you the next chapter of the Joseph saga.