Notes on Aliyot

Author: Ben Denckla

Revision: 4 Oct 2021 / כ״ח בְּתִשְׁרֵי תשפ״ב


This document describes the aliyot of the Torah, as they appear in mam (Miqra According to the Masorah). The mam text is annotated with two systems that hierarchically divide the Torah. Both systems have the following in common:

Where things get interesting is at the level(s) of hierarchy between book and verse. This is where the two systems vary.

Schematically, we can compare these two systems as follows:


These systems reflect quite different notions of where the significant boundaries of the text lie, as illustrated by the following “stats”:

The parashah/aliyah system is the focus of this document. In truth, this system is more complicated than what we have described above. The two main complications are as follows, and will be discussed in the next two sections.

Dual parashiyot

The dual parashiyot are as follows:

  1. ויקהל–פקודי
  2. תזריע–מצֹרע
  3. אחרי מות–קדֹשים
  4. בהר–בחֻקֹתי
  5. חֻקת–בלק
  6. מטות–מסעי
  7. נִצבים–וילך

We can think of the dual parashiyot as forming an alternate hierarchy. This alternate hierarchy:

The parashah level of this alternate hierarchy is illustrated by the table below. To keep the table compact, we use numbers rather than names to identify the parashiyot. We identify a parashah by its number within its “parent” book. Thus בראשית-2 is נֹח, בראשית-3 is לך־לך, etc.


This alternate hierarchy:

In truth, the way dual parashiyot are used in practice is more complicated than this alternate hierarchy would suggest. The truth is that in any given year, some dual parashiyot are used, and others are not. But the simplified “all or nothing” model (use all 7 duals, or use none) suffices for our purposes here.

As mentioned above, each dual parashah has its own 7 numbered aliyot. These 7 aliyot simply consist of 1 to 4 neighboring aliyot from the “single but pairable” halves of the dual parashah. The table below shows the partitioning of all 7 dual parashiyot, expressed in terms of these constituent aliyot.

lengths 1′ 2′ 3′ 4′ 5′ 6′ 7′ 1″ 2″ 3″ 4″ 5″ 6″ 7″
ויקהל-פקודי231-2123 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
תזריע-מצֹרע321-3122 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
אחרי מות-קדֹשים222-2222 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
בהר-בחֻקֹתי221-4113 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
חֻקת-בלק222-2222 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
מטות-מסעי231-3122 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
נִצבים-וילך312-3212 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Some explanation of the table above:

Some notes on the data in this table:

Non-numbered aliyot

A non-numbered aliyah can have one of two types:

(Like mam, we always put the name of a teaser in square brackets. This is to avoid confusion with the 1st three numbered aliyot, which are traditionally given to the same three groups as the teasers: kohen, levi, & yisrael.)

A dual parashah does not have its own teasers or maftir. Rather, it uses the teasers of its 1st parashah and it uses the maftir of its 2nd parashah.

The [ישראל] teaser is the only type of aliyah whose end ever needs to be labelled. Below are the reasons for this.

The end of a …never needs to be labelled because it always ends…
numbered aliyah Either: (1) just before the start of the next numbered aliyah, or (2) when the parashah ends
maftirwhen the parashah ends
[כהן] or [לוי] teaserjust before the start of the next teaser

In 43 of 54 cases, the [ישראל] teaser ends when the 1st s-aliyah ends (s-aliyah = aliyah of a single parashah). In other words, in most cases, the 3 teasers partition the 1st s-aliyah. In these common cases, mam does not label the end of the [ישראל] teaser. Below, we describe the 11 cases that do not follow this pattern. I.e. below, we describe the 11 cases in which mam does explicitly label the end of the [ישראל] teaser.

The table below presents:

Rather than being in normal reading order, they are presented in an order which more clearly reveals their regularities. The column labels are really labels of their left side. The numbers after the dot are not tenths, as in decimal notation. Rather, they mean, roughly, “somewhere in the middle of.” For example 1.2 & 1.3 mean “somewhere in the middle of aliyah 1 and somewhere later in the middle of aliyah 1.” So, the 3rd row, the row for דברים, can be read as:

Column labels are repeated at the end of the [ישראל] teaser, for clarity. 22.1 33.1 4 5
3 cases [לוי] [י״ל]1.3
43 cases [לוי] [י״ל]2
דברים [לוי] [י״ל]2.1
ואתחנן [לוי] [י״ל]2.1
כי־תבוא [לוי] [י״ל]3
האזינו [לוי] [י״ל]3
בחֻקֹתי [לוי] [י״ל]3.1
נִצבים [לוי] [י״ל]4
וזאת הברכה [לוי] [י״ל]4
וילך [לוי] [י״ל]5

Actually mam labels not so much the end of [ישראל] as the 1st verse after [ישראל]. For this, it uses the label [ע״כ ישראל], meaning “yisrael until here.”

In mam, the 1st aliyah is not labelled ראשון, nor is it labelled [כהן]. Rather, it is labelled with the name of the single parashah. Below is a table showing the 1st few aliyah labels mam uses for the parashah נֹח. The table also shows an expanded form of these labels, where everything is laid out explicitly, albeit with gray used for the parts that mam leaves implicit.

compact formexpanded form
שנינֹחשני[ע״כ ישראל]

In the parashiyot עקב and נִצבים, the maftir aliyah is the same as the 7th aliyah. Every other parashah with a maftir, be it single or dual, has that maftir starting later than the start of the 7th aliyah.

End of document