There are four special Sabbaths, two
before Purim: Shabbat Shekalim, Shabbat Zachor, and two after Purim:
Shabbat Parah, and Shabbat haChodesh. On these four special days there is
extra parasha readings called Parashat Shekalim, Parashat Zachor, Parashat
Parah and Parashat haChodesh.
Parashat Shekalim: is a reading of Shemot
30:11-16, and deals with the half-shekel offering. This portion is
always read on the Shabbat that is just before Adar 1 or on Adar 1 if it falls
on a Shabbat, as it does this year.
Parashat Zachor: is the Sabbath just before Purim and the
parasha that is read is Devarim 25:17-19 and begins
with zachor (remember), and contains the
command to blot out the remembrance of Amalek. This is read before Purim
because Purim is the festival that commemorates the deliverance of Jews from
Haman's, the Amaleki, evil plans of extermination.
Parashat Parah: is the portion of
BaMidbar 19 which is read before the Pesach festival, and is the
section of Torah that deals with the Parah Adumah
(Red Heifer), and commemorates the purification of the unclean by the
sprinkling with the "waters of separation" so that they may be able to bring
the Pesach offering.
Parashat haChodesh is the section that begins with
12:2-20) and contains the mitzvah
(commandment) to celebrate Pesach and Chag HaMatzot
(festival of Unleavened Bread). This is usually read on Nisan 1 if it falls on
Shabbat. If not, then it is read on the Shabbat just preceding Pesach.