Arba Parashot (Four Torah Portions)

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 Ha-Chodesh (Shemot 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.