“In addition to hearing the weekly Torah portion (Parsha) read in synagogue on Shabbos, there is a mitzvah for every man and boy over bar mitzvah to recite the text of the parsha twice and the commentary once.” (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 285:1) This Halacha is based on the Talmudic passage in Brachos 8 which relates that Rav Bibi bar Abaye wanted to do the Parsha portions of the four weeks of the busy Torah convention season before or after the convention (because he would be too busy during the convention to do this) and he was told that the Mitzvah is to be fulfilled in a weekly manner in conjunction with the portion of the week. The Levush writes that the point of this mitzvah is so that people should be proficient in Torah. By personally studying the weekly Torah portion, with time, one will become proficient in the entire Torah.
The significance of reviewing the Torah four times in total may be based on the passage in Talmud (Eiruvin 54b) that Torah was taught to the Jewish people four times. Moshe taught it to the people, then Ahron reviewed it with them, then Ahron’s sons reviewed it with them, then the elders reviewed it with them. In fact some say that the reason that virtually every page of Talmud has four lines of commentary before the text begins, is to allude to this principle that it takes four times of study before a person can say that they have arrived at the basic meaning of the text.
In our time many contend that reciting the Targum Unkelos translation doesn’t do much for people who are trying to understand the Torah, because we don’t have great proficiency in Aramaic. They therefore suggest that people recite the translation in English, either from the ArtScroll Chumash or from Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan’s “Living Torah”. It should be noted that fulfilling this mitzvah involves actually reciting the text and its translation, not merely sight-reading the words as we are accustomed to do when reading English. Thus, one should actually articulate the Hebrew text as well as the English translation. The Talmud in Eiruvin 53b-54a notes the importance of articulating Torah, “Open your mouth when you study so that you will remember what you study,” a principle codified in Rambam, Talmud Torah 3:12 and Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah, 246:22.
If you are starting out on trying to fulfill this mitzvah, you may find that you simply don’t have the proficiency to complete the Parsha each week. We recommend allocating 60-90 minutes a week in the beginning, and simply do as much as you can. With time you will see your skills will grow, and you will be able to cover most or all of the Parsha in that same amount of time.
For your reference, this mitzvah is called “Shnayim Mikrah V’Echad Targum- [Reciting] the Hebrew text twice, and the translation once.”
How to prepare a Torah thought on the weekly Parsha
One of the important features of a Shabbos meal is the presentation of a Torah thought. Often based on the weekly portion the structure of the thought is fairly predictable. It typically begins with an introduction with background about the Parsha followed by citing a verse and translating or explaining it. A question will then be posed, followed by a story or insight that leads to an answer. The presentation is then completed with a lesson or relevant well wishes to the listeners. Many Torah thoughts following this structure can be found in the Parsha section of this site, as well as on torah.org. We recommend in particular Rabbi Wein, Rabbi Frand, and Parsha Parables by Rabbi Mordechai Kaminetsky.