The Torah is read publicly in synagogues every Monday and Thursday, when a short reading from the upcoming week’s portion is divided between three people – a kohen, a levi and a yisrael. On Rosh Hodesh we call four people up to the Torah, and read a selection from Sefer Bamidbar (28:1-15), which teaches about the special sacrifice brought in the Temple on the occasion of the New Moon. These fifteen pesukim are made up of three separate paragraphs:
1-8 discuss the daily tamid sacrifice brought every morning and afternoon
9-10 discuss the musaf sacrifice brought on Shabbat
11-15 discuss the musaf sacrifice brought on Rosh Hodesh.
Since every person who is called to the Torah must read at least three pesukim, it would appear that the fifteen pesukim that we find here should suffice for the four people who are to receive aliyot to the Torah. Nevertheless, there is a problem. Since there is a rule that forbids leaving two pesukim at the beginning of a paragraph or at the end of a paragraph, it becomes impossible to fit four aliyot into these fifteen pesukim. What to do?
Oddly enough, when this question was posed to Rava, his response was “I haven’t heard an answer to this, but I have heard something in a similar case.” The similar case is that of Torah reading for ma’amadot (see Ta’anit 26), when the people involved in prayer and study in the community synagogues would read from the story of Creation. When there were not enough pesukim for a proper Torah reading, Rav ruled doleg – repeat a pasuk – and Shmuel ruled posek – split a pasuk in half.
While it appears odd that Rava did not have a straightforward answer to a question on what should be done in a case that was so common, perhaps there were a number of different traditions regarding the Torah reading on Rosh Hodesh, and Rava was simply commenting that he did not have a clear tradition on which was the correct one, so he suggests looking at another, similar case, to see if a conclusion could be reached.
In fact, when the Gemara does conclude that we follow Rav, and that a pasuk should be repeated, it is not clear whether that ruling applies only to the case of ma’amadot or if we are to apply it to Rosh Hodesh, as well. Even today we find different traditions. While the Shulhan Aruk (Orah Hayyim 423:2) rules that the second aliya repeats pasuk 3, so that we can fit three olim into the first eight pesukim, the Gr”a, quoting Massekhet Soferim, rules that only two aliyot are fit into the first paragraph, and and the third oleh repeats the pesukim 6-8 and completes his aliya by reading pesukim 9 and 10.