Torah Sparks

United Synagogue (USCJ) is proud and delighted to bring you Torah Sparks, with insights and learning materials on the Parasha (Torah portion) of the week. Torah Sparks is produced by the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem.

Each week there will be a Dvar Torah - a discussion on some aspect of the reading, by CY faculty, alumni and friends; a Vort - a short thought from Chasidic rebbes or other thinkers about some point in the text; and Table Talk - questions to stimulate discussion on the Parsha around the Shabbat table. Torah Sparks is available here on the Conservative Yeshiva's Shiurim Online Beit Midrash website, as well as by subscription to weekly graphical emails. Please select the Parasha you would like to see - it will display articles from each year. A printable PDF is linked at the end of each week's presentation.

Rabbi Gail Diamond

About Rabbi Gail Diamond

Rabbi Gail Diamond received her M.H.L. and Rabbinic Ordination from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and served for seven years as a congregational rabbi before making aliyah in 2001. As CY Associate Director and Director of Institutional Advancement until 2015, Rabbi Diamond taught courses in Psalms and spearheaded the development of the Shiurim Online Beit Midrash.

Rabbi Gail Diamond

Introduction To Midrash On The Matriarchs

Introductory Video Outline of Video This is an outline of the video introduction with links to the references: Biblical texts use few words – speech is infrequent and shapes characters Reference: Robert Alter, the Art of Biblical Narrative Earliest interpreters saw Bible as Cryptic, Relevant, Perfect, and Divine Reference:  James Kugel, The Bible as It […]

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Haggai – Chapters 1-2 – Minor Prophets

Haggai Study Sheet Please read the whole book of Haggai through, then go back to work on these questions.  You may also want to read Ezra 1:1-6:22 for background: Haggai is one of just a few prophets for whom the text gives no genealogy and no location.  What can we learn about who Haggai was […]

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Joel – Chapters 3-4 – Minor Prophets

Joel –Chapters 3 – 4 Study Sheet Chapter 3 is a very short chapter. In Christian Bibles, it is part of Chapter 2. Why do you think it is set apart as its own chapter in the Hebrew Bible? Verses 3:1-2 have been mentioned as an indication that the nature of prophecy was changing in […]

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Joel – Chapters 1-2 – Minor Prophets

Joel Chapters 1-2 Study Sheet 1) Chapter 1 describes the destruction wrought by locusts.  Do you think the locusts are real, or a metaphor?  How do you understand verse 6? Verse 4 uses four nouns.  Rashi writes: רש”י יואל פרק א פסוק ד (ד) יתר הגזם וגו’ – גזם ארבה ילק חסיל מיני גובאי הם […]

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Zephaniah – Chapters 1-3 – Minor Prophets

Zephaniah Chapters 1-3 Study Sheet Chapters 1 and 2 1) Reading Exercise Read Zephaniah’s genealogy.  Zephaniah is the only prophet whose genealogy goes back four generations.  Why do you think this is?  For background on King Hezekiah, see II Kings 20.  For background on King Josiah, see II Kings 22:1-23:30. Scholars have wondered whether Zephaniah wrote […]

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Big Voices: Four Minor Prophets

Join us for a look into some of the lesser known treasures of the Tanach. Habbakuk, Zephaniah, Joel and Haggai prophesied during turbulent times. These small books, part of the Twelve Minor Prophets (Trei Asar), highlight the challenges of the period surrounding the destruction of the first Temple and the beginning of the second Temple. But the sages taught that all the prophecies that were preserved in the Tanach also contain lessons for future generations, and lessons for our lives are to be found too in the big voices of these four prophets.

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Midrash on the Matriarchs

Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel – we bless our daughters in their names and read their stories each fall in Sefer Bereishit. Our sages interpreted their stories through Midrash, filling in details, expanding roles, and in many cases lifting up our foremothers to greater stature. In this class, we will study Midrashim from Bereishit Rabbah as well as later commentaries, seeking to understand the stories of our foremothers and what they can teach us for our lives today.

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Midrash On The Exodus

Enhance your understanding of the Exodus and your retelling at the Seder by studying Midrash – early and later rabbinic teachings about the Exodus. Learn the story behind the story. Find out by the merit of which actions by righteous women we were redeemed. Learn the true nature of the waters that covered Pharoah and his army. Examine what really happened at theRed Seaand what the witnesses saw…and explore the meaning of all these teachings for our lives today.

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Psalms of Hallel

What is the origin of our custom of reciting special Psalms on festivals and Rosh Hodesh? Why were Psalms 113-118 chosen for this purpose? In this class we will examine the Psalms of Hallel in detail and look at rabbinic texts explaining the place of Hallel in the Jewish year.

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Psalms of Pesukei Dezimra of Shabbat

This course studies the Psalms of Pesukei DeZimra of Shabbat – Psalms 19, 34, 90, 91, 135, 136, 33, 92 and 93. The concluding section focuses on the origins of Psalms as evidenced in Biblical and Rabbinic texts.

The goal of the course is to develop skills for the study of Tehillim in Hebrew, to develop familiarity with Biblical poetry in general and with Psalms specifically. The course is designed to provide tools for Psalms and Tanach study in Hebrew, as well as expand students understanding of Psalms that are part of the Shabbat tefillot (prayers). Students can learn the Psalms in translation but the emphasis of the study materials is on building skills for learning and understanding Psalms in the original Hebrew.

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