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.


Introduction to Tractate Keritot

Introduction to Tractate Keritot   Keritot (sometimes pronounced Keritut) is the plural of karet, which is a punishment found quite frequently in the Torah for various transgressions (Leviticus 17:4, 9; Exodus 30:33, 38; Genesis 17:14; Numbers 15:31 and many others). Karet is variously translated as “excommunication” or “extirpation” or other similar term. The rabbis interpret […]

Keritot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 2

Keritot, Chapter One, Mishnah  Two   Introduction Today’s mishnah refers to the list of transgressions in yesterday’s mishnah.   Mishnah Two 1)      For these [transgressions] one is liable to karet if committed intentionally, and if committed unwittingly to a hatat. 2)      If there is a doubt whether he had committed the transgression to an asham […]

Keritot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 1

Keritot, Chapter One, Mishnah One   Introduction Keritot opens with a list of thirty-six transactions for which one is liable karet if one commits the transgression intentionally, but without prior warning.   Mishnah One There are in the Torah thirty-six [transgressions which are punishable with] karet:   1)      When one has intercourse with his mother, […]

Keritot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 3

Keritot, Chapter One, Mishnah Three   Introduction According to Leviticus 12:6, after a woman gives birth and then undergoes a period of purification, she must bring two offerings. The first is a lamb, offered as an olah, and the second is a bird for a hatat. The remainder of our chapter deals with various scenarios […]

Keritot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 4

Keritot, Chapter One, Mishnah Four   Introduction In today’s mishnah we learn of cases in which a woman brings a sacrifice but the sacrifice is not eaten. In all of these cases there is doubt whether she is liable for a sacrifice: therefore she brings (just in case she was liable) but the sacrifice cannot […]

Keritot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 5

Keritot, Chapter One, Mishnah Five   Introduction Today’s mishnah lists women who do not bring a childbirth sacrifice.   Mishnah Five The following do not bring a sacrifice: 1)      A woman who discharges a sac filled with water or with blood or with pieces of flesh; 2)      Or if the miscarriage was in the shape […]

Keritot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 6

Keritot, Chapter One, Mishnah Six   Introduction According to Leviticus 12:5-6, on the eighty-first day after giving birth to a girl a woman brings a sacrifice. Our mishnah discusses a case where on the eve of the eighty-first day the woman has a miscarriage. Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel debate whether she must bring a […]

Keritot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 7

Keritot, Chapter One, Mishnah Seven   Mishnah Seven 1)      If a woman had five doubtful genital discharges or five doubtful births, she needs to bring only one offering, and she may eat sacrifices [immediately], and she is not liable to bring the other [offerings]. 2)      If a woman had five certain births, or five certain […]

Keritot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 1

Keritot, Chapter Two, Mishnah One   Introduction Generally a person who is impure and then immerses in a mikveh can begin to eat sacrifices after immersion. However, there are four categories of people who must first bring sacrifices before they can eat other sacrifices. This process is called “a ceremony of atonement.” Our mishnah also […]

Keritot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 2

Keritot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Two   Introduction Usually a person brings a sacrifice only when s/he transgresses unwittingly. For instance, if one willfully breaks Shabbat, one does not bring a sacrifice. But if one didn’t know that a certain act is forbidden on Shabbat and then he performed that act, he can bring a sacrifice […]

Keritot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 3

Keritot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah introduces two more categories of “five people.” The first is the person who brings one sacrifice for multiple transgressions. The issue here is what can make the same act performed on repeated occasions considered to be separate transgressions? This is a topic that will prove of […]

Keritot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 4

Keritot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah is a direct continuation of yesterday’s mishnah: the five who bring one sacrifice for many instances of obligation. Today’s mishnah discusses the final such case and then moves on to explain the second topic in mishnah three—the five who bring a higher or lower sacrifice.   […]

Keritot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 5

Keritot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Five   Introduction Our mishnah defines what type of female is referred to in Leviticus 19:20-22.   Mishnah Five To which type of female slave [does this refer]? 1)      To one who is half a slave and half a free person, as it is written: “And she has been redeemed and […]

Keritot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 6

Keritot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Six   Mishnah Six 1)      In the case of all forbidden relations, if one partner was an adult and the other a minor, the minor is exempt; 2)      If one is awake and the other asleep, the one asleep is exempt; 3)      If one is an inadvertent and the other intentional, […]

Keritot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 1

Keritot, Chapter Three, Mishnah One   Introduction Our mishnah talks about various types of cases where a person might or might not have eaten forbidden fat, a transgression that would cause him to bring a hatat for atonement.   Mishnah One 1)      If they said to him: you ate forbidden fat, he is liable to […]

Keritot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 10

Keritot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Ten   Introduction In today’s mishnah, the last one of this fascinating chapter, Rabbi Akiva asks Rabbi Eliezer a question concerning Shabbat. As background we should remind ourselves of a couple of general rules concerning Shabbat. There are 39 different categories of prohibited labor on Shabbat. If one performs labor from […]

Keritot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 2

Keritot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah begins discussing the topic of how to divide one act of transgressing into several transgressions, such that a person would be considered as having transgressed only one, or join separate acts into one act such that a person would be liable independently for each act. This […]

Keritot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 3

Keritot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Three   Introduction At the end of yesterday’s mishnah we learned that if a person eats two halves of an olive’s worth of one prohibited substance, he is liable. Our mishnah deals with the question of how close these two acts must be for them to be considered one act of […]

Keritot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 4

Keritot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Four   Introduction In this mishnah the rabbis try to figure out how a person could eat one piece of forbidden fat and by that one act become liable to four hatats and an asham. As we have seen before, this is the kind of question the rabbis like to ask. […]

Keritot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 5

Keritot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Five   Introduction We’ve talked about food, now let’s talk about sex! Seriously, today’s mishnah is similar to yesterday’s in its form and style, but instead of discussing how many hatats one can be liable for eating forbidden food, now the rabbis try to figure out how many hatats one can […]

Keritot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 6

Keritot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Six   Introduction Today’s mishnah is a continuation of yesterday’s mishnah. There are more attempts to figure out how many transgressions a person can transgress with one act of intercourse.   Mishnah Six 1)      If one had relations with his mother-in-law he may thereby become guilty for [having relations] with his […]

Keritot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 7

Keritot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Seven   Introduction In our mishnah Rabbi Akiva begins to ask concerning the question of how one distinguishes between separate transgressions, for which one is liable for each individually, and one extended transgression, for which one is liable only once.     Mishnah Seven 1)      Rabbi Akiva said: I asked Rabban […]

Keritot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 8

Keritot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Eight   Introduction Rabbi Akiva asks another question to Rabban Gamaliel and Rabbi Joshua.   Mishnah Eight 1)      Rabbi Akiva further asked: If a limb hangs loose from the body of a living beast, what is the law?    2)      They replied: We have heard nothing about this, but we have […]

Keritot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 9

Keritot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Nine   Introduction Rabbi Akiva continues to ask questions. This mishnah returns to the subject of mishnah seven—what constitutes separate transgressions?   Mishnah Nine 1)      Rabbi Akiba asked again: If a man slaughtered five sacrifices outside [the Temple] in one spell of unawareness, what is the law? Is he liable to […]

Keritot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 1

Keritot, Chapter Four, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah returns to the subject of the “asham talui.” This is a guilt offering brought by one who is not sure if he transgressed.   Mishnah One 1)      If [a person was] in doubt whether he had eaten forbidden fat or not, or even if he had […]

Keritot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 2

Keritot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Two   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with two issues. The first part deals with multiple sins performed in one spell of unawareness. The second part deals with cases where a person definitely sinned, but he is not sure which of two possible sins he committed.   Mishnah Two 1)      Just as […]

Keritot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 3

Keritot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah is a continuation of yesterday’s mishnah. Later sages continue to argue what Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Joshua were arguing about.   Mishnah Three 1)      Rabbi Shimon and Rabbi Shimon Shezuri say: They did not dispute regarding transgression of the same name, that in that case he […]

Keritot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 1

Keritot, Chapter Five, Mishnah One   Introduction The Torah prohibits the consumption of blood. One who eats blood is liable for karet if done intentionally, and that is why this halakhah is found in tractate Keritot. If done unwittingly, he is liable for a hatat.   Mishnah One 1)      If one ate blood of a […]

Keritot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 2

Keritot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Two   Introduction “Sacrilege” refers to one who makes illicit use of Temple property. For instance, he eats meat from an animal that was  sacrificial. The penalty for doing this is that he must bring an asham, and he must pay the value of that which he benefited, and he must […]

Keritot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 3

Keritot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Three   Introduction The first part of this mishnah is a direct continuation of yesterday’s mishnah.   Mishnah Three 1)      Rabbi Akiba: Your words seem plausible in the case of a minor amount of sacrilege; but if it was a case of doubtful sacrilege of a hundred manehs, would it not […]

Keritot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 4

Keritot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah continues to deal with the issue of doubtful sacrilege.   Mishnah Four 1)      [If there was] a piece of hullin meat and a piece of sacred meat, and a person ate one of them and does not know which of them he ate, he is exempt. […]

Keritot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 5

Keritot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Five   Introduction Today’s mishnah is virtually the same as yesterday’s mishnah, except that in today’s mishnah a person is not sure whether he ate permitted unconsecrated fat, or helev, for which one brings a hatat. In other words, yesterday the question was whether one had to bring an asham, today […]

Keritot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 6

Keritot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Six   Introduction In today’s mishnah, he is not sure whether he ate forbidden fat, for which he would need to bring a hatat, or consecrated, permitted fat, for which he would need to bring an asham. For the parts of this mishnah that have already been explained above, I will […]

Keritot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 7

Keritot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Seven   Introduction In today’s mishnah, we find on the person’s plate two pieces of forbidden fat, one consecrated and one unconsecrated. The plot thickens!   Mishnah Seven 1)      If there was a piece of unconsecrated forbidden fat and a piece of consecrated forbidden fat, and a person ate one of […]

Keritot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 8

Keritot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Eight   Introduction The final mishnah of our chapter deals with a case where one of the pieces of meat was regular forbidden fat and the other was forbidden fat and notar (remnant).   Mishnah Eight 1)      If there was a piece of forbidden fat and another piece of forbidden fat […]

Keritot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 1

Keritot, Chapter Six, Mishnah One   Introduction An asham talui is brought when a person is not sure if he has sinned. Our mishnah discussed what happens if after he brought it, he finds out that he did not sin (i.e. he ate the right piece of meat, or perhaps he had sex with his […]

Keritot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 2

Keritot, Chapter Six, Mishnah Two   Introduction Yesterday’s mishnah dealt with a person who set aside an asham talui and then found out that he did not sin. Today’s mishnah deals with other situations in which a person sets aside an animal and then finds out that the circumstances that caused him to set aside […]

Keritot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 3

Keritot, Chapter Six, Mishnah Three   Introduction In this mishnah Rabbi Eliezer and the sages debate whether one can/should bring an asham talui “every day.”   Mishnah Three 1)      Rabbi Eliezer says: one may freely offer an asham talui every day and at any time he pleases and such a sacrifice is called the asham […]

Keritot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 4

Keritot, Chapter Six, Mishnah Four   Introduction Since yesterday’s mishnah dealt with Yom Kippur, today’s mishnah deals with the effect that Yom Kippur can have on those who are liable to bring expiatory sacrifices.   Mishnah Four 1)      Those that are liable to hatats or to certain ashams and Yom Kippur passes over them, are […]

Keritot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 5

Keritot, Chapter Six, Mishnah Five   Mishnah Five 1)      If a woman is liable to a bird hatat brought in a case of doubt and Yom Kippur intervenes, she is still bound to offer it after Yom Kippur, because it renders her fit to eat sacrifices. 2)      If a hatat of a bird was brought […]

Keritot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 6

Keritot, Chapter Six, Mishnah Six   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with one who sets apart two selas to buy an asham, as he is supposed to do (see 5:2) but then for some reason doesn’t simply buy one ram to be used as the asham. Instead he buys two rams. The question is what to […]

Keritot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 7

Keritot, Chapter Six, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah contains some rules governing the hatat.   Mishnah Seven 1)      If a man set aside his hatat and then died, his son should not offer it after him.   2)      A man may not offer [what was set apart] for one sin for another sin. a)      […]

Keritot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 8

Keritot, Chapter Six, Mishnah Eight   Introduction Most of this mishnah deals with the “higher and lower sacrifice” which is the sacrifice that is more or less expensive depending upon the wealth of the sinner. This type of sacrifice is mentioned in Leviticus 5, where there are three levels (lamb/goat, birds, grain) and Leviticus 12-14 […]

Keritot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 9

Keritot, Chapter Six, Mishnah Nine   Introduction The final mishnah of our tractate deals with the question of why some things are usually mentioned before others in the Torah.   Mishnah Nine 1)      Rabbi Shimon says: lambs are mentioned before goats in all places. You might think that it is because they are choicer, therefore […]

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