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.

Menahot

Introduction to Tractate Menahot

Introduction to Tractate Menahot   Tractate Menahot deals with the minhah, or meal-offering. The main passage that deals with this offering is in Leviticus 2, but I have included here several other passages in Leviticus that mention how the minhah was offered.   Leviticus 2 1When a person presents an offering of meal to the […]

Menahot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 1

Menahot, Chapter One, Mishnah One   Introduction Today’s mishnah discusses minhahs that are offered by the priest with the intent of their being a different type of minhah from that which the person bringing them intended them to be. For instance a voluntary minhah is offered with the intent of its being a sinner’s minhah. […]

Menahot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 2

Menahot, Chapter One, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah continues to teach cases in which the minhah is invalid.   Mishnah Two 1)      As for both a sinner’s minhah and any other minhah if [one of the following] removed the handful: a)      a non-priest; b)      or [a priest] that was an onen;    c)      or […]

Menahot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 3

Menahot, Chapter One, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah is nearly similar to Zevahim 2:2-5. It deals with various ways in which the minhah offering is disqualified.   Mishnah Three 1)      If he put in too much of its oil or too little of its oil or too little of its frankincense, it is invalid. […]

Menahot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 4

Menahot, Chapter One, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah is nearly identical to Zevahim 2:4-5, with the exception that the actions here are relevant to a minhah whereas Zevahim discussed animal sacrifices. For commentary, see there.   Mishnah Four 1)      How is the mattir not offered in accordance with the law? a)      If one took […]

Menahot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 6

Menahot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Six   Introduction Our mishnah continues to deal with when new grain can be eaten and used in a sacrifice.   Mishnah Six 1)      The omer permits [the new grain] throughout the land, and the two loaves permit it in the Temple.    2)      One may not offer minhahs, first-fruits, or […]

Menahot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 1

Menahot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah One   Introduction The tenth chapter deals with the Omer. In order to understand this chapter we should explain what was one of the biggest debates between the Pharisees and Sadducees—the date of Shavuot. The Torah states that one begins to count the omer “from the day after the Sabbath.” This […]

Menahot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 2

Menahot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      The mitzvah of the omer is that it should be brought from [what grows] near by. 2)      If [the crop] near Jerusalem was not yet ripe, it could be brought from any place. 3)      It once happened that the omer was brought from Gagot Zerifin and […]

Menahot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 3

Menahot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah describes the procedure that preceded the harvesting of the omer. The end of this mishnah explains why they would make such a spectacle out of what is quite a simple act. The Boethusians were a group of Jews either similar to or identical with the Sadducees. […]

Menahot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 4

Menahot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah completes the description of how the omer was offered.   Mishnah Four 1)      They reaped it, put it into the baskets, and brought it to the Temple courtyard; 2)      Then they would parch it with fire in order to fulfill the mitzvah that it should be […]

Menahot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 5

Menahot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Five   Introduction Leviticus 23:14 states, “Until that very day, until you have brought the offering for your God, you shall eat no bread or parched grain or fresh ears [of the new crop].”  Our mishnah discusses when people can begin to eat of the new crop of grain.   Mishnah […]

Menahot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 7

Menahot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Seven   Introduction There are five species of grain: wheat, barley, spelt, oats and rye. All other species, such as rice, do not count as grain, and laws that apply to grain do not apply to them. Our mishnah teaches a few general halakhot that are applicable to these five species. […]

Menahot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 8

Menahot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Eight   Introduction This mishnah brings in exceptions concerning the prohibition of harvesting grain before the omer.   Mishnah Eight 1)      [Before the omer] one may reap [grain] in irrigated fields in the valley, but one may not stack it. 2)      The people of Jericho used to reap [before the omer] […]

Menahot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 9

Menahot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Nine   Introduction The final mishnah of chapter ten concludes with a few more rules governing the prohibition of harvesting grain before the 16th of Nissan and a few last rules with regard to the omer.   Mishnah Nine 1)      One may reap on account of the saplings or in order […]

Menahot, Chapter 11, Mishnah 1

Menahot, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah deals with the baking of the two loaves used on Shavuot (see above 10:6) and the showbread (see above 6:5-7).   Mishnah One 1)      The two loaves [of Shavuot] were kneaded each on its own and baked each on its own. a)      The [cakes of the] […]

Menahot, Chapter 11, Mishnah 2

Menahot, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      Both the two loaves and the showbread—their kneading and their shaping were performed outside [the Temple Court], and their baking was inside. 2)      And they do not override the Shabbat.   3)      Rabbi Judah says: all of these were performed inside [the Temple Court].   4)      […]

Menahot, Chapter 11, Mishnah 3

Menahot, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah discusses the “griddle cakes” offered daily by the High Priest (Leviticus 6:13-15).   Mishnah Three 1)      The high priest’s griddle cakes: their kneading, their shaping, and their baking were performed within [the Temple Court], 2)      And they override the Shabbat. 3)      The grinding [of the grain […]

Menahot, Chapter 11, Mishnah 4

Menahot, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Four   Introduction Most of this mishnah deals with how the two loaves for Shavuot and how the showbread were made.   Mishnah Four 1)      All menahot require a vessel [for works that are performed] within, but do not require a vessel [for those works that are performed] outside. 2)      How […]

Menahot, Chapter 11, Mishnah 5

Menahot, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah describes how the showbread was placed on the table.   Mishnah Five 1)      The table was ten handbreadths long and five wide; the showbread was ten handbreadths long and five wide. Each cake was placed lengthwise across the breadth of the table, and two and a […]

Menahot, Chapter 11, Mishnah 6

Menahot, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah continues to deal with the table upon which was placed the showbread.   Mishnah Six 1)      There were there four golden props [at the corners of] the table, each split at the top, which supported the cakes, two for the one row and two for the […]

Menahot, Chapter 11, Mishnah 7

Menahot, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah deals with the ceremony of the showbread, bringing in the new loaves and taking out the old. This would occur once a week on Shabbat. The old bread would lie there for the entire week until new loaves were brought and the old ones were distributed […]

Menahot, Chapter 11, Mishnah 8

Menahot, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Eight   Introduction The showbread and frankincense are supposed to be arranged on the table on Shabbat and removed the following Shabbat, when the frankincense is burned. The showbread can be eaten that day and the following night. Our mishnah discusses cases in which this precise order was not followed, and […]

Menahot, Chapter 11, Mishnah 9

Menahot, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Nine   Introduction This mishnah deals with when the two loaves for Shavuot and the showbread were baked and when they were eaten.   Mishnah Nine 1)      The two loaves were eaten never earlier than on the second day and never later than on the third day. a)      How so? [Normally] […]

Menahot, Chapter 12, Mishnah 1

Menahot, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah deals with “redeeming” holy items. Redeeming is done by transferring the holiness of an item to money. The money then becomes holy and must be used to buy sacrifices or other items for the Temple. The item itself can now be used for secular purposes.   […]

Menahot, Chapter 12, Mishnah 2

Menahot, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Two   Introduction In this mishnah and in the following one, a person vows to bring a minhah offering, but then does not bring exactly what he vowed to bring. Our mishnah deals with the consequences of acting in such a way.   Mishnah Two 1)      If one said, “I take […]

Menahot, Chapter 12, Mishnah 3

Menahot, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Three   Introduction A minhah must consist of a tenth of an ephah of fine wheat flour. It must be accompanied by oil and frankincense. Our mishnah discusses what happens if one vows to bring a minhah that does not fulfill all of these requirements.   Mishnah Three 1)      [If one […]

Menahot, Chapter 12, Mishnah 4

Menahot, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      A man may offer a minhah consisting of sixty tenths and bring them in one vessel. 2)      If one said, “I take upon myself to offer sixty-one tenths,” he must bring sixty in one vessel and the one in another vessel, since the congregation brings on […]

Menahot, Chapter 12, Mishnah 5

Menahot, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Five   Mishnah Five 1)      One may offer wine but not oil, the words of Rabbi Akiva. a)      But Rabbi Tarfon says: one may also offer oil.    2)      Rabbi Tarfon said: just as we find that wine is offered as an obligation may be offered as a freewill-offering, so oil […]

Menahot, Chapter 13, Mishnah 1

Menahot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah One   Introduction The entire thirteenth and final chapter of Menahot is concerned with a person who obligates himself to bring something to the Temple. The issue at hand is how to interpret his words in order to ensure that he fulfills his pledge.   Mishnah One 1)      [One who says], […]

Menahot, Chapter 13, Mishnah 10

Menahot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Ten   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with a fascinating historical topic, the “Temple of Onias.” The Temple of Onias was a Jewish Temple built in Egypt, in Heliopolis, around 230 years before the destruction of the Temple, some time during the second century B.C.E.  The Temple is mentioned by Josephus who […]

Menahot, Chapter 13, Mishnah 11

Menahot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Eleven   Introduction The final mishnah of Menahot contains what is perhaps one of the most important religious messages found in the entire Mishnah. Its final phrase is quoted quite frequently by Jewish thinkers, who employ it in many different contexts. I shall explain it here in the introduction. The Torah […]

Menahot, Chapter 13, Mishnah 2

Menahot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      [If he said] “A minhah” or “a kind of minhah,” he may bring one [of any kind]. 2)      [If he said]  “Menahot” or “A kind from menahot,” he must bring two [of any one kind]. 3)      [If he said,] “I specified [a certain kind], but I […]

Menahot, Chapter 13, Mishnah 3

Menahot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      [If one said,] “I take upon myself to bring [pieces of] wood,” he must bring not less than two logs. 2)      “Frankincense,” he must bring not less than a handful. 3)      There are five cases of [not less than] a handful: i)        One who says, “I […]

Menahot, Chapter 13, Mishnah 4

Menahot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Four   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with a person who volunteers to bring an unspecified amount of money as a donation to the Temple.   Mishnah Four 1)      “I take upon myself to offer gold,” he must bring not less than a golden denar.   2)      “Silver,” he must bring not less […]

Menahot, Chapter 13, Mishnah 5

Menahot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Five   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with one who has volunteered to bring wine or oil.   Mishnah Five 1)      [If one said,] “I take upon myself to bring wine,” he must bring not less than three logs.   2)      “Oil,” he must bring not less than one log;   3)      […]

Menahot, Chapter 13, Mishnah 6

Menahot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Six   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with a person who pledges to bring an olah, a wholly burnt offering, but does not clarify what type of animal he wishes to bring. The laws of the olah are found in Leviticus 1.   Mishnah Six 1)      [If one said,] “I take upon […]

Menahot, Chapter 13, Mishnah 7

Menahot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Seven   Introduction In this case he pledged to bring a todah (thanksgiving offering) or a shelamim (well-being offering). The difference between these and the olah that we learned about in yesterday’s mishnah is that these sacrifices can also be female. Therefore, in certain circumstances he may have to bring a […]

Menahot, Chapter 13, Mishnah 8

Menahot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Eight   Introduction This mishnah establishes the minimum value of the animals that one has to bring when one has pledged to bring a specific animal.   Mishnah Eight 1)      [If he said,] “I take upon myself to offer an ox,” he must bring one with its drink-offerings to the value […]

Menahot, Chapter 13, Mishnah 9

Menahot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Nine   Mishnah Nine 1)      [If one said,] “This ox shall be an olah,” and it becomes blemished, he may, if he so desires, bring two with its price. 2)      [If he said,] “These two oxen are for an olah,” and they become blemished, he may, if he so desires, bring […]

Menahot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 1

Menahot, Chapter Two, Mishnah One   Introduction In this mishnah, Rabbi Yose and the sages disagree concerning a case where a priest offered a minhah and had a disqualifying intention with regard to the accompanying frankincense.   Mishnah One 1)      If he took out the handful [intending] to eat the remainder or to burn the […]

Menahot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 2

Menahot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Two   Introduction In this mishnah Rabbi Yose and the sages continue to debate cases where a priest has a disqualifying intention concerning one of the components of a sacrifice. The question is: does this cause the entire sacrifice to become piggul or just the part over which he had a […]

Menahot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 3

Menahot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah continues to deal with cases where a priest has a disqualifying intention with regard to one part of a multi-part sacrifice and whether this renders the entire sacrifice piggul and the one who eats it liable for karet.   Mishnah Three 1)      The todah can render […]

Menahot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 4

Menahot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah contains another example of the same rule found in yesterday’s mishnah.   Mishnah Four 1)      The animal-offering can render the libations piggul after they have been sanctified in the vessel, the words of Rabbi Meir. 2)      But the libations cannot render the animal-offering piggul. a)      Thus, […]

Menahot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 5

Menahot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Five   Mishnah Five 1)      If he had an intention which makes piggul [with regard to the remainder of the minhah] during the [burning of the] handful and not during the [burning of the] frankincense, or during the [burning of the] frankincense and not during the [burning of the] incense: a)      […]

Menahot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 1

Menahot, Chapter Three, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah deals with various cases where the disqualifying intention does not cause the sacrifice to be invalid. The same mishnah concerning animal sacrifices appeared in Zevahim 3:3.   Mishnah One 1)      If he took the handful from the minhah intending to eat [outside its proper place or […]

Menahot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 2

Menahot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      If he did not pour in [the oil], or if he did not mix it, or if he did not break up [the minhah] into pieces, or if he did not salt it, or wave it, or if he did not draw it near, or if […]

Menahot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 3

Menahot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      Two minhahs from which the handfuls had not yet been taken out were mixed together: a)      If it is still possible to take the handful from each separately, they are valid; b)      If not, they are invalid. 2)      If the handful [of a minhah] was mixed […]

Menahot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 4

Menahot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      If the remainder of the minhah became unclean or was burnt or lost: a)      According to the rule of Rabbi Eliezer it is valid [to burn the fistful], b)      But according to the rule of Rabbi Joshua it is invalid. 2)      If [he did] not [put […]

Menahot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 5

Menahot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah begins a series of mishnayot that continues through the fourth mishnah of the next chapter. In this series we learn that the absence of certain things prevents the fulfillment of a mitzvah. In the first four sections of today’s mishnah we learn that if any of […]

Menahot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 6

Menahot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah continues to provide cases where the absence of one element of a mitzvah prevents the entire mitzvah from being fulfilled.   Mishnah Six 1)      Regarding the two goats of Yom Hakippurim, the [absence of] one invalidates the other. 2)      Regarding the two lambs of Shavuot, the […]

Menahot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 7

Menahot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Seven   Introduction The mishnah continues to list mitzvoth in which the absence of one element disqualifies the fulfillment of the entire mitzvah. The mishnah is quite simple to understand. Below I have mostly provided biblical references.   Mishnah Seven 1)      Regarding the seven branches of the menorah, the [absence of] […]

Menahot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 1

Menahot, Chapter Four, Mishnah One   Introduction In this mishnah we learn of cases where the absence of a part of a certain mitzvah does not prevent the fulfillment of the whole mitzvah.   Mishnah One 1)      The [absence of the] blue [in the tzitzit] does not invalidate the white, neither does the [absence of […]

Menahot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 2

Menahot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Three 1)      The [absence of either the] bullocks or the rams or the lambs does not invalidate the others. 2)      Rabbi Shimon says: if they had [money enough to buy] many bullocks but not [enough for] the drink-offerings, they should bring one bullock and its drink-offerings and should […]

Menahot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 3

Menahot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah deals with the sacrifices offered on Shavuot, and the absence of which sacrifices prevent the fulfillment of the other sacrifices. I have brought here the relevant verses, Leviticus 23:17-20, for ease of reference:   17 You shall bring from your settlements two loaves of bread as […]

Menahot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 4

Menahot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      The [absence of the] daily offerings (tamidin) does not invalidate the additional offerings (musafin), neither does [the absence of] the additional offerings invalidate the daily offerings, neither does the absence of [one of the] additional offerings invalidate the other additional offerings. 2)      Even though they did […]

Menahot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 5

Menahot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah deals with the minhah offering that the high priest offers every day (Leviticus 6:13-15). This offering had to consist of a tenth of an ephah of fine flour, half of which was offered in the morning and half in the evening. It was fried in oil […]

Menahot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 1

Menahot, Chapter Five, Mishnah One   Introduction This chapter teaches general rules with regard to the minhah offering.   Mishnah One 1)      All minhahs must be offered unleavened, with the exception of the leavened cakes of the todah and the two loaves [of Shavuot] which are offered leavened.   2)      Rabbi Meir says: the leaven […]

Menahot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 2

Menahot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Two   Introduction Our mishnah deals with the prohibition of allowing a minhah to become hametz, for as we learned in yesterday’s mishnah, nearly all minhahs must be brought as matzot.   Mishnah Two 1)      All minhahs must be kneaded with lukewarm water and must be watched lest they become leavened. […]

Menahot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 3

Menahot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah teaches which minhah requires oil and frankincense, which requires one of the two, and which require neither.   Mishnah Three 1)      Some [minhahs] require oil and frankincense, some require oil but not frankincense, some frankincense but not oil, and some neither oil nor frankincense. 2)      These […]

Menahot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 4

Menahot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah deals with the consequences of adding oil or frankincense to a minhah that did not require it.   Mishnah Four 1)      One is liable for the oil on its own and for the frankincense on its own.   2)      If he put in oil, he has […]

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