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.

Middot

Introduction to Tractate Middot

Introduction to Tractate Middot   Tractate Middot is a detailed description of the Second Temple as built by Herod during the end of the first century B.C.E. The word “Middot” means “measurements” and it refers to the measurements of the Temple.   We should note that the sources of this description can be varied. Some […]

Middot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 1

Middot, Chapter One, Mishnah One   Introduction Tractate Middot opens with the same exact line as did Tamid—a list of where the priests kept watch all night. However, the interest of the two tractates is a bit different. Middot is interested in the watch itself, whereas Tamid was more interested in locating the priests before […]

Middot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 2

Middot, Chapter One, Mishnah Two   Introduction Today’s mishnah describes the officer in charge of security on the Temple Mount who would go around and check to make sure no one was asleep on his watch. If he found anyone asleep he would beat them, and perhaps even burn their clothes. Don’t ask me what […]

Middot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 3

Middot, Chapter One, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      There were five gates to the Temple Mount: 2)      The two Huldah gates on the south were used both for entrance and exit; 3)      The Kiponus gate on the west was used both for entrance and exit. 4)      The Taddi gate on the north was not […]

Middot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 4

Middot, Chapter One, Mishnah Four   Introduction Today’s mishnah lists the seven gates in the Temple courtyard.   Mishnah Four 1)      There were seven gates in the courtyard: three in the north and three in the south and one in the east. 2)      In the south: the Gate of Kindling, and next to it the […]

Middot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 5

Middot, Chapter One, Mishnah Five   Mishnah Five 1)      On the north was the Gate of the Sparks which was shaped like a portico.   2)      It had an upper chamber built on it, and the priests used to keep watch above and the Levites below, and it had a door opening into the Hel.  3)      […]

Middot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 6

Middot, Chapter One, Mishnah Six   Introduction Our mishnah describes the fire chamber. This chamber is also described in Tamid 3:3. In the first mishnah of Middot (and Tamid) we learned that the fire chamber was called as such because it had a large fire which kept the priests warm at night. Today we learn […]

Middot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 7

Middot, Chapter One, Mishnah Seven   Mishnah Seven The fire chamber had two gates, one opening on to the Hel and one on to the courtyard. Rabbi Judah says: the one that opened on to the courtyard had a small opening through which they went in to search the courtyard.    Explanation Section one: On […]

Middot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 8

Middot, Chapter One, Mishnah Eight   Introduction This mishnah appears word for word in Tamid 1:1. My explanation here is the same as there.   Mishnah Eight 1)      The fire chamber was vaulted and it was a large room surrounded with stone projections, and the elders of the clan [serving in the Temple] used to […]

Middot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 9

Middot, Chapter One, Mishnah Nine   Introduction Our mishnah deals with the locking of the Temple gates at night.   Mishnah Nine 1)      There was a place there [in the fire chamber] one cubit square on which was a slab of marble. 2)      In this was fixed a ring and a chain on which the […]

Middot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 1

Middot, Chapter Two, Mishnah One   Introduction Chapter two deals with the dimensions of the Temple Mount and its courtyards.   Mishnah One 1)      The Temple Mount was five hundred cubits by five hundred cubits.  2)      The greater part of it was on the south; next to that on the east; next to that on […]

Middot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 2

Middot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      All who entered the Temple Mount entered by the right and went round [to the right] and went out by the left, save for one to whom something had happened, who entered and went round to the left. 2)      [He was asked]: “Why do you go […]

Middot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 3

Middot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      Within it was the Soreg, ten handbreadths high. 2)      There were thirteen breaches in it, which had been originally made by the kings of Greece, and when they repaired them they enacted that thirteen prostrations should be made facing them.   3)      Within this was the Hel, […]

Middot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 4

Middot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four All the walls that were there [in the Temple] were high except the eastern wall, for the priest who burned the red heifer would stand on the top of the Mount of Olives and direct his gaze carefully see the opening of the Sanctuary at the time […]

Middot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 5

Middot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Five   Introduction Today’s mishnah is about the courtyard of the women. This was the first courtyard which one would enter upon entering the Temple. I am not going to explain every section, just those that I feel are not self-explanatory.   Mishnah Five 1)      The courtyard of the women was […]

Middot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 6

Middot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Six   Introduction Our mishnah is mostly about the Court of Israel, which was a smaller court leading from the Court of Women to the Court of the Priests.   Mishnah Six 1)      There were chambers underneath the Court of Israel which opened into the Court of Women, where the Levites […]

Middot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 1

Middot, Chapter Three, Mishnah One   Introduction Chapter three begins with several mishnayot describing the outer altar, upon which the sacrifices were burned.   Mishnah One 1)      The altar was thirty-two cubits by thirty-two.  2)      It rose a cubit and went in a cubit, and this formed the foundation, leaving thirty cubits by thirty. 3)      […]

Middot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 2

Middot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two At the southwestern corner [of the foundation] there were two openings like two small nostrils through which the blood which was poured on the western side of the foundation and on the southern side flowed down till the two streams became mingled in the channel,   through which […]

Middot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 3

Middot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      On the floor beneath at that corner there was a place a cubit square on which was a marble slab with a ring fixed in it, and through this they used to go down to the pit to clean it out.   2)      There was an ascent […]

Middot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 4

Middot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Four   Introduction Our mishnah deals with the stones used for the altar. Deuteronomy 27:5-6 states: “You should build an altar to the Lord your God, an altar of stones. Do not wield an iron tool over them; you must build the altar of the Lord your God of unhewn stones.” […]

Middot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 5

Middot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah describes the set-up used to slaughter the sacrifices. Some of this mishnah was also found in Tamid 3:5 (coincidental, I think, that the number of the mishnah is the same).   Mishnah Five 1)      There were rings to the north of the altar, six rows of […]

Middot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 6

Middot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Six   Introduction The Mishnah continues to move in its description from the less holy places to the direction of the Sanctuary and the holiest places. Today we move from the outer altar to the Sanctuary.     Mishnah Six 1)      The laver was between the porch and the altar, a […]

Middot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 7

Middot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Seven   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with the doorway that opened onto the Porch (Oolam in Hebrew).    Mishnah Seven 1)      The doorway of the porch was forty cubits high and its breadth was twenty cubits. 2)      Over it were five main beams of ash [wood]. a)      The lowest projected a […]

Middot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 8

Middot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Eight   Mishnah Eight There were poles of cedar wood stretching from the wall of the Sanctuary to the wall of the Porch to prevent it from bulging.    There were chains of gold fixed in the roof beams of the Porch by which the priestly initiates used to ascend and […]

Middot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 1

Middot, Chapter Four, Mishnah One   Introduction Chapter four deals with the Sanctuary or Hekhal in Hebrew. I will call it the Hekhal henceforth in order to encourage the use of Hebrew. The Hekhal was the main structure of the Temple and it stood between the Porch and the Holy of Holies.   Mishnah One […]

Middot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 2

Middot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      The great gate had two small doors, one to the north and one to the south. a)      By the one to the south no one ever went in, and concerning it was stated explicitly be Ezekiel, as it says, “And the Lord said to me: this […]

Middot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 3

Middot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      There were thirty-eight cells there, fifteen on the north, fifteen on the south, and eight on the west. 2)      On the north and on the south there were five over five and five again over these;   a)      On the west there were three over three and […]

Middot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 4

Middot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      The [chamber] of the lowest [story] was five cubits wide and at the ceiling six cubits. 2)      The [chamber] of the middle [story] was six cubits wide and at the ceiling of seven. 3)      The [chamber] of the top [story] was seven cubits wide, as it […]

Middot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 5

Middot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Five   Mishnah Five 1)      The mesibbah (a winding walkway) went up from the north-east corner to the north-west corner by which they used to go up to the roofs of the cells. 2)      One would ascend the messibah facing the west, traversing the whole of the northern side till he […]

Middot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 6

Middot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Six   Mishnah Six 1)      The Hekhal was a hundred cubits by a hundred with a height of a hundred. 2)      The foundation was six cubits, then it rose forty, then a cubit for the ornamentation, two cubits for the guttering, a cubit for the ceiling and a cubit for the […]

Middot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 7

Middot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Seven   Mishnah Seven 1)      From east to west was a hundred cubits: a)      The wall of the porch five cubits, the porch itself eleven, the wall of the Hekhal six cubits and its interior forty, a cubit for the space between, and twenty cubits for the Holy of Holies, the […]

Middot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 1

Middot, Chapter Five, Mishnah One   Introduction Chapter five backs away from the Hekhal and describes the courtyard that lay to the east of the Temple. If we think about Tractate Middot as a whole we can see that the first two chapters brought us on to the Temple Mount and into the outer courtyards, […]

Middot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 2

Middot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Two   Introduction Our mishnah explains the structures that took up the space going from north to south in the courtyard.   Mishnah Two From north to south was a hundred and thirty-five cubits. 1)      The ascent and the altar took up sixty-two;  2)      From the altar to the rings was […]

Middot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 3

Middot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Three   Introduction Our mishnah that were in the Israelites’ courtyard or within. Most of the mishnah is self-explanatory, but I have made a few comments below.   Mishnah Three 1)      There were six chambers in the courtyard, three on the north and three on the south. 2)      On the north […]

Middot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 4

Middot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Four   Introduction The final mishnah of our tractate describes the three chambers that were found on the southern side of the courtyard.   Mishnah Four 1)      On the south were the wood chamber, the chamber of the exile and the chamber of hewn stones. 2)      The wood chamber: a)      Rabbi […]

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