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 Megillah

Introduction to Tractate Megillah   Tractate Megillah deals mostly with the public reading of Scripture at fixed times—on holidays and on certain days of the week.  The first two chapters deal with reading Esther and the second two chapters deal with reading the Torah and Haftarah. The Book of Esther does not itself mandate its […]

Introduction to Tractate Megillah

Introduction to Tractate Megillah   Tractate Megillah deals mostly with the public reading of Scripture at fixed times—on holidays and on certain days of the week. The first two chapters deal with reading Esther and the second two chapters deal with reading the Torah and Haftarah. The Book of Esther does not itself mandate its […]

Megillah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 1

Megillah, Chapter One, Mishnah One   Introduction The first mishnah of Megillah teaches that the Megillah might be read on different days, depending on the locality.  Tomorrow’s mishnah will explain this in greater detail.   Mishnah One 1)      The Megillah is read on the eleventh, the twelfth, the thirteenth, the fourteenth, and the fifteenth [of […]

Megillah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 10

Megillah, Chapter One, Mishnah Ten   Introduction Before the Temple in Jerusalem was built it was permitted to build personal altars and offer sacrifices on them.  At this time period there were also communal altars. The personal altars are called “small altars” whereas the communal altars are called “great altars”.  The “great altar” is referred […]

Megillah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 11

Megillah, Chapter One, Mishnah Eleven   Introduction The final mishnah of this series continues to deal with differences between places in which sacrifices can be offered.   Mishnah Eleven 1)      There is no difference between Shiloh and Jerusalem except that in Shiloh sacrifices of lesser sanctity and second tithe could be eaten anywhere within sight […]

Megillah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 2

Megillah, Chapter One, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah explains how depending on when Purim falls the Megillah might be read on the eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth or fifteenth.  To explain the mishnah we need to remind ourselves that small villages would not read alone in their own village, but rather would move up, if […]

Megillah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 3

Megillah, Chapter One, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah continues to deal with the topic of the various days upon which the Megillah might be read.   Mishnah Three 1)      What is considered a large town? One which has in it ten idle men.   a)      One that has fewer is considered a village. 2)      […]

Megillah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 4

Megillah, Chapter One, Mishnah Three   Introduction When Jews adjust the lunar calendar to keep it in sync with the solar calendar, they add a second month of Adar, the month during which Purim falls.  The rabbis hold that Purim should be observed during the second Adar.  Today because our calendar is fixed this is […]

Megillah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 5

Megillah, Chapter One, Mishnah Five   Introduction From here until the end of the chapter there is a series of mishnayot in which each mishnah begins with the literary structure of “there is no difference between x and y except,” the literary structure that we saw in yesterday’s mishnah.  This type of structure is probably […]

Megillah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 6

Megillah, Chapter One, Mishnah Six   Mishnah Six 1)      There is no difference between one who is prohibited by vow from benefiting from his fellow and one who is prohibited by vow from [benefiting from] his food, except in the matter of setting foot [on his property] and of vessels which are not used for […]

Megillah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 7

Megillah, Chapter One, Mishnah Seven   Mishnah Seven 1)      There is no difference between a zav who sees [genital discharge] twice and one who sees three, except the sacrifice.  2)      There is no difference between a metzora who is under observation and one declared to be a definite metzora except the disheveling of hair and […]

Megillah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 8

Megillah, Chapter One, Mishnah Eight   Mishnah Eight 1)      There is no difference between scrolls [of the Tanakh] and tefillin and mezuzahs except that scrolls may be written in any language whereas tefillin and mezuzahs may be written only in Assyrian.    2)      Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel says that scrolls [of the Tanakh] were permitted […]

Megillah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 9

Megillah, Chapter One, Mishnah Nine   Introduction Our mishnah deals with differences between different types of high priests.   Mishnah Nine There is no difference between a priest anointed with the oil of anointment and one who [only] wears the additional garments except for the bull which is offered for the [unwitting transgression of] any […]

Megillah, Chapter 2, Mishnah 1

Megillah, Chapter Two, Mishnah One   Introduction The Mishnah now begins to talk about how the Megillah is actually read.   Mishnah One 1)      If one reads the Megillah out of order, he has not fulfilled his obligation. 2)      If he reads it by heart, if he reads it in a translation [targum], or in […]

Megillah, Chapter 2, Mishnah 2

Megillah, Chapter Two, Mishnah Two   Introduction The first part of this mishnah deals with having proper intention while reading the Megillah.  The second part deals with the physical material with which the Megillah is written.    Mishnah Two 1)      If one reads it with breaks, or naps [in between readings], he has fulfilled his […]

Megillah, Chapter 2, Mishnah 3

Megillah, Chapter Two, Mishnah Three   Introduction The first section of this mishnah deals with a person who travels from a walled city which reads on the 15th of Adar to a town which reads on the 14th or vice versa. The second section discusses how much of the Megillah must be read on Purim. […]

Megillah, Chapter 2, Mishnah 4

Megillah, Chapter Two, Mishnah Four   Introduction The first section of the mishnah deals with who is qualified to read the Megillah. The second section deals with when it can be read.   Mishnah Four 1)      All are qualified to read the Megillah except a deaf person, an idiot and a minor.    a)      Rabbi […]

Megillah, Chapter 2, Mishnah 5

Megillah, Chapter Two, Mishnah Five   Introduction One can fulfill one’s obligation of hearing the Megillah at any time during the day. Our mishnah gives a very long list of numerous other rituals that one can perform at any time duing the day. Since this list is very long, I will not explain each item […]

Megillah, Chapter 2, Mishnah 6

Megillah, Chapter Two, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah is the complement to yesterday’s mishnah.  It teaches that mitzvoth which must be performed at night can be performed all night.   Mishnah Six 1)      The whole night is valid for reaping the Omer and for burning fat and limbs [on the altar].    2)      This […]

Megillah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 1

Megillah, Chapter Three, Mishnah One   Introduction The first three mishnayot of this chapter deal with the holiness of the synagogue and the articles found in it.  Our mishnah deals with what one may do with the proceeds of a sale of the synagogue or the things in it.    Mishnah One 1)      Townspeople who […]

Megillah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 2

Megillah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah deals specifically with selling a synagogue.   Mishnah Two 1)      They may not sell a synagogue except with the stipulation that it may be bought back whenever they want, the words of Rabbi Meir. 2)      But the sages say: they may sell it in perpetuity, except […]

Megillah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 3

Megillah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Three   Introduction In this mishnah Rabbi Judah teaches that the holiness of a synagogue remains even if it has fallen into ruins.  Rabbi Judah applies the holiness of the Temple in Jerusalem to the synagogue of the post-destruction period.  Just as the holiness of the Temple and the Temple Mount […]

Megillah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 4

Megillah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Four   Introduction The rest of this chapter deals with the portions of the Torah read on holidays and special Shabbatot.  In mishnaic times they did not complete the Torah once a year as they did in Babylonia and as we do today, but rather about once every three years.  Another […]

Megillah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 5

Megillah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah lists the portions read on the three pilgrimage holidays, Pesah, Shavuot and Sukkot and on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Hakippurim as well. Most of these are straightforward and do not require explanation. The one slightly confusing issue is the readings for Sukkot.  On the first day […]

Megillah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 6

Megillah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Six   Introduction The final mishnah of our chapter details what sections are read on non-Toraitic holidays or events.  Since there are no passages in the Torah about these days, the sages had to find other passages whose themes they deemed appropriate.  The mishnah concludes with a midrash explaining why it […]

Megillah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 1

Megillah, Chapter Four, Mishnah One   Introduction Most of the last chapter of Megillah is about the public reading of the Torah.  The one main difference between how we read today and how they read in their time is that today the person who receives the aliyah and recites the blessing is usually not the […]

Megillah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 10

Megillah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Ten   Introduction In yesterday’s mishnah we learned that translations must be literal. Today’s mishnah, the last in tractate Megillah, teaches that some portions of the Torah are not translated at all because of the nature of their content.   Mishnah Ten 1)      The incident of Reuven is read but not […]

Megillah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 2

Megillah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah continues to teach how many aliyot there are on the different occasions in which the Torah is read.  Yesterday’s mishnah dealt with occasions in which there are only three, the minimum number of aliyot. Today’s mishnah lists occasions with four, five, six and seven aliyot.  It […]

Megillah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 3

Megillah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah teaches what rituals require a minyan of ten men in order to perform them.   Mishnah Three 1)      They do not recite the Shema responsively, 2)      And they do not pass before the ark;   3)      And the [the priests] do not lift up their hands; […]

Megillah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 4

Megillah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah teaches various rules about reading the Torah in public.   Mishnah Four 1)      One who reads the Torah [in public] may not read les than three verses. 2)      And he should not read to the translator more than one verse [at a time], but [if reading […]

Megillah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 5

Megillah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah and the mishnayot following it deal with who is qualified to receive certain honors in the synagogue. I have explained this mishnah according to Albeck’s explanation.  Others explain it somewhat differently.    Mishnah Five 1)      The one who concludes with the haftarah also leads the responsive […]

Megillah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 6

Megillah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah illustrates the important principle that one who is obligated to perform a given ritual may aid others in fulfilling their obligation.  It also deals with other reasons which might potentially disqualify a person from leading parts of the synagogue service.   Mishnah Six 1)      A child […]

Megillah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 7

Megillah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah teaches that priests who have something distracting on their hands, either a deformation or a discoloring should not lift up their hands because this makes the people look at them and not think about the blessing that they are receiving.  The mishnah considers it crucial that […]

Megillah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 8

Megillah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Eight   Introduction The next two mishnayot deal with certain practices which the rabbis deemed to be heretical or at least potentially heretical.   Mishnah Eight 1)      If one says, “I will not pass before the ark in colored clothes,” even in white clothes he may not pass before it. 2)      […]

Megillah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 9

Megillah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Nine   Introduction This mishnah continues to identify heretical behavior.  In yesterday’s mishnah we saw heretical behavior involving what a person wears, be it clothing, footwear or tefillin.  In today’s mishnah we see heretical behavior involving things a person says while leading the prayers or translating the Torah.   Mishnah Nine […]

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Learn one Mishnah each day with the Conservative Yeshiva's Mishnah Yomit, prepared by faculty member Dr. Joshua Kulp.

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