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.

Shabbat

Introduction to Tractate Shabbat

Introduction to Tractate Shabbat   Most of tractate Shabbat goes into great detail as to what type of work is prohibited on Shabbat.  There is not a lot of information about this in the Torah itself.  Indeed the only four activities specifically prohibited in the Torah are plowing and reaping (Exodus 34:21), fire (Exodus 35:3) […]

Shabbat 88a-89b English

Lesson 3 -– The Significance of Receiving the Torah – Shabbat 88a-89b Rabbi Mordechai Silverstein The Conservative Yeshiva To view the Hebrew text, click here. Selection 1 1. [Verse from Scripture] And they stood under the mount (Exodus 19:17): 2. [Meimra which interprets the verse] R. Abdimi b. Hama b. Hasa said: This teaches that the […]

Shabbat 88a-89b Hebrew

Lesson #3 – The Significance of Receiving the Torah – Shabbat 88a-89a Rabbi Mordechai Silverstein The Conservative Yeshiva To view the English text, click here. שבת פח:א-פט:א (קטעים נבחרים) #1 1. [פסוק מן המקרא] (שמות יט:יז) ויתיצבו בתחתית ההר, 2. [מימרא הדורשת את הפסוק] אמר רב אבדימי בר חמא בר חסא: מלמד שכפה הקדוש ברוך הוא עליהם […]

Shabbat, Chapter 1, Mishnah 1

Shabbat, Chapter One, Mishnah One   Introduction Tractate Shabbat begins with a formulaic teaching about the prohibition of carrying.  The remainder of the chapter discusses preparations before Shabbat, but it seems that the Mishnah’s editors wanted to begin with a mishnah that contains the formula “two which are four”.  This is the same way that […]

Shabbat, Chapter 1, Mishnah 10

Shabbat, Chapter One, Mishnah Ten   Introduction In today’s mishnah we learn that Bet Hillel agrees with Bet Shammai that food may not be put into an oven on Friday in order for it to cook on Shabbat, unless it has already been fully cooked before Shabbat begins. Note that in yesterday’s mishnah we learned […]

Shabbat, Chapter 1, Mishnah 11

Shabbat, Chapter One, Mishnah Eleven   Introduction This mishnah continues to discuss lighting fires in ovens on Friday so that they will stay lit over Shabbat.  Since the prohibition of putting something into an oven on Friday was only “derabbanan”—of rabbinic origin—and intended to prevent a person from committing a transgression of biblical law, there […]

Shabbat, Chapter 1, Mishnah 2

Shabbat, Chapter One, Mishnah Two   Introduction After an introductory mishnah, the Mishnah continues with laws relevant to the day before Shabbat.  Our mishnah deals with things that one shouldn’t do once the time for the afternoon prayer, minhah, has arrived.  The problem is that if one becomes engaged with one of these activities, he […]

Shabbat, Chapter 1, Mishnah 3

Shabbat, Chapter One, Mishnah Three   Introduction The mishnah continues to deal with laws that are concerned with the day before the Sabbath.  However, through associative thought, this mishnah also includes one law that is not concerned with the Sabbath eve and one law that is concerned with another topic altogether.   Mishnah Three 1)      […]

Shabbat, Chapter 1, Mishnah 4

Shabbat, Chapter One, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah does not actually teach any halakhah.  Rather it places the halakhot which we learned above in an historical context.   Mishnah Four And these are of halakhot which they stated in the upper chamber of Hananiah ben Hezekiah ben Gurion, when they went up to visit […]

Shabbat, Chapter 1, Mishnah 5

Shabbat, Chapter One, Mishnah Five   Introduction The next four mishnayot contain disputes between Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel over things that can be done before the Sabbath.  Most of the disputes revolve around one central issue:  can a person’s vessels perform work for them on the Sabbath?  It is clear that a person herself […]

Shabbat, Chapter 1, Mishnah 6

Shabbat, Chapter One, Mishnah Six   Introduction Today’s mishnah contains two more debates between Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel over whether work may be begun on Friday before Shabbat, if that work will continue on its own throughout Shabbat.   Mishnah Six 1)     Beth Shammai says: bundles of wet flax may not be placed […]

Shabbat, Chapter 1, Mishnah 7

Shabbat, Chapter One, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah is related to the last couple of mishnayot in that again Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel debate and yet the subject is different.  In this mishnah a Jew gives something to a non-Jew before Shabbat for the non-Jew to carry away on Shabbat.   Mishnah Seven […]

Shabbat, Chapter 1, Mishnah 8

Shabbat, Chapter One, Mishnah Eight   Introduction This is the final debate between Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel over work that is begun on Friday.   Mishnah Eight Bet Shammai says: hides must not be given to a [non-Jewish] tanner, nor clothing to a non-Jewish launderer, unless they can be done while it is yet […]

Shabbat, Chapter 1, Mishnah 9

Shabbat, Chapter One, Mishnah Nine   Introduction The first section of this mishnah is a continuation of the previous mishnayot.  Here we learn that Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel’s house behaved like Bet Shamma and refrained from doing work on Friday if that work would continue onto Shabbat.  The second section begins to list things that […]

Shabbat, Chapter 10, Mishnah 1

Shabbat, Chapter Ten, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah connects back to what we learned above in 7:3.  If a person cares enough to store a certain something away, that means that that thing is important to her.  Therefore, if she carries it from domain to domain on Shabbat, she is liable no matter what […]

Shabbat, Chapter 10, Mishnah 2

Shabbat, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Two   Introduction Our mishnah teaches two things:  1) a person is not liable unless she takes something from the public domain and puts it into the private domain or vice verse.  A domain that is neither public nor private does not count.  2) A person is not liable for performing […]

Shabbat, Chapter 10, Mishnah 3

Shabbat, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah teaches that in order for a person to be liable for carrying she must carry in a way that is normal for carrying.  If she carries in an unusual manner, she is not liable.   Mishnah Three 1)      If one carries something out, whether with his […]

Shabbat, Chapter 10, Mishnah 4

Shabbat, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Four   Introduction Our mishnah discusses the difference between carrying things in front of oneself, the way they are normally carried (picture the way you carry dishes) and carrying things behind oneself, a way of carrying that in most cases (but not all) is unusual and less effective.   Mishnah Four […]

Shabbat, Chapter 10, Mishnah 5

Shabbat, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah teaches two main things.  First of all, if two people jointly perform a forbidden labor that could be performed by one person, they are both exempt. Secondly, when we consider what a person is liable for carrying, we only consider the main thing and not those […]

Shabbat, Chapter 10, Mishnah 6

Shabbat, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah is not concerned with carrying as are the preceding and following mishnayot.  It is here because at the end of this mishnah Rabbi Shimon has a debate with the other sages as he did in yesterday’s mishnah.   Mishnah Six 1)      If one pares his nails […]

Shabbat, Chapter 11, Mishnah 1

Shabbat, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah One   Introduction After having learned the laws of carrying from one domain to another, this chapter teaches laws concerning throwing something from one domain to another.   Mishnah One 1)      If one throws from the private domain into the public domain [or] from the public domain into the private domain, […]

Shabbat, Chapter 11, Mishnah 2

Shabbat, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah explicates yesterday’s mishnah in which we learned that one who throws something from one private domain to another private domain and there lies a public domain in the middle, is exempt.   Mishnah Two How so?   1)      If there are two balconies facing each other […]

Shabbat, Chapter 11, Mishnah 3

Shabbat, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Three   Introduction It is forbidden to carry something four cubits in the public domain.  Our mishnah deals with someone who throws something four cubits in the public domain and some nuances concerning this halakhah.       Mishnah Three 1)      One who throws [something] four cubits on to a wall: i)        […]

Shabbat, Chapter 11, Mishnah 4

Shabbat, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah deals with throwing in bodies of water.    Mishnah Five 1)      If one throws in the sea four cubits, he is exempt. 2)      If there is a pool of water and a public road crosses it, and one throws [an object] four cubits in it, he […]

Shabbat, Chapter 11, Mishnah 5

Shabbat, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah deals with throwing from either the sea to dry land (or the opposite) or from ships to the sea or other ships.   Mishnah Five 1)      If one throws [somethign] from the sea to dry land, or from dry land to the sea, from the sea […]

Shabbat, Chapter 11, Mishnah 6

Shabbat, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah teaches and illustrates the rule that in order for a person to be liable to bring a sin-offering, the entire forbidden act must be performed unwittingly.  If part of the act is performed intentionally, then no sin-offering is brought.   Mishnah Six 1)      If one throws […]

Shabbat, Chapter 12, Mishnah 1

Shabbat, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah One   Introduction After completing its explication of the various aspects of “carrying”, the Mishnah now turns its attention to various other prohibited labors mentioned above in 7:2.  Today’s mishnah deals with building.   Mishnah One 1)      One who builds: how much must he build to be liable? a)      He who […]

Shabbat, Chapter 12, Mishnah 2

Shabbat, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah deals with plowing, reaping and binding sheaves.   Mishnah Two 1)      He who plows any amount, or who weeds, or who prunes [trees], or who cuts off young shoots, no matter the amount, is liable. 2)      He who gathers wood:   a)      if in order to […]

Shabbat, Chapter 12, Mishnah 3

Shabbat, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Three   Introduction Our mishnah deals with the prohibition of writing, which is one of the labors prohibited in 7:2.   Mishnah Three 1)      He who writes two letters, whether with his right hand or with his left hand, whether the same letter or two different letters or in two pigments, […]

Shabbat, Chapter 12, Mishnah 4

Shabbat, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah continues to deal with the prohibition of writing on Shabbat.    Mishnah Four 1)      He who writes two letters in one state of unawareness is liable. 2)      He who writes with ink, arsenic, red chalk, gum, sulphate of copper or with anything that leaves a mark, […]

Shabbat, Chapter 12, Mishnah 5

Shabbat, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah lists cases in which a person is not liable for writing.    Mishnah Five 1)      If he wrote with liquids, or with fruit juice, on the dust of the road, or on writer’s powder, or with anything that cannot endure, he is exempt. 2)      [If he […]

Shabbat, Chapter 12, Mishnah 6

Shabbat, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Six   Introduction The final mishnah in this chapter finishes our discussion of writing on Shabbat.   Mishnah Six He who writes two letters in two states of unawareness, one in the morning and one in the evening: Rabban Gamaliel declares him liable; But the sages exempt him.   Explanation The […]

Shabbat, Chapter 13, Mishnah 1

Shabbat, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah One   Introduction This chapter deals with the work involved in making clothes.  Today’s mishnah deals with the prohibited labor of weaving.    Mishnah One Rabbi Eliezer says: he who weaves three threads at the beginning or one [thread] added to woven stuff is liable; But the sages say: whether at […]

Shabbat, Chapter 13, Mishnah 2

Shabbat, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Two   Introduction The first part of the mishnah explains the prohibited labor of “making two loops.”  The second part deals with sewing.   Mishnah Two 1)      He who makes two loops, on either the cross-pieces [nirim] or one the slips [keros], or in a sifter, sieve, or basket, is liable. […]

Shabbat, Chapter 13, Mishnah 3

Shabbat, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah is a continuation of yesterday’s mishnah where we learned that one is liable for tearing only if she tears in order to sew two stitches.   Mishnah Three 1)      He who tears in his anger or [in mourning] for his dead, and all who damage are […]

Shabbat, Chapter 13, Mishnah 4

Shabbat, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah deals with minimum measures in processing wool and flax.   Mishnah Four 1)      The minimum measure for bleaching, hackling, dyeing or spinning is a full double sit.   2)      And he who weaves two threads together, the minimum meausure is a full sit.   Explanation Section […]

Shabbat, Chapter 13, Mishnah 5

Shabbat, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah deals with hunting.  We should note that hunting is not exactly what we think of it today—going out and killing an animal.  Hunting refers to trapping an animal such that it remains alive.  Killing an animal is a different, yet still prohibited labor.   Mishnah Five […]

Shabbat, Chapter 13, Mishnah 6

Shabbat, Chapter, Thirteen, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah is similar to 10:5 above, where we learned that if two people jointly perform a labor that could have been performed by one person, they are exempt.  If they jointly perform a work that required two people, the sages say that both are liable and Rabbi […]

Shabbat, Chapter 13, Mishnah 7

Shabbat, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Seven   Introduction The final mishnah of this chapter continues to deal with hunting (trapping).   Mishnah Seven 1)      If one sat down in the doorway but did not fill it, and a second sat down and filled it, the second is liable. 2)      If the first sat down in the […]

Shabbat, Chapter 14, Mishnah 1

Shabbat, Chapter Fourteen, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah continues to deal with hunting (trapping) the topic covered in the last chapter.  It also begins to discuss wounding animals.   Mishnah One 1)      The eight creeping things which are mentioned in the Torah:  he who hunts them or wounds them [on Shabbat] is liable;    […]

Shabbat, Chapter 14, Mishnah 2

Shabbat, Chapter Fourteen, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah deals with preparing pickling brine on Shabbat.  According to commentators, this is similar to processing hides because both change the nature of something by soaking it in a mixture.   Mishnah Two 1)      They do not prepare [pickling] brine on Shabbat, but he may prepare salt […]

Shabbat, Chapter 14, Mishnah 3

Shabbat, Chapter Fourteen, Mishnah Three   Introduction Our mishnah discusses taking medicine or performing acts of healing on Shabbat.  If there is any danger to a person’s life, even a potential danger, all medicines and acts of healing are permitted.  Indeed they are mandated.  However, the sages forbade the use of medicines which are for […]

Shabbat, Chapter 14, Mishnah 4

Shabbat, Chapter Fourteen, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah continues to deal with acts of healing on Shabbat.   Mishnah Four 1)      He who feels pain in his teeth may not sip vinegar through them, but he may dip [his bread in vinegar] in the usual manner, and if he is cured, he is cured. […]

Shabbat, Chapter 15, Mishnah 1

Shabbat, Chapter Fifteen, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah and the following one deal with the prohibited labors of tying and untying.  As we shall see in the mishnah, one is liable only if the knot is one that is intended to last.     Mishnah One These are the knots for which a person is […]

Shabbat, Chapter 15, Mishnah 2

Shabbat, Chapter Fifteen, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah is a direct continuation of yesterday’s mishnah.   Mishnah Two 1)      You have some knots for which one is not liable like [one is] for camel-drivers’ knots and sailors’ knots.   2)      A woman may tie up the opening of her chemise, the strings of her hair-net […]

Shabbat, Chapter 15, Mishnah 3

Shabbat, Chapter Fifteen, Mishnah Three   Introduction Since yesterday’s mishnah dealt briefly with clothing (a woman tying her clothing on Shabbat) today’s mishnah also deals with clothing.    Mishnah Three 1)      One may fold clothing even four or five times, and spread the sheets on the beds on the Shabbat evening for [use on] Shabbat, […]

Shabbat, Chapter 16, Mishnah 1

Shabbat, Chapter Sixteen, Mishnah One   Introduction This entire chapter deals with fires that have broken out on Shabbat.  The rabbis forbade saving things from being destroyed by a fire lest a person come to extinguish the fire, an activity which is prohibited on Shabbat.  Nevertheless there are some things which may be saved from […]

Shabbat, Chapter 16, Mishnah 2

Shabbat, Chapter Sixteen, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah deals with how much food may be saved from a fire on Shabbat.   Mishnah Three 1)      Food for three meals may be saved, that which is fit for a person, for a person, that which is fit for a beast, for a beast. 2)      How […]

Shabbat, Chapter 16, Mishnah 3

Shabbat, Chapter Sixteen, Mishnah Three   Introduction Our mishnah continues to deal with saving food from a fire on Shabbat.    Mishnah Three 1)      One may save a basket full of loaves, even if it contains [enough for] a hundred meals, and a round cake of pressed figs, and a barrel of wine. 2)      And […]

Shabbat, Chapter 16, Mishnah 4

Shabbat, Chapter Sixteen, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah discusses saving clothing from the fire on Shabbat.   Mishnah Four 1)      And to there he may carry out all his utensils;    2)      And he may wear all that he can wear and wrap himself in all that he can wrap himself. a)      Rabbi Yose […]

Shabbat, Chapter 16, Mishnah 5

Shabbat, Chapter Sixteen, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah introduces means which may be used to keep the fire from spreading.    Mishnah Five 1)      Rabbi Shimon ben Nannas says: one may spread a goat skin over a box, chest, or trunk which has caught fire, because he singes. 2)      And one may make a […]

Shabbat, Chapter 16, Mishnah 6

Shabbat, Chapter Sixteen, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah deals with a non-Jew or minor, both of whom are not obligated to observe the commandments, who want to extinguish the fire.   Mishnah Six 1)      If a non-Jew comes to extinguish, they do not say to him, “extinguish it” or “do not extinguish,” because his […]

Shabbat, Chapter 16, Mishnah 7

Shabbat, Chapter Sixteen, Mishnah Seven   Introduction The mishnah teaches that sometimes one may cover certain things with a dish on Shabbat in order to avoid undesirable results.   Mishnah Seven One may turn a dish over a lamp so that the beams should not catch [fire], and over an infant’s excrement, and over a […]

Shabbat, Chapter 16, Mishnah 8

Shabbat, Chapter Sixteen, Mishnah Eight   Introduction The central point of this mishnah is that if a Gentile does a prohibited labor on Shabbat for his own benefit, then an Israelite may make use of what the Gentile did.  However, if the Gentile does on the Israelite’s behalf, it is prohibited for the Jew to […]

Shabbat, Chapter 17, Mishnah 1

Shabbat, Chapter Seventeen, Mishnah One   Introduction There are certain objects which it is forbidden to carry or move on Shabbat and they are called in Hebrew, “muktzeh” which literally means “set aside.”  There are several reasons why the rabbis prohibited carrying certain types of vessels on Shabbat, but the most basic reason is to […]

Shabbat, Chapter 17, Mishnah 2

Shabbat, Chapter Seventeen, Mishnah Two   Introduction Our mishnah teaches that one may carry a vessel that is normally used to perform prohibited labor provided that the intent is to use it for something permitted on Shabbat.   Mishnah Two A man may take a hammer to split nuts, an axe to cut a cake […]

Shabbat, Chapter 17, Mishnah 3

Shabbat, Chapter Seventeen, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah discusses a “reed for olives.”  This is a vessel used in the process of making olive oil.  They would put the olives in a large container so that they would heat up, start to soften and the juice would flow out.  The container would be flipped […]

Shabbat, Chapter 17, Mishnah 4

Shabbat, Chapter Seventeen, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah provides some general rules concerning which vessels may be carried on Shabbat and when they may be carried.   Mishnah Four 1)      Rabbi Yose says: all vessels may be carried, except a large saw and the pin of a plough.  2)      All vessels may be carried […]

Shabbat, Chapter 17, Mishnah 5

Shabbat, Chapter Seventeen, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah is concerned with carrying the fragments of vessels on Shabbat.   Mishnah Eight 1)      All vessels which may be carried on Shabbat, their broken pieces may be carried with them, as long as they can perform something in the nature of work. a)      [Thus]: the fragments […]

Shabbat, Chapter 17, Mishnah 6

Shabbat, Chapter Seventeen, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah deals with certain unusual contraptions used to draw water from a well.   Mishnah Six 1)      A stone in a dried-out pumpkin:  a)      If one can draw [water] in it and it [the stone] does not fall out, one may draw [water] in it; b)      if […]

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