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 Pesahim

Introduction to Pesahim   Tractate Pesahim can basically be broken down into three sections.  The first four chapters deal with laws concerning the removal of leaven (chametz).  However, there are many digressions in these chapters, and the fourth chapter really goes on to discuss many different subjects.  The next five chapters deal with the passover […]

Pesahim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 1

Pesahim, Chapter One, Mishnah One   Introduction As do several tractates, Pesahim begins chronologically with the events that lead up to the beginning of Pesah—namely checking the house to make sure there is no chametz on the night before Pesah.  As many of you know, this is still a custom today.  Even though most Jews […]

Pesahim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 2

Pesahim, Chapter One, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah continues yesterday’s mishnah in which we learned that they need not check places into which chametz is not brought.   Mishnah Two They need not fear that a weasel may have dragged [chametz] from one room to another or from one place to another, for if […]

Pesahim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 3

Pesahim, Chapter One, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah continues to prescribe when the house must be searched for chametz.   Mishnah Three 1)      Rabbi Judah says: they search on the evening of the fourteenth and in the morning of the fourteenth, and at the time of destroying. 2)      But the sages say: if he […]

Pesahim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 4

Pesahim, Chapter One, Mishnah Four   Introduction After having discussed the search for chametz, the Mishnah begins to discuss burning the chametz, the most common and preferred way of destroying it. All of the sages agree that from the seventh hour and onwards (daylight was divided into twelve hours, so the seventh hour is roughly […]

Pesahim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 5

Pesahim, Chapter One, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah continues to deal with the time when chametz is burned.    Mishnah Five 1)      Rabbi Judah further said: two unfit loaves of thanksgiving used to lie on the roof of the [Temple] portico:  as long as they lay [there] all the people would eat [chametz]. a)      […]

Pesahim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 6

Pesahim, Chapter One, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah deals with burning impure sacrificial meat of a low degree of impurity with impure sacrificial meat of a higher degree of impurity, a potential problem since it causes the less impure meat to become more impure.  The mishnah is brought here because of the mishnah which […]

Pesahim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 7

Pesahim, Chapter One, Mishnah Seven   Introduction In today’s mishnah Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yose argue over whether we may draw an analogy between the cases in the previous mishnah (burning together meats and oils of differing degrees of impurity) and the case of burning together clean and unclean terumah chametz on the eve of […]

Pesahim, Chapter 10, Mishnah 1

Pesahim, Chapter Ten, Mishnah One   Introduction The tenth chapter of Pesahim is perhaps the best known chapter in the entire Mishnah, for it describes the Pesah seder, one of the rituals most-observed by Jews in the modern world.  The laws and practices of this chapter form the basis of the seder and Haggadah to […]

Pesahim, Chapter 10, Mishnah 2

Pesahim, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah contains a debate between Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel over the order of the blessings recited over the first cup of wine.  Today we call these two blessings together “Kiddush”, which comes from the word “sanctify.”   Mishnah Two They mixed him the first cup:  Bet […]

Pesahim, Chapter 10, Mishnah 3

Pesahim, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Three   Introduction In this mishnah they begin to bring in front of him the food.  We should note that the foods are brought in front of him before the discussion and recitations which we shall encounter in the following mishnayot.  It is not entirely clear from the Mishnah itself whether […]

Pesahim, Chapter 10, Mishnah 4

Pesahim, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah contains the heart of the commandment to tell the story of the Exodus, including the so-called “four questions” or “Mah Nishtanah” and the midrash.  These are all still part of the seder ritual to this day. In this mishnah I have deviated from my normal practice […]

Pesahim, Chapter 10, Mishnah 5

Pesahim, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah has become a liturgical text, that is a text that is recited on a ritual occasion, namely the seder. It has been a part of the Haggadah since the Haggadah was composed.  As is common, as the liturgy expanded the text of the mishnah grew as […]

Pesahim, Chapter 10, Mishnah 6

Pesahim, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah is concerned with the recitation of the Hallel at the seder.  The Hallel is a group of Psalms from Psalm 113 through Psalm 118.  Today it is recited on the three festivals (Pesah, Sukkot and Shavuot), on Hannukah and on Rosh Hodesh (the new month).  All […]

Pesahim, Chapter 10, Mishnah 7

Pesahim, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah discusses the third and fourth cups of wine and the conclusion of the meal.   Mishnah Seven 1)      They poured him a third cup, blesses over his meal. 2)      A fourth [cup], he concludes the Hallel, and recites over it the blessing of song.    3)      […]

Pesahim, Chapter 10, Mishnah 8

Pesahim, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Eight   Introduction This mishnah brings the description of the seder to its conclusion.   Mishnah Eight 1)      One may not conclude the pesah meal with an afikoman.  2)      If some of them fell asleep, they may eat [the pesah when they wake up]. a)      If all of them fell asleep […]

Pesahim, Chapter 10, Mishnah 9

Pesahim, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Nine   Introduction The final mishnah of Pesahim deals with the status of the pesah after it has been left pass the time in which it may be eaten.  It also deals with the blessings recited over the pesah and the hagigah, the sacrifice that accompanies the pesah.    Mishnah Nine […]

Pesahim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 1

Pesahim, Chapter Two, Mishnah One   Introduction The second chapter continues chronologically where the first chapter left off—with rules concerning the removal of chametz.    Mishnah One 1)      Any hour in which one is permitted to eat [chametz], one may feed it to cattle, beasts and birds, and one may sell it to a gentile, […]

Pesahim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 2

Pesahim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah and tomorrow’s mishnah complete the chronologically ordered discussion about removing chametz.  (In chapter three the mishnah will discuss what exactly chametz is, and which chametz must be removed.)  While we were previously discussing the day before Pesah, these mishnayot skip ahead until after Pesah and rule […]

Pesahim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 3

Pesahim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Three   Introduction The first section of this mishnah discusses chametz which was used to secure a loan.  The second half deals with chametz upon which a large pile of stones has fallen.   Mishnah Three 1)      If a gentile lent [money] to an Israelite on his chametz, after Pesah it […]

Pesahim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 4

Pesahim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah deals with a non-priest who eats on Pesah terumah which is also chametz.  The case is either one in which before Pesah he separated terumah from his chametz or that he separated terumah from his matzah on Pesah and it became chametz.   Mishnah Four 1)      […]

Pesahim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 5

Pesahim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah lists those types of grains with which one can make the obligatory matzah on Pesah.  There is a duel function to this list—anything which can be used to make matzah can also become chametz.  Hence, this mishnah also indirectly teaches us which types of grain must […]

Pesahim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 6

Pesahim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Six   Introduction Since we learned in yesterday’s mishnah what grains one can use for matzah, today we learn what vegetables one can use for bitter herbs (marror). As an aside, I will add a rare practical halakhic issue.  Horseradish is not one of the vegetables on this list.  Horseradish is […]

Pesahim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 7

Pesahim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah returns to discussing the prohibition of chametz on Pesah.   Mishnah Seven 1)      One may not soak bran for fowls, but one may scald it. 2)      A woman may not soak bran to take with her to the bathhouse, but she may rub dry [bran] on […]

Pesahim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 8

Pesahim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Eight   Introduction This mishnah contains three more prohibited mixtures, two of which deal with chametz.   Mishnah Eight 1)      One may not put flour into haroset or into mustard; 2)      And if he did put [it], it must be eaten immediately; a)      But Rabbi Meir forbids [it]. 3)      One may […]

Pesahim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 1

Pesahim, Chapter Three, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah provides two lists:  one of food items which have small amounts of chametz mixed into them, and the other a list of non-food items which are made from dough.  It is forbidden to eat or to possess any of the things on this list.  However, one […]

Pesahim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 2

Pesahim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Two   Introduction Most of this mishnah deals with dough which is found in the crevices of a kneading trough and whether or not one must remove this dough on Pesach.  The final clause of the mishnah deals with dough that may or not have already begun to become chametz.   […]

Pesahim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 3

Pesahim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah discusses a halakhic quandary.  In order to understand it we need to first mention some background halakhot.  1)  When one prepares dough there is a mitzvah to separate some dough.  This separated dough is called hallah (Numbers 15:20).  If the dough is ritually clean it is […]

Pesahim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 4

Pesahim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah deals with how people should bake matzot on Pesah to avoid them becoming chametz.  The mishnah reflects a reality in which several women shared one oven for baking bread/matzah. We should note that today no one bakes matzah on Pesah.  All matzah is baked before Pesah […]

Pesahim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 5

Pesahim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah deals with how one can tell when a piece of dough has started to become chametz.    Mishnah Five 1)      Si’ur must be burnt, while he who eats it is exempt; sidduk must be burnt, while he who eats it is liable to kareth. 2)      What […]

Pesahim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 6

Pesahim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Six   Introduction Chametz is usually removed the day before Pesah, on the fourteenth of the month of Nisan.  This potentially becomes a problem when the day before Pesah is Shabbat because chametz is usually removed by being burnt and one cannot burn chametz on Shabbat.  In our mishnah the sages […]

Pesahim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 7

Pesahim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah discusses a person who starts on a journey and once he has already left he remembers that he forgot to remove his chametz.  The question is whether or not he must return home to remove the chametz or whether he may continue on his way.   […]

Pesahim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 8

Pesahim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Eight   Introduction This mishnah is a direct continuation of yesterday’s mishnah.    Mishnah Eight 1)      Similarly, he who went out of Jerusalem and remembered that he had holy meat with him: a)      If he has passed Scopus, he burns it where he is;  b)      but if not, he returns and […]

Pesahim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 1

Pesahim, Chapter Four, Mishnah One   Introduction Through the middle of mishnah five this chapter deals with customs which differ from place to place.  The basic attitude of the Mishnah is that local customs are acceptable, so long as they are not opposed to halakhah.  However, complications will arise when people from a place with […]

Pesahim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 2

Pesahim, Chapter Four, Mishnah Two   Introduction It is permissible to eat produce which was reaped during the sabbatical year so long as that type of produce is still growing in the fields.  Once it no longer grows in the fields it is forbidden to eat it.  Our mishnah deals with a person who goes […]

Pesahim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 3

Pesahim, Chapter Four, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah discusses the prohibition of a Jew from selling animals to non-Jews, lest the non-Jews use them for work on the Sabbath.  [This same mishnah appeared in Avodah Zarah 1:6. ]   Mishnah Three 1)      In a place where it is the custom to sell small domesticated […]

Pesahim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 4

Pesahim, Chapter Four, Mishnah Four   Introduction The first section of this mishnah deals with eating roasted meat on the eve of the first night of Pesah.  The second section deals with lighting a lamp on the eve of Yom Kippur.   Mishnah Four 1)      In a place where it is the custom to eat […]

Pesahim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 5

Pesahim, Chapter Four, Mishnah Five   Introduction This is the last mishnah to note different customs in different places.  It returns to the original topic of the chapter—doing work on semi-holidays.  The first section of the mishnah deals with the ninth of Av, a day of mourning commemorating the destruction of both Temples, while the […]

Pesahim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 6

Pesahim, Chapter Four, Mishnah Six   Introduction According to some commentators, this mishnah teaches that even in places where they did do work on the fourteenth of Nisan, the eve of Pesah, not all types of work were permitted.  According to this understanding, the mishnah restricts that which we previously thought was permitted.  Others understand […]

Pesahim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 7

Pesahim, Chapter Four, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah continues to deal with work that is permitted on the fourteenth of Nisan.   Mishnah Seven 1)      They may set up chicken-houses for fowls on the fourteenth; a)      and if a fowl ran away, one may return her to her place; b)      and if she died, […]

Pesahim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 8

Pesahim, Chapter Four, Mishnah Eight   Introduction This mishnah relates to six practices observed by the inhabitants of Jericho—three against which the sages protested and three against which they did not.  The reason that the mishnah is here in this chapter is that the first thing that these people did is connected to the issue […]

Pesahim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 9

Pesahim, Chapter Four, Mishnah Nine   Introduction This mishnah was not originally part of the Mishnah but rather a tannaitic source from the Talmud that was added later into the Mishnah.  It is missing from many mishnaic manuscripts. Nevertheless, since it appears in printed editions of the Mishnah, we will treat it as a mishnah. […]

Pesahim, Chapter 5, Mishnah 1

Pesahim, Chapter Five, Mishnah One   Introduction The following four chapters of mishnah deal with the Pesah sacrifice and discuss how it was offered in Jerusalem.  Our mishnah deals with the afternoon tamid (daily) offering.  Every day there were two tamid offerings, one in the morning and one in the afternoon (Numbers 28:3-4; Exodus 29:39).  […]

Pesahim, Chapter 5, Mishnah 10

Pesahim, Chapter Five, Mishnah Ten   Introduction This mishnah completes the description of the sacrificial aspects of the pesah sacrifice.  In chapter seven we will describe how it is roasted so that it could be eaten.   Mishnah Ten 1)      Then he tore it and took out its inner fats, placed them in a tray […]

Pesahim, Chapter 5, Mishnah 2

Pesahim, Chapter Five, Mishnah Two   Introduction There are four parts of the offering of an animal which need to be performed before an animal sacrifice can be eaten or burned on the altar:  slaughtering, catching the blood in a vessel, bring the blood to the altar and the sprinkling of the blood on the […]

Pesahim, Chapter 5, Mishnah 3

Pesahim, Chapter Five, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah continues to discuss ways in which improper intent can disqualify the pesah sacrifice.  The second half of the mishnah discusses a pesah which was offered at the wrong time of day.   Mishnah Three 1)      If he slaughtered it for those who cannot eat it or […]

Pesahim, Chapter 5, Mishnah 4

Pesahim, Chapter Five, Mishnah Four   Introduction Exodus 34:25 states, “You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with anything leavened.”  The sages interpret this verse to mean that the pesah cannot be sacrificed by a person who still has chametz in his possession.  Our mishnah discusses various aspects of this prohibition.   Mishnah […]

Pesahim, Chapter 5, Mishnah 5

Pesahim, Chapter Five, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah now begins to describe how the pesah was slaughtered in the Temple.  We should note that scholars frequently attempt to estimate how many people actually came to the Temple on Pesah and how many sacrifices were offered there.  Clearly, the numbers were impressive but even rough […]

Pesahim, Chapter 5, Mishnah 6

Pesahim, Chapter Five, Mishnah Six   Introduction The mishnah continues to describe the slaughtering process.   Mishnah Six 1)      The Israelite killed [the lamb]; 2)      And the priest caught [the blood].  3)      He would hand it to his colleague and his colleague [would hand it] to his colleague.  And he would receive the full [basin] […]

Pesahim, Chapter 5, Mishnah 7

Pesahim, Chapter Five, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah continues to describe the sacrifice of the Pesah, focusing especially on the singing of Hallel by the Levites.   Mishnah Seven 1)      The first division [then] went out and the second entered; the second went out and the third entered. As did the first, so did […]

Pesahim, Chapter 5, Mishnah 8

Pesahim, Chapter Five, Mishnah Eight   Introduction The first section of the mishnah teaches that the sacrificial ritual was performed on Shabbat the same way that it was performed during the week.  The second section discusses a practice done in order to ensure that blood from each of the lambs had been poured out onto […]

Pesahim, Chapter 5, Mishnah 9

Pesahim, Chapter Five, Mishnah Nine   Introduction After the blood of the sacrifice had been thrown onto the altar the next step was to flay the animal so that some of its inner fats could be taken out and offered on the altar.  Our mishnah describes how the animal was flayed.      Mishnah Nine […]

Pesahim, Chapter 6, Mishnah 1

Pesahim, Chapter Six, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah and the following one discuss which activities in connection with the pesah sacrifice may be performed on Shabbat.   We should note that this was a “hot” issue in the Second Temple period.  Different sects of Jews argued over the potential conflicts between strict Shabbat observance and […]

Pesahim, Chapter 6, Mishnah 2

Pesahim, Chapter Six, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah contains an extended debate between Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Joshua and Rabbi Akiva concerning what overrides the Shabbat. In order to understand the mishnah we should briefly remind ourselves of the laws of Shabbat.  There are two categories of prohibited labor mentioned here and critical for understanding […]

Pesahim, Chapter 6, Mishnah 3

Pesahim, Chapter Six, Mishnah Three   Introduction Exodus 12 clearly mandates that a lamb be brought for the pesah sacrifice.  Deuteronomy 16:2 states, “You shall slaughter the pesah sacrifice for the Lord your God, from the flock and the herd.” The herd refers to cattle (cows) and the flock refers to sheep.  The problem is […]

Pesahim, Chapter 6, Mishnah 4

Pesahim, Chapter Six, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah continues to teach the laws regarding the hagigah: what animals can be used for the hagigah and for how long it may be eaten.    Mishnah Four The hagigah was brought of flocks, herds, lambs or goats, of the males or the females. And it is […]

Pesahim, Chapter 6, Mishnah 5

Pesahim, Chapter Six, Mishnah Five   Introduction The topic of this mishnah is one who slaughters an animal that is supposed to be a sacrifice on Shabbat, the eve of Pesah, but sacrifices it for the wrong purpose.  Again we will see an extended argument between Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Joshua, two of the same […]

Pesahim, Chapter 6, Mishnah 6

Pesahim, Chapter Six, Mishnah Six   Introduction The final mishnah of this chapter continues to deal with cases in which a person is liable for slaughtering a pesah on Shabbat.    Mishnah Six 1)      If he slaughtered it for those who are not its eaters, or for those who were not registered for it, for […]

Pesahim, Chapter 7, Mishnah 1

Pesahim, Chapter Seven, Mishnah One   Introduction Exodus 12:9 states that the pesah must be roasted and that it may not be cooked with water.  Today’s mishnah and the following one deal with how the pesah is roasted such that there is no water or even hint thereof used in the process.    Mishnah One  […]

Pesahim, Chapter 7, Mishnah 10

Pesahim, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Ten   Introduction This mishnah teaches when the uneaten parts of the pesah are to be burned.    Mishnah Ten 1)      The bones, and the sinews, and the “remainder” [of the pesah] are burned on the sixteenth.   2)      If the sixteenth falls on Shabbat, they are burned on the seventeenth, […]

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