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 Yoma

Introduction to Yoma   Tractate “Yoma”, which is Aramaic for “The Day” (the tractate was also called “Kippurim” or “Yom HaKippurim”), teaches the laws of Yom Kippur.  However, seven of the eight chapters of the tractate deal with high priest’s worship in the Temple and only one of the chapters, the last one, deals with […]

Yoma, Chapter 1, Mishnah 1

Yoma, Chapter One, Mishnah One   Introduction Tractate Yoma begins with preparations made seven days before Yom Kippur falls.  This whole chapter deals with the week before Yom Kippur and how the sages instruct the High Priest so that he will be able to correctly perform the Yom Kippur service.   Mishnah One 1)      Seven […]

Yoma, Chapter 1, Mishnah 2

Yoma, Chapter One, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah teaches that during the seven days before Yom Kippur the high priest performs regularly duties which he may or may not perform during the rest of the year.   Mishnah Two 1)      All seven days he sprinkles the blood and burns the incense and cleans lamps […]

Yoma, Chapter 1, Mishnah 3

Yoma, Chapter One, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah describes how the elders educated the high priest during the week that preceded Yom Kippur.  We can easily note that the rabbis anticipate that the high priest will be completely uneducated in Torah and in the proper ways of the Temple service.  Indeed, they don’t think […]

Yoma, Chapter 1, Mishnah 4

Yoma, Chapter One, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah teaches that they didn’t let the High Priest drink or eat a lot on the eve of Yom Hakippurim because they thought that eating a big meal would make him sleepy and they didn’t want him to sleep that night.  The reason that he wasn’t allowed […]

Yoma, Chapter 1, Mishnah 5

Yoma, Chapter One, Mishnah Five   Introduction As I stated in my commentary to mishnah two and in my introduction to the tractate, many of the high priests were Sadducees, or perhaps more accurately, had Sadducean leanings.  The Sadducees debated with the Pharisees the proper form of the Yom Kippur ritual, as I explain below. […]

Yoma, Chapter 1, Mishnah 6

Yoma, Chapter One, Mishnah Six   Introduction The mishnah has now reached the night before Yom Kippur is to begin. As we learned in mishnah four, he had to stay up all night.  Our mishnah teaches that in order to keep himself awake he would study Torah all night (this never seems to work for […]

Yoma, Chapter 1, Mishnah 7

Yoma, Chapter One, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah shows how the young priests would keep the high priest awake all night on the eve before Yom Kippur.   Mishnah Seven 1)      If he wished to sleep, young priests would snap their middle finger before him and say: “Sir high priest, stand up and drive […]

Yoma, Chapter 1, Mishnah 8

Yoma, Chapter One, Mishnah Eight   Introduction This mishnah teaches that on Yom Kippur Temple work which was usually left for the beginning of the day was moved up and done in the night so that the day would be free to do other things.   Mishnah Eight 1)      Every day they would remove [the […]

Yoma, Chapter 2, Mishnah 1

Yoma, Chapter Two, Mishnah One   Introduction At the end of the first chapter we learned that the high priest removes the ashes from the altar on Yom Kippur.  On other days any priest could do this.  Our mishnah teaches how it was originally decided who would remove the ashes and tomorrow we will learn […]

Yoma, Chapter 2, Mishnah 2

Yoma, Chapter Two, Mishnah Two   Introduction In today’s mishnah we see that religious zeal can lead to violence.  There is no doubt in my mind that the mishnah is a warning against such a phenomenon, and it would seem that this is a lesson that could be more carefully heeded in our time as […]

Yoma, Chapter 2, Mishnah 3

Yoma, Chapter Two, Mishnah Three   Introduction In yesterday’s mishnah we learned that the priest who won the first count would remove the ashes from the large outer altar.  Today we learn about the second count.  There were thirteen different tasks assigned through this one count.  The first task would be performed by the person […]

Yoma, Chapter 2, Mishnah 4

Yoma, Chapter Two, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah teaches what the third and fourth counts were for.   Mishnah Four 1)      The third count: “New [priests] come up and submit to the count for the incense.” 2)      The fourth count: “New and old priests, who will take up the limbs from the ramp to […]

Yoma, Chapter 2, Mishnah 5

Yoma, Chapter Two, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah teaches how many priests were necessary to offer the two tamid offerings, the one offered in the morning and the one in the evening.   Mishnah Five 1)      The tamid was offered up by nine, ten, eleven or twelve [priests], neither by more, nor by less. […]

Yoma, Chapter 2, Mishnah 6

Yoma, Chapter Two, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah teaches how many priests were necessary to offer a ram, meaning a sheep that is two years old.  There are more needed than there are for the tamid which is a sheep in its first year, and therefore lighter.   Mishnah Six A ram was offered […]

Yoma, Chapter 2, Mishnah 7

Yoma, Chapter Two, Mishnah Seven   Introduction The final mishnah of this chapter teaches that sacrificial bulls, who were far larger than the rams and young sheep mentioned in the previous mishayot, and whose sacrifice required more flour and wine, were offered by twenty-four priests, instead of the nine for a sheep and eleven for […]

Yoma, Chapter 3, Mishnah 1

Yoma, Chapter Three, Mishnah One   Introduction Our mishnah begins to describe the services performed in the Temple on Yom Kippur. The first thing done was to establish that it was light enough outside to slaughter the morning tamid (daily offering).  This procedure was followed every day as well.    Mishnah One 1)      The officer […]

Yoma, Chapter 3, Mishnah 10

Yoma, Chapter Three, Mishnah Ten   Introduction Since at the end of yesterday’s mishnah we learned that Ben Gamala made the lots out of gold and he was praised for it, today’s mishnah teaches other ornaments that were donated by individuals and for which they were praised.  You can think of this mishnah as an […]

Yoma, Chapter 3, Mishnah 11

Yoma, Chapter Three, Mishnah Eleven   Introduction Alas, along with those who were remembered for praise, there were those who were remembered for shame as well.  Interestingly, all of those who were remembered for shame were denounced for the same transgression—they refused to teach their secrets to outsiders, thereby preserving for themselves monopolies over how […]

Yoma, Chapter 3, Mishnah 2

Yoma, Chapter Three, Mishnah Two   Introduction The first half of this mishnah is a continuation of yesterday’s mishnah where we learned how cautious the priests were to ensure that dawn had truly broken before they slaughtered the morning tamid sacrifice. The second half of the mishnah proceeds with the descriptions of the Temple service. […]

Yoma, Chapter 3, Mishnah 3

Yoma, Chapter Three, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah teaches a general principle with regard to immersing before service in the Temple.    Mishnah Three 1)      A man may not enter the Temple courtyard or to worship even if he was clean until he immerses himself. 2)      Five immersions and ten sanctifications did the high […]

Yoma, Chapter 3, Mishnah 4

Yoma, Chapter Three, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah proceeds to outline the precise order of the day’s worship.  We need to remember that on this day the high priest must basically perform all of the work himself.  Hence we will feel throughout this description a sense of his being hurried; after all there is […]

Yoma, Chapter 3, Mishnah 5

Yoma, Chapter Three, Mishnah Five   Introduction The mishnah now makes a note about the precise timing of the morning and dusk incense.   Mishnah Five 1)      The morning incense was offered up between the blood and the limbs, 2)      The dusk [incense was offered] between the limbs and the drink-offerings. 3)      If the high […]

Yoma, Chapter 3, Mishnah 6

Yoma, Chapter Three, Mishnah Six   Introduction The tamid offering is now complete and the high priest continues on with the day’s worship.   Mishnah Six 1)      They brought him to the Bet Haparvah, which was on holy ground.    a)      They spread a sheet of linen between him and the people. 2)      He sanctified […]

Yoma, Chapter 3, Mishnah 7

Yoma, Chapter Three, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah discusses just how expensive were the special linen garments which the high priest wore on Yom Kippur.  Thinking of the high priest wearing very expensive white clothing on Yom Kippur brings to mind the white dress worn by a bride on her wedding day.    Mishnah […]

Yoma, Chapter 3, Mishnah 8

Yoma, Chapter Three Mishnah Eight   Introduction The priest is now wearing his special Yom Kippur linen and is prepared to offer the first of the Yom Kippur sacrifices, the bull which atones for the high priest and his house. This is mentioned in Leviticus 16:6, and then again in verse 11.   Mishnah Eight […]

Yoma, Chapter 3, Mishnah 9

Yoma, Chapter Three, Mishnah Nine   Introduction The high priest now proceeds to the two goats, one which will eventually be sacrificed and one which will be sent to Azazel.   Mishnah Nine 1)      He then went to the east of the Temple court, to the north of the altar, the deputy high priest at […]

Yoma, Chapter 4, Mishnah 1

Yoma, Chapter Four, Mishnah One   Introduction After a brief digression, the mishnah returns to discuss the main subject at hand—the Yom Kippur procedure.  We left off in mishnah nine with the high priest standing next to the urn in which were placed the two lots for the two goats.   Mishnah One 1)      He […]

Yoma, Chapter 4, Mishnah 2

Yoma, Chapter Four, Mishnah Two   Introduction After having drawn the lots to determine which goat would be slaughtered and which sent away, the day’s ceremonies continue.    Mishnah Two 1)      He bound a thread of crimson wool on the head of the goat which was to be sent away,   and he placed it at […]

Yoma, Chapter 4, Mishnah 3

Yoma, Chapter Four, Mishnah Three   Introduction In this mishnah the bull is slaughtered and the high priest begins to make preparations for the incense offering.   Mishnah Three 1)      He killed it [the bull] and received its blood in a bowl, and he gave it to the one who stirs it up on the […]

Yoma, Chapter 4, Mishnah 4

Yoma, Chapter  Four, Mishnah Four   Introduction Our mishnah teaches seven differences between how the incense was offered on Yom Kippur and how it was offered every other day.  Many of these changes were done to make the work on Yom Kippur easier for the high priest.  The others were done to highlight the importance […]

Yoma, Chapter 4, Mishnah 5

Yoma, Chapter Four, Mishnah Five   Introduction   The mishnah continues to outline the differences between certain procedures during the rest of the year and on Yom Kippur.  The two in today’s mishnah are both related to special practices done to enhance the honor of the high priest.    Mishnah Five 1)      On other days the […]

Yoma, Chapter 4, Mishnah 6

Yoma, Chapter Four, Mishnah Six   Introduction The final mishnah of the chapter continues to deal with differences between Yom Kippur and other days.   Mishnah Six On other days there were four wood-piles there, but on this day five, the words of Rabbi Meir. Rabbi Yose says: on other days three, but on this […]

Yoma, Chapter 5, Mishnah 1

Yoma, Chapter Five, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah picks up where we left off in 4:3 above.  The last thing he did there was take the cinders off the altar and rest the coal-pan on the highest terrace leading up from the courtyard to the Hekhal.    Mishnah One 1)      They brought out to […]

Yoma, Chapter 5, Mishnah 2

Yoma, Chapter Five, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah teaches where the high priest would put the coal-pan in the Second Temple period when there was no longer an Ark. With regard to the Ark, we have already learned in Shekalim 6:1-2 that there was a tradition that it was buried somewhere underneath the Temple […]

Yoma, Chapter 5, Mishnah 3

Yoma, Chapter Five, Mishnah Three   Introduction In this mishnah the high priest takes the blood from the slaughtered bull and sprinkles the blood within the Holy of Holies.    Mishnah Three 1)      He would take the blood from the one who was stirring it, and enter [again] into the place where he had entered, […]

Yoma, Chapter 5, Mishnah 4

Yoma, Chapter Five, Mishnah Four   Introduction In this mishnah the high priest slaughters the goat and then sprinkle the blood of the goat inside the Holy of Holies and the blood of both the goat and the bull on the curtain outside the Holy of Holies.   Mishnah Four 1)      They would bring him […]

Yoma, Chapter 5, Mishnah 5

Yoma, Chapter Five, Mishnah Five   Introduction After having sprinkled the blood of the goat and bull inside the Holy of Holies and onto the curtain separating the Hekhal from the Holy of Holies, the priest now turns his attention to the golden altar that is inside the Hekhal.   Mishnah Five 1)      “And he […]

Yoma, Chapter 5, Mishnah 6

Yoma, Chapter Five, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah continues to discuss the sprinkling of the blood on the altar and then teaches what is to be done with the leftover blood.   Mishnah Six 1)      Then he sprinkled the top of the altar seven times. 2)      And he would pour out the remainder of […]

Yoma, Chapter 5, Mishnah 7

Yoma, Chapter Five, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah basically completes the sacrificial aspects of the Yom Kippur service.  It teaches that the order in which the acts must be performed is precise—one act cannot be moved up in front of another.  The mishnah then discusses the consequences if one act is moved up before […]

Yoma, Chapter 6, Mishnah 1

Yoma, Chapter Six, Mishnah One   Introduction Most of this chapter deals with the goat whose lot was cast “For Azazel” that will be sent out into the wilderness.  However, before the mishnah begins to deal specifically with that goat, it introduces the topic with some general laws concerning the acquisition of the two goats […]

Yoma, Chapter 6, Mishnah 2

Yoma, Chapter Six, Mishnah Two   Introduction In this mishnah the high priest comes to the scapegoat and makes another confession.  This confession, which is referred to in Leviticus 16:21, is for the sins of the entire people of Israel.   Mishnah Two 1)      He then came to the scapegoat and laid his two hands […]

Yoma, Chapter 6, Mishnah 3

Yoma, Chapter Six, Mishnah Three   Introduction The mishnah now begins to describe what was done with the goat “For Azazel.”   Mishnah Three They handed it over to him who was to lead it away. All were fit to lead it away, but the priests made a fixed rule not to permit an Israelite […]

Yoma, Chapter 6, Mishnah 4

Yoma, Chapter Six, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah describes the goat leaving the Temple.   Mishnah Four 1)      And they made a ramp for him because of the Babylonians, who would pull its hair, shouting to it: “Take it and go out, take it and go out.” 2)      Some of the important people of […]

Yoma, Chapter 6, Mishnah 5

Yoma, Chapter Six, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah continues to describe the process of people accompanying the goat on its way to the wilderness.   Mishnah Five 1)      At every booth they would say to him: here is food and here is water. 2)      And they went with him from booth to booth, except […]

Yoma, Chapter 6, Mishnah 6

Yoma, Chapter Six, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah concludes the epic saga of the goat sent out to the wilderness. Alas, it will not end well for the goat (so gentle souls imagining the goat being set free to find its family—be warned).   However, hopefully the goat’s demise will not be in vain and […]

Yoma, Chapter 6, Mishnah 7

Yoma, Chapter Six, Mishnah Seven   Introduction In this mishnah the high priest returns to the bull and the goat that have already been slaughtered and offers up their sacrificial parts on the altar.    Mishnah Seven 1)      He [the high priest] came to the bull and the goat that were to be burnt. a)      […]

Yoma, Chapter 6, Mishnah 8

Yoma, Chapter Six, Mishnah Eight   Introduction This mishnah takes us back to the Temple, where the high priest was waiting to hear if the goat had reached the wilderness and Israel’s sins had been forgiven.  The mishnah   Mishnah Eight They said to the high priest: the goat has reached the wilderness. And how […]

Yoma, Chapter 7, Mishnah 1

Yoma, Chapter Seven, Mishnah One   Introduction After having sent the goat away, the Yom Kippur rituals continue with the priest reading various verses from the Torah concerning Yom Kippur and reciting some blessings.       Mishnah One 1)      The high priest [then] came to read. 2)      If he wished to read in linen garments, […]

Yoma, Chapter 7, Mishnah 2

Yoma, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah notes that those who were in the Temple courtyard watching the priest reading the verses was too far from the bull and goat which were being burned outside of Jerusalem.   Mishnah Two He who sees the high priest when he reads does not see the […]

Yoma, Chapter 7, Mishnah 3

Yoma, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Three   Introduction Our mishnah deals with the sacrifices that have not yet been offered.  So far only three sacrifices have been offered:  the morning tamid, one bull and one goat.  There are still many sacrifices yet left to perform.    Mishnah Three 1)      If he read in the garments of […]

Yoma, Chapter 7, Mishnah 4

Yoma, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Four   Introduction This is the final mishnah that discusses the Yom Kippur ritual.  As we have already noted many times, every time he takes off his clothes he must wash his hands and and immerse in the mikveh.  When he puts on new clothes he has to wash his hands […]

Yoma, Chapter 7, Mishnah 5

Yoma, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah completes the first seven chapters of Yoma, all of which dealt with the Temple Yom Kippur ritual.   Mishnah Five 1)      The high priest performs the service in eight pieces of clothing, and the common priest in four: in tunic, breeches, a headdress, and a sash. […]

Yoma, Chapter 8, Mishnah 1

Yoma, Chapter Eight, Mishnah One   Introduction The eighth chapter of Yoma is the chapter that is still relevant in halakhah today.  It discusses how we understand the biblical command to “afflict oneself” (see Leviticus 16:29-31; 23:26-32) as well as the rules and concepts regarding atonement. Our mishnah begins this discussion by teaching the five/six […]

Yoma, Chapter 8, Mishnah 2

Yoma, Chapter Eight, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah teaches the minimum amount of food or liquid that one needs to eat or drink in order to be liable on Yom Kippur.  The mishnah is not saying that one is allowed to eat or drink a lesser amount, just that one who does eat a […]

Yoma, Chapter 8, Mishnah 3

Yoma, Chapter Eight, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah deals with how many sin-offerings one would be liable for if he ate or drank on Yom Kippur.  The sin-offering is the sacrifice brought for an inadvertent sin.  We have seen a similar type of mishnah in the beginning of the seventh chapter of Shabbat.  As […]

Yoma, Chapter 8, Mishnah 4

Yoma, Chapter Eight, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah teaches the rules regarding children fasting on Yom Kippur.   Mishnah Four 1)      [With regard to] children: they do not “afflict” them at all on Yom HaKippurim. 2)      But they train them a year or two before in order that they become accustomed to the commandments. […]

Yoma, Chapter 8, Mishnah 5

Yoma, Chapter Eight, Mishnah Five   Introduction As important as Yom Kippur may be, the value of life precedes the observance of all mitzvot.  Our mishnah teaches that if fasting might cause danger to a person’s life, that person must eat.  I should note that the mishnah is not addressed to the person looking to […]

Yoma, Chapter 8, Mishnah 6

Yoma, Chapter Eight, Mishnah Six   Introduction After teaching in the previous mishnah that serious health concerns override the observance of Yom Kippur, our mishnah expands this message to include other prohibitions as well—if a person’s health is in danger he may do things otherwise prohibited.   Mishnah Six 1)      If one is seized by […]

Yoma, Chapter 8, Mishnah 7

Yoma, Chapter Eight, Mishnah Seven   Introduction Mishnah seven continues to teach that Shabbat laws are suspended in order to even potentially save someone’s life.    Mishnah Seven 1)      If an avalanche fell on someone, and it is doubtful whether or not he is there, or whether he is alive or dead, or whether he […]

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