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.


Gittin, Chapter 1, Mishnah 1

Gittin, Chapter One, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah teaches that messengers who deliver divorce documents from abroad must declare that the document was written and signed in their presence.  In the Talmud there are two explanations for this requirement.  The first is that if the husband comes to protest the get, saying that he […]

Gittin, Chapter 1, Mishnah 2

Gittin, Chapter One, Mishnah Two   Introduction In this mishnah the tannaim continue to debate the definitions of what is inside the land of Israel and what is considered “abroad”, such that a messenger who brings a get from there must state, “In my presence it was written and in my presence it was signed.”  […]

Gittin, Chapter 1, Mishnah 3

Gittin, Chapter One, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah continues to deal with which messengers must recite the formula “In my presence it was written and in my presence it was signed.”    Mishnah Three 1)      One who brings a get within the land of Israel need not declare, “In my presence it was written […]

Gittin, Chapter 1, Mishnah 4

Gittin, Chapter One, Mishnah Four   Introduction Today’s mishnah begins to compare the laws concerning bills of divorce with those concerning writs of emancipation for slaves.  These comparisons will continue until the end of the chapter. In Aramaic the word “get” means document and not necessarily just a divorce document.   The word can refer to […]

Gittin, Chapter 1, Mishnah 5

Gittin, Chapter One, Mishnah Five   Introduction The first section of this mishnah deals with documents whose signators are Samaritans.  The Samaritans were a Jewish splinter group whose history is somewhat blurry.  For more information on the Samaritans, see the introduction to Nedarim 3:10.  The second section of the mishnah deals with documents pertaining to […]

Gittin, Chapter 1, Mishnah 6

Gittin, Chapter One, Mishnah Six   Introduction The topic of this mishnah is a man who instructs a messenger to give a get to his wife, or a writ of emancipation to his slave, and then changes his mind or dies before the document is delivered.   Mishnah Six 1)      If a man says: “Give […]

Gittin, Chapter 2, Mishnah 1

Gittin, Chapter Two, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah returns to discussing  one who delivers a get from abroad and is obligated to say, “In my presence it was written and in my presence it was signed.”  Today’s mishnah deals with one who can only recite part of the formula.  I should note that the […]

Gittin, Chapter 2, Mishnah 2

Gittin, Chapter Two, Mishnah Two   Introduction It is necessary to write the date inside a get.  Our mishnah deals with a cases where the get was written on one day but signed on the night that follows, which is considered the following day according to the Jewish way of reckoning days and nights.  In […]

Gittin, Chapter 2, Mishnah 3

Gittin, Chapter Two, Mishnah Three   Introduction The first section of this mishnah discusses what can be used to write a get.  The second section deals with what gittin may be written on.   Mishnah Three 1)      They write [a get] with any material, with ink, with arsenic, with red chalk, with gum or with […]

Gittin, Chapter 2, Mishnah 4

Gittin, Chapter Two, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah continues to deal with what a get may be written on.   Mishnah Four 1)      They do not write [a get] on something still attached to the ground. 2)      If he wrote it on something still attached, and then detached and signed and given to the […]

Gittin, Chapter 2, Mishnah 5

Gittin, Chapter Two, Mishnah Five   Introduction The first section of this mishnah deals with who may write a get, and the second section with who may deliver a get.   Mishnah Five 1)      All are qualified to write a get, even a deaf-mute, an imbecile and a minor. a)      A woman may write her […]

Gittin, Chapter 2, Mishnah 6

Gittin, Chapter Two, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah is a continuation of the end of yesterday’s mishnah which discussed those categories of people who are disqualified from delivering a get.   Mishnah Six 1)      If the minor had received the get [in order to deliver it] and then became of age; or the deaf-mute [received […]

Gittin, Chapter 2, Mishnah 7

Gittin, Chapter Two, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah makes reference to Yevamot 15:4. That mishnah teaches that some women may not testify that another woman’s husband has died.  The fear is that these women will intentionally lie in order to trick the woman into remarrying while her husband is still alive, thereby causing an […]

Gittin, Chapter 3, Mishnah 1

Gittin, Chapter Three, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah teaches that a get must be written with the express intention to divorce the specific woman to whom it will eventually be given.  This rule is derived from a midrash on Deuteronomy 24:1, “And he writes for her”.  The words “for her” are interpreted to mean […]

Gittin, Chapter 3, Mishnah 2

Gittin, Chapter Three, Mishnah Two   Introduction There are two parts of any document, called in Hebrew the “tofes” and the “toref”.  The “tofes” is the general formula which is used in all of these types of documents.    The “toref” is the place where the names of the parties involved, the amount of money involved […]

Gittin, Chapter 3, Mishnah 3

Gittin, Chapter Three, Mishnah Three   Introduction The first half of this mishnah deals with a get that was temporarily lost on its way from the husband to the wife.  The second half deals with a sick or old husband who sent a get to his wife.  The question is whether or not the one […]

Gittin, Chapter 3, Mishnah 4

Gittin, Chapter Three, Mishnah Four   Introduction In yesterday’s mishnah we learned that one who delivers a get from a husband to his wife may assume that the husband is alive, even if the husband was old or sick. The mishnah followed with two other cases where we can act as if a certain person […]

Gittin, Chapter 3, Mishnah 5

Gittin, Chapter Three, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah deals with a person who becomes sick while delivering a get inside the land of Israel.  In tomorrow’s mishnah we shall deal with a person who becomes sick while bringing a get from abroad.    Mishnah Five 1)      If one bringing a get in the land […]

Gittin, Chapter 3, Mishnah 6

Gittin, Chapter Three, Mishnah Six   Introduction Today’s mishnah discusses a person who is delivering a get from abroad and cannot complete his delivery.   Mishnah Six 1)      If one bringing a get from abroad becomes sick, he may arrange a court of law and send him [on with the get,] declaring before them, “In […]

Gittin, Chapter 3, Mishnah 7

Gittin, Chapter Three, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah continues to deal with situations in which we assume that a person is still alive even though we cannot be sure that he is.    Mishnah Seven 1)      If a man lends money to a priest or a levite or a poor man on condition that […]

Gittin, Chapter 3, Mishnah 8

Gittin, Chapter Three, Mishnah Eight   Introduction The previous several mishnayoth taught that a person need not be concerned lest someone might have died.  Our mishnah teaches that a person need not be concerned lest some produce that he set aside has spoiled.    Mishnah Eight If a man sets aside produce in order to […]

Gittin, Chapter 4, Mishnah 1

Gittin, Chapter Four, Mishnah One   Introduction The fourth chapter of Gittin begins by discussing a husband who sends a get to his wife and then attempts to annul the get.  The general rule is that as long as the get has not yet gotten to her hand, he may annul the get.   Mishnah […]

Gittin, Chapter 4, Mishnah 2

Gittin, Chapter Four, Mishnah Two   Introduction The first section of our mishnah continues to discuss a husband who attempts to cancel his get after he has already sent it to his wife.  In this section, a “takkanah” of Rabban Gamaliel is mentioned.  “Takkanah” literally means “a fixing”, and it refers to a rabbinic decree […]

Gittin, Chapter 4, Mishnah 3

Gittin, Chapter Four, Mishnah Three   Introduction Today’s mishnah contains three different “takkanot”, decrees meant to remedy situations.  The first was made by Rabban Gamaliel the Elder, as were those in yesterday’s mishnah.  The second is anonymous and the third was made by Hillel.   Mishnah Three 1)      A widow is paid back [her kethubah] […]

Gittin, Chapter 4, Mishnah 4

Gittin, Chapter Four, Mishnah Four   Introduction These two mishnayoth discuss the emancipation of slaves.   Mishnah Four 1)      A [non-Jewish] slave [of a Jew] was taken captive and then ransomed [by a third party]:  i)        If [he is ransomed] to be a slave he goes back to slavery, ii)       If [he is ransomed] as […]

Gittin, Chapter 4, Mishnah 5

Gittin, Chapter Four, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah deals with a person who is half a slave and half free. This could happen if he was owned jointly by two masters and one of his masters freed him but not the other.    Mishnah Five 1)      One who is half a slave and half […]

Gittin, Chapter 4, Mishnah 6

Gittin, Chapter Four, Mishnah Six   Introduction There are four sections to our mishnah. The first deals with selling slaves to Gentiles or to an owner who lives outside the land of Israel.  The last three clauses deal with redeeming captives or sacred objects taken captive.  Unfortunately, I should note that as I write these […]

Gittin, Chapter 4, Mishnah 7

Gittin, Chapter Four, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah deals with a man who divorces his wife either because a rumor went out that she had committed adultery or because of a vow that she took.    Mishnah Seven 1)      If a man divorces his wife because of ill-repute, he cannot remarry her.    2)      […]

Gittin, Chapter 4, Mishnah 8

Gittin, Chapter Four, Mishnah Eight   Introduction This mishnah discusses a husband who divorces his wife because she turns out to be an “aylonit.”  An aylonit is a female who does not develop physical signs of sexual maturity, but is clearly a female.  By definition, she cannot have children.  If later on she has children […]

Gittin, Chapter 4, Mishnah 9

Gittin, Chapter Four, Mishnah Nine   Introduction The two sections of this mishnah deal with a person who sold either himself, his children or his fields to a Gentile.    Mishnah Nine 1)      If a man sells himself and his children to a Gentile, he is not to be redeemed but his children are to […]

Gittin, Chapter 5, Mishnah 1

Gittin, Chapter Five, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah teaches what type of land must be used in order to repay debts.  Its connection to “tikkun olam” is that the sages shaped some of these laws using “tikkun olam” type criteria.  That is to say they tried to take into social needs when making these […]

Gittin, Chapter 5, Mishnah 2

Gittin, Chapter Five, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah continues the topic which was begun in yesterday’s mishnah—which type of land is used to pay off debts.    Mishnah Two Payment cannot be recovered from mortgaged property where there free property is available, even if it is only of the lowest quality. Payment can be […]

Gittin, Chapter 5, Mishnah 3

Gittin, Chapter Five, Mishnah Three   Introduction The first section of this mishnah continues the topic of collecting debts from mortgaged properties.  The second section deals with returning lost objects.    Mishnah Three 1)      [Creditors] do not collect from mortgaged property for produce consumed, for the improvement of property, [and payment] for the maintenance of […]

Gittin, Chapter 5, Mishnah 4

Gittin, Chapter Five, Mishnah Four   Introduction The first two sections of this mishnah deal with certain responsibilities that guardians have in taking care of orphans.  The final section deals with damages that are done to food or sacrifices that cannot be seen.    Mishnah Four 1)      If orphans relied on a householder or if […]

Gittin, Chapter 5, Mishnah 5

Gittin, Chapter Five, Mishnah Five   Introduction This same exact mishnah appears in Eduyot 7:9.  It is brought here because it contains two “takkanot” (in sections three and four).   Mishnah Nine 1)                  Rabbi Nehunia ben Gudgada testified concerning a deaf-mute whose father had given her in marriage, that she could be sent away with […]

Gittin, Chapter 5, Mishnah 6

Gittin, Chapter Five, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah deals with “sicaricon”, which refers to the illegal, governmental expropriation of land from its rightful owners.  Specifically we are talking about land taken from Jews by Romans during the Second Temple and mishnaic periods.  The word “sicaricon” can refer to either the Roman who expropriated the […]

Gittin, Chapter 5, Mishnah 7

Gittin, Chapter Five, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah has to do with transactions done by two categories of people considered to legally lack “da’at”, intelligence—minors and deaf-mutes.  As we see from this mishnah, the rabbis seem well aware that well deaf-mutes had great difficulties communicating, they nevertheless could make their wishes known.    Mishnah […]

Gittin, Chapter 5, Mishnah 8

Gittin, Chapter Five, Mishnah Eight   Introduction This mishnah teaches rules that were made in order to keep peace between people.  These “ways of peace” are a subcategory of “tikkun olam”.  Whereas many of the other enactments made because of “tikkun olam” had a strong economic element, these rules are more concerned with interpersonal relations. […]

Gittin, Chapter 5, Mishnah 9

Gittin, Chapter Five, Mishnah Nine   Introduction The final mishnah of chapter five completes the examples of enactments made because “of the ways of peace.”  This mishnah demonstrates that in the Second Temple period Jews of different levels religiosity lived in the same communities and shared their things with one another.  While people who were […]

Gittin, Chapter 6, Mishnah 1

Gittin, Chapter Six, Mishnah One   Introduction After a two chapter digression, the Mishnah returns to the main topic of the tractate—divorce law.  Most of this chapter deals with men and women appointing agents to deliver or to receive the get.  As we shall see, a husband can tell the agent to bring the get […]

Gittin, Chapter 6, Mishnah 2

Gittin, Chapter Six, Mishnah Two   Introduction The first part of this mishnah continues to discuss a woman’s appointing an agent to receive her get.  The second part deals with the divorce of a betrothed girl who has not yet reached majority age.    Mishnah Two 1)      A woman who said [to an agent], “Receive […]

Gittin, Chapter 6, Mishnah 3

Gittin, Chapter Six, Mishnah Three   Introduction The first part of this mishnah deals with a minor girl’s legal ability to receive a get and to be divorced.  The second section deals with instructions that a wife or husband might give to an agent who is to bring or receive the get and the implications […]

Gittin, Chapter 6, Mishnah 4

Gittin, Chapter Six, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah deals with a woman married to a priest.  As long as she is married she may eat terumah.  However, once she is divorced she loses this right.  The mishnah deals with such a woman who appoints an agent to receive or bring her get.   Mishnah […]

Gittin, Chapter 6, Mishnah 5

Gittin, Chapter Six, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah deals with the specific words that a husband must state to a scribe or other agents in order for them to be empowered to write a get and give it to his wife.  As a general rule, the husband must use language that clearly implies that […]

Gittin, Chapter 6, Mishnah 6

Gittin, Chapter Six, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah continues to discuss cases in which a man instructed someone to write a get for his wife, but did not specify that he was also to give it to her.   Mishnah Six 1)      If a man had been thrown into a pit and cried out, […]

Gittin, Chapter 6, Mishnah 7

Gittin, Chapter Six, Mishnah Seven   Introduction The final mishnah of chapter six teaches that if the husband made his agents into a court (consisting of three), they may appoint a scribe to write the get.  However, if he did not constitute a court to take care of the get, then his agents must write […]

Gittin, Chapter 7, Mishnah 1

Gittin, Chapter Seven, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah is about a husband who is gripped by some sort of mental illness and hence may not be in his right mind when he decides to divorce his wife.  The second section is about a mute husband’s ability to divorce his wife.   Mishnah One 1)      […]

Gittin, Chapter 7, Mishnah 2

Gittin, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah returns to the subject taught in 6:7, that if a husband instructs people to write a get, they themselves must write the get.  They may have a scribe write the get only if he tells them that they may do so.      Mishnah Two They […]

Gittin, Chapter 7, Mishnah 3

Gittin, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Three   Introduction On several occasions we have noted that husbands may have divorced their wives right before their death (the husband’s, that is) in order to prevent their wives from having to undergo levirate marriage or halitzah (release from levirate marriage).  An obvious problem is that a person does not […]

Gittin, Chapter 7, Mishnah 4

Gittin, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Four   Introduction The previous mishnah discussed a person who conditioned his wife’s divorce upon his subsequently dying.  For this to work, he must state that the divorce would retroactively be effective from the time he gave her the get.  However, until he dies she is not divorced because the get […]

Gittin, Chapter 7, Mishnah 5

Gittin, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Five   Introduction The remainder of chapter seven discusses conditional divorces.  Today’s mishnah discusses someone who divorces his wife on the condition that she pay him a large sum of money.    Mishnah Five 1)      [If a husband says], “This is your get on condition that you give me two hundred […]

Gittin, Chapter 7, Mishnah 6

Gittin, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Six   Introduction In this mishnah, instead of conditioning the get upon her paying him money, the husband stipulates that to be divorced she must continue to look after his father.  We can easily see the social situation reflected in this stipulation.  The husband no longer wishes to remain married, but […]

Gittin, Chapter 7, Mishnah 7

Gittin, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Seven   Introduction In this mishnah a man conditions the validity of his get upon his arrival at a certain place or lack of return within thirty days.   The idea would be that if he arrived at his destination and did not return, he either was never intending on returning or […]

Gittin, Chapter 7, Mishnah 8

Gittin, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Eight   Introduction In today’s mishnah, a husband conditions his get upon is return home within twelve months.  The mishnah discusses the validity of the get should he die within that time.   Mishnah Eight 1)      [If a husband says,] “This is your get if I do not return within twelve […]

Gittin, Chapter 7, Mishnah 9

Gittin, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Nine   Introduction In the last mishnah of the chapter, the mishnah discusses a husband who conditioned his get upon his return within twelve months, but unlike yesterday’s mishnah, he told agents to write and deliver the get rather than giving it directly to his wife.   Mishnah Nine 1)      [If […]

Gittin, Chapter 8, Mishnah 1

Gittin, Chapter Eight, Mishnah One   Introduction The first three mishnayoth of this chapter discuss a husband who throws his get to his wife.  While a woman need not consent to being divorced, the husband must deliver the get into her possession and make her aware of the fact that she is being divorced.  These […]

Gittin, Chapter 8, Mishnah 10

Gittin, Chapter Eight, Mishnah Ten   Introduction At the end of yesterday’s mishnah we learned that a woman who was divorced with a “bald get” is not divorced.  Our mishnah explains what a “bald get” is and how it can be fixed.   Mishnah Ten A “bald” get—anyone can complete its signatures, the words of Ben Nannas. […]

Gittin, Chapter 8, Mishnah 2

Gittin, Chapter Eight, Mishnah Two   Introduction The first section of this mishnah deals with a husband who tries to sneak a get to his wife by telling her it is a different type of document or by giving it to her while she is asleep.  Perhaps he wishes to avoid a face to face […]

Gittin, Chapter 8, Mishnah 3

Gittin, Chapter Eight, Mishnah Three   Introduction The first section of the mishnah is a direct continuation of yesterday’s mishnah.  It teaches that the laws concerning a husband throwing a get to his wife are the same as the laws of a man throwing betrothal money or a betrothal document to a woman or a […]

Gittin, Chapter 8, Mishnah 4

Gittin, Chapter Eight, Mishnah Four   Introduction In this mishnah Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel disagree over whether or not a get is valid if after its being written but before its being given the husband was secluded with his wife.   Mishnah Four Bet Shammai says:  a man may divorce his wife with an […]

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