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 Ketubot

Introduction to Ketubot   Perhaps the most famous of all Jewish documents is the ketubah.  In modern times people buy for themselves fancy decorated Ketubot, hang them up on their walls and are (hopefully) reminded of the positive Jewish aspects of their marriage.  Ketubot are today largely symbolic. In the time of the Mishnah, the […]

Ketubot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 1

Ketubot, Chapter One, Mishnah One   Introduction Ketubot opens by discussing on which days of the week a virgin marries, and on which days of the week a widow marries.  Note that these customs have not been observed for a very long time, probably already from the time of the Talmud.  Some of the talmudic […]

Ketubot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 10

Ketubot, Chapter One, Mishnah Ten   Introduction The previous two mishnayoth discussed the ability of a woman to marry into the priesthood.  The final mishnah of chapter one continues to discuss this subject.    Mishnah Ten 1)                     Rabbi Yose said: it happened that a young girl went down to draw water from a spring and […]

Ketubot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 2

Ketubot, Chapter One, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah begins to discuss the size of a woman’s ketubah.  To remind ourselves, the ketubah referred to in this mishnah is the minimum payment that a husband must pay his wife upon his death or divorce.  The function of the ketubah was twofold:  to provide financial protection […]

Ketubot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 3

Ketubot, Chapter One, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah discusses three types of women who don’t fit into the normal categories of virgin/non-virgin.  This is either because they have had sexual intercourse but didn’t lose their physical signs of virginity, or because they are not physically virgins, even though they never had intercourse.   Mishnah […]

Ketubot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 4

Ketubot, Chapter One, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah teaches the opposite cases of those taught in mishnah two.   Mishnah Four 1)                     A virgin, who was a widow, a divorcee, or a halutzah from marriage— her kethubah is a maneh, and there is no claim of non-virginity upon her. 2)                     A female proselyte, a […]

Ketubot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 5

Ketubot, Chapter One, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah discusses two exceptions to general marriage practice, one a custom in Judah and the second the custom of the priests.   Mishnah Five 1)                     He who eats with his father-in-law in Judea without the presence of witnesses cannot raise a claim of non-virginity against his wife […]

Ketubot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 6

Ketubot, Chapter One, Mishnah Six   Introduction Our mishnah begins a series of debates between Rabban Gamaliel, Rabbi Eliezer and Rabbi Joshua over the credibility of certain legal claims that a woman might make.  Our mishnah deals with virginity claims, the main topic of the chapter.    Mishnah Six If a man marries a woman […]

Ketubot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 7

Ketubot, Chapter One, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah contains another debate between a man and woman over the circumstances in which she lost her physical signs of virginity.    Mishnah Seven She says, “I was struck by a piece of wood”, And he says, “No, you, rather you have been trampled by a man”  […]

Ketubot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 8

Ketubot, Chapter One, Mishnah Eight   Introduction This mishnah discusses a woman who is suspected of having had relations with a man prohibited from marrying an Israelite and she claims that while she did have relations with her, he was not the type of man prohibited from marrying an Israelite.  Again there is debate over […]

Ketubot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 9

Ketubot, Chapter One, Mishnah Nine   Introduction In this mishnah a single woman is discovered pregnant, and it is unknown to others who the father is.  If the father was from those prohibited from marrying Israelites, then the child will follow his status.  Furthermore, the woman will also be prohibited from subsequently marrying a priest […]

Ketubot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 1

Ketubot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah One   Introduction Above in chapter four, mishnah ten, we learned that sons inherit their mothers Ketubot, above and beyond the inheritance they receive from their father.  This clause in the mishnah is called “ketubat benin dichrin” which is Aramaic for “the ketubah of male children”.  Our mishnah talks about situations […]

Ketubot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 2

Ketubot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Two   Introduction In the previous mishnah we began to learn some rules about the “ketubath benin dichrin” which is the clause in the ketubah which states that sons inherit their mother’s ketubah above and beyond their split in their father’s inheritance.  Our mishnah teaches that this is only so when […]

Ketubot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 3

Ketubot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah is a continuation of the previous mishnah, which dealt with Ketubot benin dichrin.  As we learned yesterday, Ketubot benin dichrin may not be collected if by there collection there would remain no money for the inheritance.   Mishnah Three 1)                     If there was property that would […]

Ketubot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 4

Ketubot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah discusses a man who married three women at the same time, and gave one of them a ketubah worth one maneh (100 zuz), the second a ketubah worth 200 and the third a ketubah worth 300.  When he dies, and does not leave enough to cover […]

Ketubot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 5

Ketubot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Five   Introduction In yesterday’s mishnah we learned of a case where a husband married several women at the same time, each having a ketubah of a different size.  In today’s mishnah we learn about the case of several women who were married to one man, but at different times.   […]

Ketubot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 6

Ketubot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah deals with cases where multiple parties are attempting to collect a debt.   Mishnah Six If a man who was married to two wives sold his field, and the first wife wrote to the buyer, “I have no claim whatsoever upon you”, the second wife may […]

Ketubot, Chapter 11, Mishnah 1

Ketubot, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah and the following mishnah deal with the rights of a widow to continue to live on her husband’s estate.    Mishnah One A widow is to be maintained out of the estate of [her husband’s] orphans [and], her handiwork belongs to them but it is not […]

Ketubot, Chapter 11, Mishnah 2

Ketubot, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Two   Introduction As we learned yesterday, a widow is entitled to receive maintenance from her husband’s estate.  Our mishnah discusses when a widow is allowed to sell her husband’s property in order to obtain money with which to support herself or in order to collect her ketubah.   Mishnah Two […]

Ketubot, Chapter 11, Mishnah 3

Ketubot, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Three   Introduction The first section of this mishnah is a continuation of Rabbi Shimon’s statement from yesterday’s mishnah.  Rabbi Shimon limited the ability of a woman to sell her husband’s estate without permission from a court.  The remainder of the mishnah discusses other situations where a woman might have to […]

Ketubot, Chapter 11, Mishnah 4

Ketubot, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah deals with a widow who when selling her field either overestimates or underestimates the value of the field.  The questions are, 1)  is she deemed to have received her ketubah; 2) is the sale valid.   Mishnah Four 1)                     If a widow whose ketubah was two […]

Ketubot, Chapter 11, Mishnah 5

Ketubot, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah deals with a case where a court erred in the evaluation of property while selling it to pay for the widow’s ketubah or for her maintenance.    Mishnah Five 1)                     If an assessment of the judges was one sixth less, or one sixth more [than the […]

Ketubot, Chapter 11, Mishnah 6

Ketubot, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Six   Introduction The last mishnah of our chapter deals with cases where a marriage was prohibited or was ended by the wife’s refusal of the marriage or by her being found to be an aylonit.  To remind ourselves, a girl who is married off by her brothers or mother when […]

Ketubot, Chapter 12, Mishnah 1

Ketubot, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah deals with a case where a widow who already had a daughter married a man and cut a deal with him that he provide food and clothing for this daughter for five years.   Mishnah One 1)                     If a man married a woman and she cut […]

Ketubot, Chapter 12, Mishnah 2

Ketubot, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah continues to discuss the girl whose mother’s husband or husbands promised to support her for five years.   Mishnah Two 1)                     If she married her husband must supply her with maintenance and they give her the cost of her maintenance. 2)                     If they die, their daughters […]

Ketubot, Chapter 12, Mishnah 3

Ketubot, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Three   Introduction A widow who has not claimed her ketubah is maintained from the estate of her husband.  Our mishnah deals with the question of whether or not the widow needs to be in her husband’s house to receive her maintenance from her husband’s inheritors.   Mishnah Three 1)                     A […]

Ketubot, Chapter 12, Mishnah 4

Ketubot, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Four   Introduction The last mishnah of this chapter deals with how long a widow has to collect her ketubah.  As we shall see, this depends on whether she lives in her father’s house or remains in her husband’s house.   Mishnah Four 1)                     As long as she lives in her […]

Ketubot, Chapter 13, Mishnah 1

Ketubot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah One   Introduction Chapter thirteen of Ketubot is organized differently from the other chapters of Ketubot, or for that matter, differently from most of the Mishnah.  Instead of being organized topically, it is organized mostly according to the sayings of two judges who lived in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period:  […]

Ketubot, Chapter 13, Mishnah 10

Ketubot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Ten   Introduction The final two mishnayoth of Ketubot deal mostly with a husband (and in the next mishnah) a wife’s ability to force the other spouse to change residences.  Our mishnah presents limitations on when a husband is allowed to force his wife to move.  Note that if both parties […]

Ketubot, Chapter 13, Mishnah 11

Ketubot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Eleven   Introduction The final mishnah of Ketubot deals with the important and moving problem of a couple, one of whom wants to make aliyah to Israel and one of whom does not.  The second subject with which this mishnah deals are cases in which a man married his wife in […]

Ketubot, Chapter 13, Mishnah 2

Ketubot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Two   Introduction The format of this mishnah is identical to yesterday’s mishnah.  The subject is whether or not a person who provided out of his own pocket for a woman whose husband went overseas without leaving her with maintenance can demand his money back from the husband.   Mishnah Two […]

Ketubot, Chapter 13, Mishnah 3

Ketubot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Three   Introduction The mishnah now begins to list Admon’s rulings.  You will note that instead of the “sons of the high priests” or R. Yohanan ben Zakkai, in these mishnayoth R. Gamaliel is the respondent. The first ruling deals with a situation in which a man dies and does not […]

Ketubot, Chapter 13, Mishnah 4

Ketubot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Four   Introduction In chapter six of Shevuot we learned that one who admits to part of a debt, must take an oath that he does not owe the rest.  Our mishnah deals with the case where Reuven claimed that Shimon owed him jars of oil and Shimon admitted only that […]

Ketubot, Chapter 13, Mishnah 5

Ketubot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah deals with the case of a father-in-law who at the time of betrothal promised to give his prospective son-in-law money and then reneged on his promise, before the marriage to his daughter.  From the mishnah it is not entirely clear why he reneges, or whether he […]

Ketubot, Chapter 13, Mishnah 6

Ketubot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Six   Introduction The fourth ruling stated by Admon is not connected at all to the issue of marriage, but rather has to deal with a person who signed on another person’s deed to a piece of land but later claims that the land is actually his own.  Note that in […]

Ketubot, Chapter 13, Mishnah 7

Ketubot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Seven   Introduction Another dispute between the Sages and Admon.   Mishnah Seven If a man went to a country beyond the sea and [in his absence] the path to his field was lost, Admon ruled: let him walk [to his field] by the shortest way.   But the Sages say: let […]

Ketubot, Chapter 13, Mishnah 8

Ketubot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Eight   Introduction In the scenario in this mishnah, Reuven takes out a document that says that Shimon owes him money. Shimon claims that he paid back the debt, but that he lost his receipt.  The mishnah then discusses a possible clue that Shimon might bring to prove that he already […]

Ketubot, Chapter 13, Mishnah 9

Ketubot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Nine   Introduction This is the last teaching of Admon.  It concerns two people who each have a document of debt from the other.   Mishnah Nine If two men produced debt documents against one another, Admon says; [the holder of the later document can say to the other,] “Had I […]

Ketubot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 1

Ketubot, Chapter Two, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah discusses a dispute between a husband and wife over whether the woman was a virgin or a widow when he married her.  Evidently, the written ketubah from their marriage is not available as evidence (perhaps it was never written).  Therefore this is again a question of […]

Ketubot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 10

Ketubot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Ten   Introduction The entire first two chapters of Ketubot have dealt with the issue of believability in the absence of evidence or two witnesses.  Our mishnah discusses in which situations a person is believed to testify about things he saw when he was a minor.  That is to say, although […]

Ketubot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 2

Ketubot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Two   Introduction At the end of the last chapter there was a series of debates in which Rabbi Joshua consistently did not believe the woman and Rabban Gamaliel and Rabbi Eliezer did.  Our mishnah contains a case where Rabbi Joshua does believe the claim made (this time by a man).  […]

Ketubot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 3

Ketubot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah contains another case illustrating the principle of “the mouth that forbade is the mouth that permits”.   Mishnah Three 1)                     If witnesses said, “This is our handwriting, but we were forced, [or] we were minors, [or] we were disqualified witnesses” they are believed.   2)                     But if […]

Ketubot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 4

Ketubot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Four   Introduction The previous mishnah discussed witnesses testifying about their signatures.  This mishnah continues to discuss the subject.   Mishnah Four [If] one witness says, “This is my handwriting and that is the handwriting of my fellow”, and the other [witness] says, “This is my handwriting and that is the […]

Ketubot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 5

Ketubot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah continues to discuss cases that illustrate the principle “the mouth that forbade was the mouth that permitted”.   Mishnah Five 1)                     If a woman says, “I was married and I am divorced”, she is believed, for the mouth that forbade is the mouth that permitted. a)                                 […]

Ketubot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 6

Ketubot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah continues to discuss the believability of women who were taken captive and claim that they were not raped.   Mishnah Six 1)                     Two women were taken captive: one says, “I was taken captive and I am pure”, and the other one says, “I was taken captive […]

Ketubot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 7

Ketubot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah illustrates the same principle employed in yesterday’s mishnah, but uses the example of men who claim to be priests.    Mishnah Seven 1)                     And likewise two men, [if] one says, “I am a priest”, and the other says, “I am a priest”, they are not believed.   […]

Ketubot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 8

Ketubot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Eight   Introduction In this mishnah three tannaim debate whether the testimony of a single witness is sufficient to confirm that an unknown person is a priest.   Mishnah Eight 1)                     Rabbi Judah says: one does not raise [a person] to the priesthood through the testimony of one witness. 2)                     Rabbi […]

Ketubot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 9

Ketubot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Nine   Introduction As we have mentioned before, if a married woman was raped she may return to her husband but only if he is an Israelite.  If he is a priest, she is forbidden from returning to her husband.  If she willingly had sexual relations with another man, the she […]

Ketubot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 1

Ketubot, Chapter Three, Mishnah One   Introduction Deuteronomy 22:28-29 states, “If a man comes upon a young girl, a virgin who is not engaged and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are discovered, the man who lay with her shall pay the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver and she shall be […]

Ketubot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 2

Ketubot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah teaches those cases opposite of those mentioned in yesterday’s mishnah.   Mishnah Two And in the following cases there is no fine: 1)                     If a man had intercourse with a female convert, a female captive or a slave-woman, who was redeemed, converted or freed after the […]

Ketubot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 3

Ketubot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Three   Introduction In the chapter that describes rape in Deuteronomy the Torah refers to a “young girl, a virgin who has not been betrothed”.  As we stated above, the rabbis understand that this verse means that the laws of paying the fine are limited to a “young girl” that is […]

Ketubot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 4

Ketubot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Four   Introduction The Torah discusses the “seducer” in Exodus 22:15-16:  “If a man seduces a virgin who has not been betrothed and lies with her, he must make her his wife by payment of a bride-price.  If her father refuses to give her to him, he must still weigh out […]

Ketubot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 5

Ketubot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Five   Introduction The final clause of the previous mishnah stated, “The rapist must “drink out of his pot”, meaning that the rapist must marry the woman whom he raped.  Our mishnah elaborates this law.  As an aside, we should note that even though he must marry her, the woman is […]

Ketubot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 6

Ketubot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah teaches that if the girl herself receives the fine, then she only receives it if she is raped.  If she consents to having relations with the man, he does not pay the fine.   Mishnah Six An orphan who was betrothed and then divorced—Rabbi Elazar says […]

Ketubot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 7

Ketubot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah deals with three types of payment that the seducer must pay:  embarrassment, blemish and the fine.  These were listed above in mishnah four.   Mishnah Seven 1)                     How is [the compensation that is paid for] embarrassment [reckoned]? a)                                 It all depends on the status of the […]

Ketubot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 8

Ketubot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Eight   Introduction According to Exodus 21:7 a father has the right to sell his daughter into slavery.  In interpreting this verse, the rabbis limited this right to when she is a minor, meaning before she both achieves puberty and reaches the age of 12 years [that is to say, one […]

Ketubot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 9

Ketubot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Nine   Introduction The concept taught in this mishnah is that one who admits of his own accord that he has committed a crime, without before having evidence brought against him, is exempt from paying the fine.  He must, however, pay any penalties that are compensatory and not considered fines.   […]

Ketubot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 1

Ketubot, Chapter Four, Mishnah One   Introduction Our mishnah deals with the issue of who receives the payments if a girl is raped or seduced.   Mishnah One 1)                     If a young girl was seduced [the compensation for] her embarrassment and blemish and the fine belong to her father; [and the compensation for] pain in […]

Ketubot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 10

Ketubot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Ten   Introduction This mishnah refers to a guarantee that a husband must give to his wife that her ketubah (in this case “ketubah” refers to money she brought into the marriage as a dowry) will be inherited by her sons.  This will be explained below.  Even if the husband does […]

Ketubot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 11

Ketubot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Eleven   Introduction This mishnah discusses the clause in the ketubah which guarantees a wife that her daughters will be maintained from her husband’s estate until they are married.   Mishnah Eleven If he did not write for her, “the female children that I will have from you will dwell in […]

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