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.


Eight Theologically Provocative Talmud Sugyot – 1 – English Text Kiddushin 39b

Lesson 1 – What is the reward for observing the commandments? Rabbi Mordechai Silverstein The Conservative Yeshiva Kiddushin 39b MISHNAH. 1. HE WHO PERFORMS ONE PRECEPT IS WELL REWARDED, HIS DAYS ARE PROLONGED, AND HE INHERITS THE LAND, BUT HE WHO DOES NOT PERFORM ONE PRECEPT, GOOD IS NOT DONE TO HIM, HIS DAYS ARE NOT […]

Eight Theologically Provocative Talmud Sugyot – 1 – Questions And Discussion Kiddushin 39b

Lesson #1 – Guide Questions and Issues Rabbi Mordechai Silverstein The Conservative Yeshiva Section #1 Make note of the language of the mishnah. What is the mishnah promising? What do you think the mishnah means by ונוחל את הארץ – inherit the earth? Note that the mishnah mentions both “lengthening of days” and inheriting the […]

Introduction to Kiddushin

Introduction to Kiddushin               Jewish marriage consists of two stages—betrothal and marriage.  In Hebrew the first stage is termed “kiddushin” in mishnaic Hebre and “erusin” in biblical Hebrew.  The second stage is termed “nisuin.”  At betrothal the couple become fully and legally connected to one another. The most important consequence is that a get […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 1, Mishnah 1

Kiddushin, Chapter One, Mishnah One   Introduction The first mishnah of Kiddushin teaches how a woman is “acquired” in marriage and how she “acquires” herself, that is to say, how she becomes free to marry another man.  The mishnah also teaches how a “yevamah” is “acquired.”  A “yevamah” is a woman whose husband has died […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 1, Mishnah 10

Kiddushin, Chapter One, Mishnah Ten   Introduction The first section of this mishnah presents a very straightforward version of rewards and punishments.  Those who perform commandments are rewarded and those who do not are not rewarded.  Obviously, this mishnah is expressing an ideal which often does not match reality.  The problem of good people not […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 1, Mishnah 2

Kiddushin, Chapter One, Mishnah Two   Introduction There are different rules for Hebrew slaves than there are for “Canaanite” slaves—non-Jewish slaves.  One of the major differences is that all of the biblical verses which discuss a slave’s going free after a certain period of time are considered by the rabbis as referring to Hebrew slaves.  […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 1, Mishnah 3

Kiddushin, Chapter One, Mishnah Three   Introduction In today’s mishnah we learn how Canaanite slaves are acquired.  We should note that Canaanite slaves essentially become Jews by being owned by Jews. The males are usually to be circumcised, both male and female slaves must undergo ritual immersion and according to halakhah are obligated by most […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 1, Mishnah 4

Kiddushin, Chapter One, Mishnah Four   Introduction Today’s mishnah teaches how large animals such as cows and oxen, and small animals such as sheep and goats are acquired.  We should note that money does not acquire animals, nor does it acquire any other movable property.  According to mishnaic law a person must actually come into […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 1, Mishnah 5

Kiddushin, Chapter One, Mishnah Five   Introduction Today’s mishnah discusses the acquisition of land and movable property.  Land in the Mishnah is called property which “has security.”  This means that creditors can collect from this property for outstanding debts, even if the land is already owned by a third party (not the debtor).  “Movable property”—cannot […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 1, Mishnah 6

Kiddushin, Chapter One, Mishnah Six   Introduction The first half of the mishnah discusses acquiring things through barter.  The second half of the mishnah delves into the difference between the laws of acquisition for the Temple and those for an ordinary person.   Mishnah Six 1)      Whatever can be used as payment for another object, […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 1, Mishnah 7

Kiddushin, Chapter One, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah deals with the distinction between commandments obligatory for men and those obligatory for women.  The mishnah can be divided into two subjects:  1) mutual obligations between parents and children; 2) general commandments both negative and positive.  It is not entirely clear why this mishnah is in […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 1, Mishnah 8

Kiddushin, Chapter One, Mishnah Eight   Introduction This mishnah lists a number of ritual procedures performed upon bringing a sacrifice which are performed by men and not by women.  The exclusion of women from performing these rites is derived in the Talmud from the frequent use in the Torah of the language “Speak to the […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 1, Mishnah 9

Kiddushin, Chapter One, Mishnah Nine   Introduction This mishnah deals with commandments which are “dependent on the land.”  “Dependent on the land” refers to commandments which are agricultural in nature, such as the giving of the first fruits, tithes, terumah, the leaving of corners of fields etc.  The reason that this mishnah is here is […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 2, Mishnah 1

Kiddushin, Chapter Two, Mishnah One   Introduction The first half of today’s mishnah teaches that betrothal can be contracted through an agent.  This means that a man or a woman can appoint an agent to either betroth or be betrothed. The second half of the mishnah refers to the first mishnah of chapter one where […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 2, Mishnah 10

Kiddushin, Chapter Two, Mishnah Ten   Introduction In this mishnah we learn about a man who betroths a woman using certain things from which it is not prohibited to derive benefit.    Mishnah Ten If he betroths with terumot, tithes, priestly gifts, the water of purification or the ashes of purification—behold she is betrothed, even […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 2, Mishnah 2

Kiddushin, Chapter Two, Mishnah Two   Introduction A man may not deceptively betroth a woman; she must agree to her betrothal with full understanding of what he is giving her and under what conditions.  This mishnah deals with a man who somewhat deceptively attempts to betroth a woman.   Mishnah Two 1)      [If a man […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 2, Mishnah 3

Kiddushin, Chapter Two, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah continues to teach that deception in matters of betrothal renders the betrothal invalid.   Mishnah Three 1)      “[Be betrothed to me] on condition that I am a priest,” and he is found to be a Levite, or “a Levite” and he is found to be a […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 2, Mishnah 4

Kiddushin, Chapter Two, Mishnah Four   Introduction The mishnah now returns to discuss betrothal performed by a person’s agent.  Today’s mishnah is nearly identical to Gittin 6:3.   Mishnah Four 1)      If he says to his agent, “Go out and betroth to me so-and-so in such and such a place,” and he goes and betroths […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 2, Mishnah 5

Kiddushin, Chapter Two, Mishnah Five   Introduction Today’s mishnah discusses a man who betroths a woman on condition that she not have made any vows or have any defects.  The exact same mishnah can be found in Ketubot 7:7.   Mishnah Seven 1)      If a man betrothed a woman on condition that she was under […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 2, Mishnah 6

Kiddushin, Chapter Two, Mishnah Six   Introduction Our mishnah talks about a man who performs an invalid act of kiddushin and then later on sends presents to the woman whom he tried to betroth.  The question is, is the sending of presents equivalent to a renewed and now valid act of betrothal, or are the […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 2, Mishnah 7

Kiddushin, Chapter Two, Mishnah Seven   Introduction The main point of this mishnah is that a man who tries to simultaneously betroth two women whom cannot be simultaneously betrothed to him has betrothed neither woman.   Mishnah Seven 1)      If one betroths a woman and her daughter or a woman and her sister at one time,  […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 2, Mishnah 8

Kiddushin, Chapter Two, Mishnah Eight   Introduction This mishnah deals with attempts to betroth using various different types of sanctified property.  The real question is, does the property belong to the one using it such that his betrothal is effective?   Mishnah Eight 1)      If he [a priest] betroths [a woman] with his portion, whether […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 2, Mishnah 9

Kiddushin, Chapter Two, Mishnah Nine   Introduction This mishnah lists things from which it is prohibited to derive benefit.  Therefore, a man who tries to betroth a woman with one of these items has not betrothed her.  In my explanation I will explain what each of these items is.   Mishnah Nine 1)      If he […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 3, Mishnah 1

Kiddushin, Chapter Three, Mishnah One   Introduction The first section deals with a person who sends an agent out to betroth a woman on his behalf and then the agent betroths the woman to himself. The second section deals with a man who betroths a woman but sets the betrothal date to occur in thirty […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 3, Mishnah 10

Kiddushin, Chapter Three, Mishnah Ten   Introduction This mishnah and the next one deal with cases where a man says that he betrothed a certain woman and she contradicts him or where she claims that he betrothed her and he denies it. The general principle upon which this mishnah stands is that a person can […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 3, Mishnah 11

Kiddushin, Chapter Three, Mishnah Eleven   Introduction This is a direct continuation of yesterday’s mishnah.    Mishnah Eleven [If a man says to a woman], “I betrothed your daughter,” and she replies, “You betrothed me”; he is forbidden to the junior’s [the daughter’s] relatives, while the junior is permitted to his relatives; he is permitted […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 3, Mishnah 12

Kiddushin, Chapter Three, Mishnah Twelve   Introduction This mishnah begins discussing a subject which will be covered throughout the remainder of Kiddushin:  lineage.  We have already encountered throughout Seder Nashim many different genealogical statuses:  priests, Levites, Israelites, converts, mamzerim, natinim and more.  Our mishnah discusses how these lineages are transmitted from generation to generation, namely […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 3, Mishnah 13

Kiddushin, Chapter Three, Mishnah Thirteen   Introduction This mishnah continues to discuss personal status and lineage. The specific issue is whether or not a mamzer can purify his lineage.   Mishnah Thirteen Rabbi Tarfon says: mamzerim can be purified.   How is this so? If a mamzer marries a slave woman, her son is a […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 3, Mishnah 2

Kiddushin, Chapter Three, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah deals with a man who attempts to betroth a woman on condition that he either give her two hundred zuz, has two hundred zuz or owns two hundred zuz.    Mishnah Two 1)      If one says to a woman. “Behold, you are betrothed to me on […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 3, Mishnah 3

Kiddushin, Chapter Three, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah is quite simple to understand and is nearly the same as yesterday’s mishnah.  I will explain it therefore briefly.   Mishnah Three 1)      [If he says to her “Be betrothed to me] on condition that I own a bet kor of land”,   she is betrothed, providing […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 3, Mishnah 4

Kiddushin, Chapter Three, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah contains a general principle of Rabbi Meir:  any stipulation must be a double stipulation.  This means that if I make a stipulation I must state both the consequences of the condition being fulfilled and the consequences of its not being fulfilled.  For instance, if I want […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 3, Mishnah 5

Kiddushin, Chapter Three, Mishnah Five   Introduction The first section of this mishnah teaches that if a man was mistaken about some part of a woman’s identity before he betrothed her but she wasn’t the one who mislead him into making that mistake, the betrothal is still valid. The second two sections of the mishnah […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 3, Mishnah 6

Kiddushin, Chapter Three, Mishnah Six   Introduction The first section of the mishnah teaches that a man may stipulate that his betrothal to a woman is contingent upon his performing for her a certain favor. The second section of the mishnah discusses a man who makes his betrothal contingent upon his father’s approval.   Mishnah […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 3, Mishnah 7

Kiddushin, Chapter Three, Mishnah Seven   Introduction A father has a right to betroth his daughter before she reaches majority age, defined by halakhah as being 12 1/2.  Our mishnah deals with a father who says that he has betrothed his daughter but does not remember to whom.    Mishnah Seven 1)      [If a father […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 3, Mishnah 8

Kiddushin, Chapter Three, Mishnah Eight   Introduction The main topic discussed in this mishnah is when a man is believed with regard to statements he makes that impact his children’s personal status.  The general rule is that a man is believed to say that he has done something which he currently has the legal ability […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 3, Mishnah 9

Kiddushin, Chapter Three, Mishnah Nine   Introduction This mishnah continues to discuss a father who betroths one of his daughters but does not remember which one he betrothed.  Specifically, the mishnah refers to a situation where a man has two sets of daughters with two different wives and one set of daughters is older than […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 4, Mishnah 1

Kiddushin, Chapter Four, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah introduces a concept that was very important in marital law in the mishnaic/talmudic times and continued to be a prominent factor in the choice of spouse throughout Jewish history:  genealogical class.  In Hebrew this is called:  yichus. There are some genealogical “classes” who may not marry […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 4, Mishnah 10

Kiddushin, Chapter Four, Mishnah Ten   Introduction This mishnah and tomorrow’s mishnah deal with establishing the identity of the wife of a man and children who come from overseas.  In order to marry them to other Jews, he would need to establish their identities.    Mishnah Ten 1)      If a man went overseas together with […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 4, Mishnah 11

Kiddushin, Chapter Four, Mishnah Eleven   Introduction This mishnah is a continuation of yesterday’s mishnah.    Mishnah Eleven 1)      [If he says,] “I married a woman overseas, and behold, this is she, and these are her children”, he must bring proof about the woman, but not about the children.    2)      [If he says,] “She […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 4, Mishnah 12

Kiddushin, Chapter Four, Mishnah Twelve   Introduction This mishnah discusses the prohibition of “yihud”—a man may not be alone in a room with a woman.  Indeed, the mishnah assumes this prohibition is known and qualifies it in various ways.  The reason for this prohibtion seems to be that the rabbis made two assumptions:  1) men […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 4, Mishnah 13

Kiddushin, Chapter Four, Mishnah Thirteen   Introduction In yesterday’s mishnah we learned some of the laws which prohibit a man from being alone with a woman.  As we saw, the assumption was that men cannot control themselves around women and women will not be able to ward off the men.  Our mishnah and the next […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 4, Mishnah 14

Kiddushin, Chapter Four, Mishnah Fourteen   Introduction This mishnah is the final mishnah of tractate Kiddushin, and the final mishnah of Seder Nashim.  Large portions of the mishnah are not actually part of the Mishnah but were appended to it in later times, a not uncommon phenomenon in ends of tractates.  However, we will explain […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 4, Mishnah 2

Kiddushin, Chapter Four, Mishnah Two   Introduction In yesterday’s mishnah we learned of two genealogical categories which we previously have not encountered:  the foundling and the hushling.  Our mishnah defines these two categories.    Mishnah Two 1)      These are they: a hushling (shtuki): he who knows who his mother is but not his father; 2)      […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 4, Mishnah 3

Kiddushin, Chapter Four, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah continues to deal with the question of who can marry whom.    Mishnah Three 1)      All who are forbidden to enter into the assembly may intermarry with each other. 2)      Rabbi Judah forbids it. 3)      Rabbi Elazar says: those who are certain [may marry] those who […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 4, Mishnah 4

Kiddushin, Chapter Four, Mishnah Four   Introduction Before marrying, men were supposed to make “background checks” of their potential wives to uncover any potential “flaws” in their lineage.  Our mishnah teaches that there are eight mothers whom he must check; if these eight mothers are fit to marry priests, then the man may assume that […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 4, Mishnah 5

Kiddushin, Chapter Four, Mishnah Five   Introduction In yesterday’s mishnah we learned that men need to check their wives’ lineage before marriage.  The normal check was eight mothers.  Our mishnah teaches that if the woman father’s or one of the mother’s father’s served in a role where disqualified priests were not allowed, then they need […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 4, Mishnah 6

Kiddushin, Chapter Four, Mishnah Six   Introduction If a woman who is prohibited to a priest (a divorcee or a convert) has relations with a priest, she becomes a “halalah”, or a “profaned woman.”  Her male child from such a union is a “halal”.  A priest may not marry a “halalah”, as we learned in […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 4, Mishnah 7

Kiddushin, Chapter Four, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah continues to discuss which descendents of converts may marry priests.   Mishnah Seven 1)      Rabbi Eliezer ben Jacob says: if an Israelite marries a female convert, his daughter is fit for the priesthood, and if a male convert marries the daughter of an Israelite, his daughter […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 4, Mishnah 8

Kiddushin, Chapter Four, Mishnah Eight   Introduction In this mishnah we learn that parents are not believed if they say that their child is a mamzer.   Mishnah Eight 1)      If a man declares, “this son of mine is a mamzer,” he is not believed. 2)      And even if both [the husband and wife] say […]

Kiddushin, Chapter 4, Mishnah 9

Kiddushin, Chapter Four, Mishnah Nine   Introduction Our mishnah deals with a scenario whereby a father sent an agent to betroth his daughter to a certain man and then the father betrothed her to a different man.   Mishnah Nine 1)      If a man gives permission to his agent to give his daughter in betrothal, […]

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