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.


Nedarim, Chapter 6, Mishnah 5

Nedarim, Chapter Six, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah discusses one who vows abstinence from different milk products.    Mishnah Five 1)                     He who vows [abstinence] from milk is permitted to eat curds.   a)                                           But Rabbi Yose forbids it. 2)                     [He who vows abstinence] “from curds,” is permitted milk. 3)                     Abba Shaul says: he who […]

Nedarim, Chapter 6, Mishnah 6

Nedarim, Chapter Six, Mishnah Six   Introduction The first part of our mishnah discusses what is prohibited when one vows to abstain from meat.  The second part of the mishnah discusses the problem of a forbidden food (in this case forbidden through a vow) becoming mixed up with other permitted foods.    Mishnah Six 1)                     […]

Nedarim, Chapter 6, Mishnah 7

Nedarim, Chapter Six, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah continues to illustrate the principle learned in yesterday’s mishnah.  If one vows abstinence from a type of food, he may not eat anything which is called by that name.  However, he may eat derivatives of the food as long as they are called by a different […]

Nedarim, Chapter 6, Mishnah 8

Nedarim, Chapter Six, Mishnah Eight   Introduction Employing the example of dates and date honey, and winter grapes and winter grape vinegar, the mishnah discusses food derivatives that still partially retain the name of the foods from which they derive.  An example today might be apples and apple juice.  This differs from wine and oil […]

Nedarim, Chapter 6, Mishnah 9

Nedarim, Chapter Six, Mishnah Nine   Introduction This mishnah teaches that if a person vows to abstain from a type of food, he may still eat another type of food that bears the same name, if that other food also has an accompanying name and is not called by the name itself.  This rule will […]

Nedarim, Chapter 7, Mishnah 1

Nedarim, Chapter Seven, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah demonstrates one means by which the sages determined what a typical person’s intent might be when he prohibits to himself a specific food.   Mishnah One 1)                     He who vows abstinence from vegetables is permitted gourds. a)                                           Rabbi Akiba prohibits. b)                                          They said to him: And […]

Nedarim, Chapter 7, Mishnah 2

Nedarim, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Two   Introduction Yesterday’s mishnah defined “vegetables”.  Today’s mishnah defines two other terms:  “produce” (tevuah) and “grain” (dagan).  Note that the Hebrew words are not exactly equivalent to their English translations.   Mishnah Two 1)                     He who vows abstinence from grain is forbidden dry Egyptian beans, the words of Rabbi Meir. […]

Nedarim, Chapter 7, Mishnah 3

Nedarim, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Three   Introduction After having discussed at length vows of abstinence from food, the mishnah now discusses vows of abstinence from garments.    Mishnah Three 1)                     He who vows not to wear garments is permitted sack-cloth, curtain, and blanket wrapping. 2)                     If he says, “Konam, if wool comes upon me,” he […]

Nedarim, Chapter 7, Mishnah 4

Nedarim, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah discusses one who vows not to use a house or the upper story of a house.   Mishnah Four One who vows not to benefit from a house is permitted the upper story, the words of Rabbi Meir. But the Sages say: the upper story is […]

Nedarim, Chapter 7, Mishnah 5

Nedarim, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Five   Introduction Section one of this mishnah deals with the definition of a bed and a couch.  Section two deals with defining the borders of a city and a house, in cases where a person has vowed not to enter either.    Mishnah Five 1)                     One who vows abstinence from […]

Nedarim, Chapter 7, Mishnah 6

Nedarim, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Six   Introduction Our mishnah teaches that sometimes, when a person prohibits a certain fruit to himself, he may not have that which grows from the fruit or that which is exchanged for the fruit.  However, on other occasions only the actual fruit itself is prohibited.   Mishnah Six 1)                     [If […]

Nedarim, Chapter 7, Mishnah 7

Nedarim, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah continues to teach when things which were exchanged for or grown from things prohibited by vow remain prohibited.  The mishnah began to discuss this topic yesterday, and mishnah seven is largely the same as mishnah six.  The difference is that today’s mishnah deals with the handiwork […]

Nedarim, Chapter 7, Mishnah 8

Nedarim, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Eight   Introduction This mishnah continues to discuss a husband who forbids that which his wife produces.  In the case in our mishnah he sets a time limit for the prohibition.     Mishnah Eight 1)                     [If he says to his wife, “Konam that] what you will produce I will not eat […]

Nedarim, Chapter 7, Mishnah 9

Nedarim, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Nine   Introduction In this mishnah a husband make’s a vow that if his wife goes to her father’s house before a certain time, she shall not be able to benefit from him for a defined period of time.   Mishnah Nine 1)                     [If he says, “Konam] be any benefit you […]

Nedarim, Chapter 8, Mishnah 1

Nedarim, Chapter Eight, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah deals with a person who sets a limit for his vow of a day, a week, a month, a year or a week of years (seven years, a sabbatical cycle).  The mishnah teaches how long the vow is to last.  As we shall see, this depends […]

Nedarim, Chapter 8, Mishnah 2

Nedarim, Chapter Eight, Mishnah Two   Introduction Our mishnah discusses various ways one might phrase a vow when one’s intent is for the vow to be completed by or perhaps right after Pesach.  The question asked is, does the language which the one who vowed used mean that the prohibition should include the seven days […]

Nedarim, Chapter 8, Mishnah 3

Nedarim, Chapter Eight, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah provides a general rule for determining when time bound vows end.   Mishnah Three 1)                     [If he vows,] “Until the grain harvest, “Until the grape harvest”, or, “Until the olive harvest,” he is forbidden only until it arrives. 2)                     This is a general rule: Whatever has […]

Nedarim, Chapter 8, Mishnah 4

Nedarim, Chapter Eight, Mishnah Four   Introduction The first section of the mishnah deals with a person who vows not to eat something until summer, which here is defined as referring to the summer harvest of figs, begins or ends.  The second section teaches about someone who sets his vow to end at the beginning […]

Nedarim, Chapter 8, Mishnah 5

Nedarim, Chapter Eight, Mishnah Five   Introduction The first two sections of our mishnah deal with a person who makes a vow which is to be completed either when the rains begin or when they end.  It is important to remember that in Israel it only rains from the fall through the spring, roughly speaking […]

Nedarim, Chapter 8, Mishnah 6

Nedarim, Chapter Eight, Mishnah Six   Introduction At the end of yesterday’s mishnah we learned that “Until Pesach shall be” refers to Pesach eve, for that is when people are accustomed to drinking wine at the Seder.  Our mishnah lists other times of the year when people customarily eat certain things, namely meat on Yom […]

Nedarim, Chapter 8, Mishnah 7

Nedarim, Chapter Eight, Mishnah Seven   Introduction The final mishnah in chapter seven deals with cases where a person made a vow in order to spur someone or himself into doing something.  The mishnah interprets his vows according to what their intent probably was.   Mishnah Seven 1)                     If one says to his neighbor “Konam, […]

Nedarim, Chapter 9, Mishnah 1

Nedarim, Chapter Nine, Mishnah One   Introduction If a person makes a vow and then regrets his vow and wishes to be released from its prohibition, he may approach a Sage who has the power to release the vow.  The Sage asks him questions and shows how the vow may have been mistaken and thereby […]

Nedarim, Chapter 9, Mishnah 10

Nedarim, Chapter Nine, Mishnah Ten   Introduction This mishnah begins by describing another type of mistaken vow which is void.  The second part of the mishnah tells a story with a quite poignant line from Rabbi Yishmael. Before learning this mishnah we should note that in ancient Palestine light skin was considered more aesthetically pleasing […]

Nedarim, Chapter 9, Mishnah 2

Nedarim, Chapter Nine, Mishnah Two   Introduction The debate in this mishnah is over whether or not a vow can be released if the one who vowed regrets his vow because of something that happened since the vow was made.  The mishnah brings two examples of these types of situations.  As in yesterday’s mishnah the […]

Nedarim, Chapter 9, Mishnah 3

Nedarim, Chapter Nine, Mishnah Three   Introduction We learned above in mishnah 3:2 that if someone makes a vow based on a mistaken premise, he is not obligated to keep his vow, and he does not even need a sage to release the vow.  Our mishnah discusses situations in which a person makes a vow […]

Nedarim, Chapter 9, Mishnah 4

Nedarim, Chapter Nine, Mishnah Four   Introduction In this mishnah Rabbi Meir teaches that the Sages may tell a person that by making a vow prohibiting another person from using his things he has transgressed several commandments in the Torah, and if he expresses regret, they may use that regret as grounds for releasing the […]

Nedarim, Chapter 9, Mishnah 5

Nedarim, Chapter Nine, Mishnah Five   Introduction If a husband makes a vow that he shall not benefit from his wife he must divorce her and pay her ketubah. Our mishnah teaches that his vow may be released by reference to her ketubah.      Mishnah Five They release a vow by reference to a wife’s […]

Nedarim, Chapter 9, Mishnah 6

Nedarim, Chapter Nine, Mishnah Six   Introduction The specific topic of this mishnah is releasing a vow that a person made to fast on a day on which it is forbidden to fast.  However, the second part of the mishnah discusses a rule of larger consequence:  the overall validity of a vow when part of […]

Nedarim, Chapter 9, Mishnah 7

Nedarim, Chapter Nine, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah illustrates the principle taught by Rabbi Akiva at the end of yesterday’s mishnah, that a vow that has been partly released is entirely released.   Mishnah Seven How is this so? 1)                     If one says, “Konam that which I benefit from any of you,” if one […]

Nedarim, Chapter 9, Mishnah 8

Nedarim, Chapter Nine, Mishnah Eight   Introduction This mishnah continues to illustrate the principle that a vow that has been partially released is fully released.    Mishnah Eight 1)                     “Konam is the one that I taste, because wine is damaging to the stomach.” a)                                           They said to him, “But mature wine is beneficial to the […]

Nedarim, Chapter 9, Mishnah 9

Nedarim, Chapter Nine, Mishnah Nine   Introduction This mishnah returns to the central theme of the chapter, the release of vows.  In the first mishnah we learned that vows cannot be released by reference to God, but that they may be released by reference to parents.  Our mishnah discusses releasing the vow by reference to […]

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