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.


Yevamot, Chapter 16, Mishnah 2

Yevamot, Chapter Sixteen, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah deals with a situation in which, while it may be assumed that a husband is dead, it cannot be assumed that his brother, the yavam is dead. We should remind ourselves of two rules learned in the previous chapter: 1) a woman is believed when she […]

Yevamot, Chapter 16, Mishnah 3

Yevamot, Chapter Sixteen, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah provides rules of what a witness needs to see in order to testify that someone is dead.   Mishnah Three 1)                     They are allowed to testify only about the face with the nose, even though there were also marks on the man’s body or clothing. 2)                     […]

Yevamot, Chapter 16, Mishnah 4

Yevamot, Chapter Sixteen, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah deals with deciding whether a person who has entered into a body of water and not reappeared can be assumed to have drowned.   Mishnah Four 1)                     If a man fell into water, whether it had [a visible] end or not, his wife is forbidden [to […]

Yevamot, Chapter 16, Mishnah 5

Yevamot, Chapter Sixteen, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah talks about the acceptability of hearsay regarding a person’s death.  Note that such testimony is generally not acceptable in a court of law.  The Sages were lenient in these cases in order to make it somewhat easier for a woman to remarry.   Mishnah Five 1)                     […]

Yevamot, Chapter 16, Mishnah 6

Yevamot, Chapter Sixteen, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah continues to discuss cases of hearsay or other less than perfect testimony about a person’s death.   Mishnah Six 1)                     They may testify [even if the body was seen] in candle light or in moonlight. 2)                     And a woman may be given permission to marry again […]

Yevamot, Chapter 16, Mishnah 7

Yevamot, Chapter Sixteen, Mishnah Seven   Introduction The final mishnah of Yevamot relates some debates between rabbis over the testimony concerning a man’s death.  In our mishnah these debates are set within historical frameworks which relate interesting information as to how the Sages made decisions and about the historical period in which they lived.   […]

Yevamot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 1

Yevamot, Chapter Two, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah explains how “the wife of his brother who died before he was born” exempts her rival wife from yibbum.  This category of women was mentioned in the first mishnah of chapter one (there it was the 14th category).   Mishnah One What is the case of […]

Yevamot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 10

Yevamot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Ten   Introduction Mishnah ten is a continuation of mishnah nine.   Mishnah Ten I)                      A sage who has pronounced a woman forbidden to her husband because of a vow   must not marry her himself.    A)                                If, however, a woman made a declaration of refusal or performed halitzah in his […]

Yevamot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 2

Yevamot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah continues to deal with the same topic as the previous mishnah, the exemption of “the wife of his brother who died before he was born” and her rival wife.   Mishnah Two I)                      If there were two brothers and one of them died, and the second […]

Yevamot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 3

Yevamot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah gives some general principles for when a woman is liable for yibbum (or halitzah) and when she is forbidden/exempt.   Mishnah Three A general rule has been said about the yavamah:   I)                      Wherever she is prohibited as a forbidden relation, she may neither perform halitzah nor […]

Yevamot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 4

Yevamot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Four   Introduction Mishnah four defines the two categories mentioned in section two of mishnah three.   Mishnah Four I)                      A “prohibition due to a commandment” [refers to] the secondary incest prohibitions forbidden by the scribes. II)                    “A prohibition due to holiness” [refers to the following forbidden relationships]: a widow to […]

Yevamot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 5

Yevamot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Five   Introduction A wife of a deceased husband is liable for yibbum only if her husband had a brother and no sons.  Our mishnah defines what types of brothers cause the woman to be obligated for yibbum and what types of sons exempt them.   Mishnah Five I)                      If one […]

Yevamot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 6

Yevamot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Six   Introduction Our mishnah deals with the situation where a man has married one of two sisters but does not know which one he has married.  The Mishnah mentions situations such as these quite frequently, not because they were realistic, but because they are useful for teaching law. In order […]

Yevamot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 7

Yevamot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah continues to provides scenarios whereby two men betroth two women, but neither know who betrothed whom.  For the sake of clarity I will use names in explaining this complex mishnah.  There are two families of men in the mishnah.  The first family I will call Reuven, […]

Yevamot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 8

Yevamot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Eight   Introduction Our mishnah gives a general rule about yibbum and then begins to discuss a different issue, namely one who is suspected of having relations with a woman who is forbidden to him.   Mishnah Eight I)                      The commandment to perform yibbum is upon the oldest brother. A)                                If […]

Yevamot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 9

Yevamot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Nine   Introduction The second part of mishnah eight dealt with men who are suspected of having relations with women prohibited to them.  Mishnah nine deals with men who are suspected of lying in order to free a woman of her husband so that they could marry her.   Mishnah Nine […]

Yevamot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 1

Yevamot, Chapter Three, Mishnah One   Introduction Mishnayoth one through four are all one long mishnah dealing with a case of four brothers, whom we will call, Reuven, Shimon, Levi and Judah, two of whom married two sisters, Rachel and Leah.   Mishnah One I)                      Four brothers: two of whom were married to two sisters, […]

Yevamot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 10

Yevamot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Ten   Introduction Our mishnah discusses all of the potential violations that could occur in a case where two brothers betroth two women and the women are accidentally switched when the two couples enter the bridal chamber (huppah).  In other words, Reuven has relations with Shimon’s wife and vice versa.  Note […]

Yevamot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 2

Yevamot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah continues to discuss variations that could arise from the scenario brought up in mishnah one.   Mishnah Two I)                      If one of the sisters was forbidden to one [of the brothers] under the prohibition of incest, he is forbidden to marry her but may marry her […]

Yevamot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 3

Yevamot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Three   Introduction This is the final mishnah which deals with the subject raised in mishnah one.   Mishnah Two I)                      If one of the sisters was forbidden to one brother under the prohibition of incest and the other sister was forbidden to the other under the prohibition of incest, she […]

Yevamot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 4

Yevamot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah and the three that follow it, deal with situations in which there are three brothers, Reuven, Shimon and Levi, two of whom are married to two sisters, Rachel and Leah or a mother and her daughter, or a mother and her granddaughter.  The commonality to all […]

Yevamot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 5

Yevamot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah continues to deal with variants upon the situation where two of three brothers were married to two sisters.   Mishnah Five Three brothers, two of whom were married to two sisters and the third was unmarried: When one of the sisters’ husbands died, the unmarried brother […]

Yevamot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 6

Yevamot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Six   Introduction The key to understanding the laws in these mishnayoth is that ma’amar, the equivalent of betrothal in cases of yibbum, does not create a full marriage between the yavam and the yavamah but does create a tie.  Often the solution in cases where a woman has had ma’amar […]

Yevamot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 7

Yevamot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah continues to the discuss the situation of two brothers married to two sisters and a third brother married to a woman who is not a sister.   Mishnah Seven I)                      Three brothers:  two of whom were married to two sisters and the third was married to […]

Yevamot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 8

Yevamot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Eight   Introduction This mishnah refers back to the first mishnah of the tractate, which stated that if one of the wives was forbidden to the yavam, and therefore did not require yibbum or halitzah, the rival wife was also exempt from yibbum or halitzah.  In that mishnah (and in the […]

Yevamot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 9

Yevamot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Nine   Introduction This mishnah is quite complex so I recommend paying careful attention to the details.  If you are beginning to despair, we are almost out of the most complex section of Yevamot.   Mishnah Nine I)                      Three brothers were married to three women who were strangers [to one another] […]

Yevamot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 1

Yevamot, Chapter Four, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah discusses the case where a yavam performs halitzah, but then the woman who had halitzah is found to be pregnant with the dead husband’s child.   Mishnah One A yavam performs halitzah for his yevamah, and she is subsequently found to be pregnant and she gives […]

Yevamot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 10

Yevamot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Ten   Introduction This mishnah teaches that certain women must wait three months before remarrying in order that there will be no confusion as to whether the subsequent pregnancy is from the previous husband or the new husband.   Mishnah Ten 1)                     The yevamah shall neither perform halitzah nor be taken […]

Yevamot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 11

Yevamot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Eleven   Introduction Our mishnah teaches that one yavam can perform yibbum for several women if they were widows of different brothers.  However, if they were all from the same brother he can have yibbum with only one of them.   Mishnah Eleven 1)                     If four brothers were married to four […]

Yevamot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 12

Yevamot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Twelve   Introduction Our mishnah begins to discuss the definition of a mamzer, the child of an illicit union.  The question that is asked is:  which illicit unions produce children that are considered mamzers?    Mishnah Twelve A man who remarried his divorced wife, or married his halutzah, or married the […]

Yevamot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 13

Yevamot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Thirteen   Introduction The first section of this mishnah defines a mamzer. The second section teaches that the prohibition of a wife’s sister (Leviticus 18:18) is only while the wife is still alive, but is effective even if the couple is divorced.  However, once the wife dies he may marry her […]

Yevamot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 2

Yevamot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Two   Introduction Our mishnah deals with a case where the yevamah is found to be pregnant after having yibbum.  In the previous mishnah she was found pregnant after halitzah.   Mishnah Two A yavam marries his yevamah and she is subsequently found to be pregnant, and she gives birth: 1)                     […]

Yevamot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 3

Yevamot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Three   Introduction In order to understand this mishnah, we must understand some background laws concerning a woman’s ownership of property, her dowry and her ketubah. When a man marries a husband he writes her a ketubah (a marriage document).  In the ketubah is written the amount of money he will […]

Yevamot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 4

Yevamot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah is the final clause of yesterday’s mishnah, which discusses the shomeret yavam.   Mishnah Four If he married her she is his wife in every respect save that her ketubah remains a debt on her first husband’s estate.   Explanation When the yavam has yibbum with […]

Yevamot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 5

Yevamot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Five   Introduction Our mishnah answers the question, which of the surviving brothers must or can perform yibbum or halitzah.   Mishnah Five The commandment of yibbum is upon the eldest [of the surviving brothers].   If he declines, they pass in turn to all the other brothers.   If they decline, they […]

Yevamot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 6

Yevamot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah is a direct continuation of the previous one.   Mishnah Six If he wished to suspend [his decision] until a minor becomes of age, or until the eldest   returns from a country beyond the sea or [until a brother who was] a deaf-mute or an imbecile […]

Yevamot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 7

Yevamot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Seven   Introduction The first half of this mishnah discusses how the brothers divide the inheritance from the dead brother.    The second half of the mishnah teaches that when a man performs halitzah, he is thereafter forbidden to marry his halutzah’s relatives and she is forbidden to marry his.    […]

Yevamot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 8

Yevamot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Eight   Introduction This mishnah continues to teach that it is forbidden to marry the sister of one’s halutzah.    Mishnah Eight 1)                     If he performed halitzah for his yevamah, and his brother married her sister and died, she must perform halitzah but may not be taken in yibbum. 2)                     Similarly […]

Yevamot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 9

Yevamot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Nine   Introduction Mishnah nine continues to discuss various scenarios of yibbum.    Mishnah Nine 1)                     If the brother of the yavam had betrothed the sister of the shomeret yavam, in the name of Rabbi Judah ben Batera they said:  they say to him “Wait until your older brother has done […]

Yevamot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 1

Yevamot, Chapter Five, Mishnah One   Introduction In order to understand this chapter we should review a few general issues of yibbum.   1)                  According to the Torah the shomeret yavam becomes the yavam’s wife only through sexual intercourse.  However, the Sages decreed that the yavam should first perform “ma’amar”, an act whereby he betroths her, […]

Yevamot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 2

Yevamot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Two   Introduction The remainder of the chapter gives various scenarios of a yavam’s releasing his yevamah from the necessity for yibbum.  In order to understand these mishnayoth, it is important to keep in mind that a get (a divorce document) severs the ties created by ma’amar (an act of betrothal) […]

Yevamot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 3

Yevamot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)                     If the yavam gave her a get and then ma’amar, she needs [another] get and halitzah.   2)                     If he gave her a get and then had intercourse with her, she needs [another] get and halitzah.   3)                     If he gave her a get and then did halitzah, […]

Yevamot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 4

Yevamot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah demonstrates the different possibilities and combinations of halitzah, yibbum, ma’amar and a get and their consequences on a case where there is one yavam and two Yevamot (i.e. the brother who died without children left two wives).   Mishnah Four How is this so? 1)                     If […]

Yevamot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 5

Yevamot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah continues to teach that once one of the yavamim has performed halitzah or yibbum with one of the Yevamot, any subsequent action done with the other yevamah, be it halitzah, a get, ma’amar or intercourse, is meaningless.   Mishnah Five 1)                     If he performed halitzah [for […]

Yevamot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 6

Yevamot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Six   Introduction Our mishnah, the last in this chapter, continues to define the principle that there can be no valid act after halitzah or yibbum.   Mishnah Six 1)                     [If the yavam] performed halitzah and then did ma’amar, gave her a get, or had intercourse with her; a)                                 Or if […]

Yevamot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 1

Yevamot, Chapter Six, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah teaches that any intercourse counts as an act yibbum.   Mishnah One One who has intercourse with his yevamah, whether in error or with presumption, whether under compulsion or of his own free will, even if he acted in error and she in presumption, or he […]

Yevamot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 2

Yevamot, Chapter Six, Mishnah Two   Introduction While the previous mishnah served as a quasi-summary to the preceding chapters which all dealt with yibbum, our mishnah serves as a bridge to a new topic:  forbidden relationships, specifically women who are forbidden to priests.  We will deal with these laws for the next four chapters of […]

Yevamot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 3

Yevamot, Chapter Six, Mishnah Three   Introduction Our mishnah teaches when the daughter of a priest who is married to someone forbidden to her, loses the right to eat terumah, which is reserved only for priests and their families.   Mishnah Three 1)                     A widow to a high priest, a divorced woman or a halutzah […]

Yevamot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 4

Yevamot, Chapter Six, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah deals with the prohibition of a widow to a high priest.  This prohibition is mentioned in Leviticus 21:14.   Mishnah Four 1)                     A high priest shall not marry a widow whether she became a widow after a betrothal or after a marriage. 2)                     He shall not […]

Yevamot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 5

Yevamot, Chapter Six, Mishnah Five   Introduction Leviticus 21:7 states that an ordinary priest may not marry a “zonah”, usually translated as a “harlot”. In rabbinic literature the word “zonah” is used to refer to any woman who is categorically forbidden to a priest, even if she was not literally a harlot.  Our mishnah discusses […]

Yevamot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 6

Yevamot, Chapter Six, Mishnah Six   Introduction Since the previous mishnah mentioned the aylonit, who cannot have children, our mishnah discusses the obligation of procreation.   Mishnah Six 1)                     A man shall not abstain from procreation unless he already has children. a)                                 Beth Shammai says: two males, b)                                 And Beth Hillel says: male and a […]

Yevamot, Chapter 7, Mishnah 1

Yevamot, Chapter Seven, Mishnah One   Introduction The slave of a kohen is allowed to eat terumah, which can only be eaten by kohanim and those under their domain (Leviticus 22:11).  Our mishnah discusses the issue of slaves brought into a marriage by the wife as part of her dowry, in a case where the […]

Yevamot, Chapter 7, Mishnah 2

Yevamot, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah continues to discuss slaves that are part of a wife’s dowry and their ability to eat terumah, which depends on her status as a daughter of an Israelite or a priest, as well as the status of her husband, Israelite or priest.   Mishnah Two 1)                     […]

Yevamot, Chapter 7, Mishnah 3

Yevamot, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Three   Introduction When a man dies and leaves children, his wife’s status with regard to terumah goes according to the child’s status.  If the father was a priest and his child eats terumah, the wife continues to do so as well.  If the father was an Israelite, even if his […]

Yevamot, Chapter 7, Mishnah 4

Yevamot, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Four   Introduction The first section of this mishnah broadens the category of those who disqualify women from eating terumah but cannot allow them to eat terumah. The second two sections discuss cases of doubt.    Mishnah Four 1)                     A fetus, a yavam, betrothal, a deaf-mute, and a boy who is […]

Yevamot, Chapter 7, Mishnah 5

Yevamot, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah continues to discuss who gives a woman the right to eat terumah and who deprives her of such a right.    Mishnah Five 1)                     The rapist, the seducer and the insane man neither disqualify [a woman from eating terumah] nor do they allow her to eat […]

Yevamot, Chapter 7, Mishnah 6

Yevamot, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah introduces the strange case where a woman can have a grandson who is a high priest and that high priest actually disqualifies her from eating terumah.   Mishnah Six A high priest sometimes disqualifies [his mother’s mother] from being able to eat terumah. How is this […]

Yevamot, Chapter 8, Mishnah 1

Yevamot, Chapter Eight, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah discusses the right of priests, their wives and their slaves to eat terumah if the priests have physical defects that might disqualify them from the priesthood.    Mishnah One 1)                     An uncircumcised [priest] and all impure persons may not eat terumah. a)                                 Their wives and slaves […]

Yevamot, Chapter 8, Mishnah 2

Yevamot, Chapter Eight, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah defines the terms petzua dakkah and kerut shofkhah mentioned in Deuteronomy 23:2.  These two categories of men cannot marry full Israelite women.    Mishnah Two 1)                     Who is considered a “petzua dakkah”?   a)                                 Anyone whose testes are wounded even one of them. 2)                     And a “kerut […]

Yevamot, Chapter 8, Mishnah 3

Yevamot, Chapter Eight, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah discusses the other categories of people who are forbidden to enter into the congregation of the Lord mentioned in Deuteronomy 23:4-9.   Mishnah Three 1)                     An Ammonite and a Moabite are forbidden [to enter into the congregation of the Lord] and their prohibition is for ever. […]

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