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 Tractate Makkot

Introduction to Tractate Makkot   Tractate Makkot was originally not a tractate in and of itself but the end of Tractate Sanhedrin.  It continues to discuss the procedure of the courts and who receives what punishment, the topics that were the main subject of Sanhedrin.  The first chapter of Makkot deals with laws of perjuring […]

Makkot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 1

Makkot, Chapter One, Mishnah One   Introduction The first six mishnayoth of Makkot deal with perjuring witnesses, who according to Deuteronomy 20:18-19 are to receive the same punishment that they tried to impose upon the accused.  For instance if they testified that a person was guilty of murder and therefore should be executed and then […]

Makkot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 10

Makkot, Chapter One, Mishnah Ten   Introduction Mishnah ten discusses a criminal who flees after being convicted.  The final part of mishnah ten contains the famous discussion regarding how often the sanhedrins actually carried out executions.   Mishnah Ten 1)                     If one fled after having been convicted at a court and again comes up before […]

Makkot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 2

Makkot, Chapter One, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah discusses the punishment for a perjuring witness in a financial case.      Mishnah Two 1)                     [If they say]:  “We testify that so and so owes his friend two hundred zuz”, and they are found to be perjurers, they are flogged and ordered to make restitution, because […]

Makkot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 3

Makkot, Chapter One, Mishnah Three   Introduction Mishnayoth three continues to discuss the laws of perjuring witnesses.   Mishnah Three 1)                     [If they say:]  “We testify that so and so is liable to a flogging of forty lashes, and they are found to be perjurers, they receive eighty lashes, because of, “You shall not bear […]

Makkot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 4

Makkot, Chapter One, Mishnah Four   Introduction Mishnah four continues to discuss the laws of perjuring witnesses.    Mishnah Four 1)                     Witnesses are not condemned as perjurers until they themselves are incriminated; a)                                           How so? i)                                                       If they said: “We testify that so and so killed a person” and others said to them: “How could […]

Makkot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 5

Makkot, Chapter One, Mishnah Five   Introduction Mishnah five deals with multiple sets of perjuring witnesses.   Mishnah Five 1)                     If other witnesses came, and they charged them [with perjury]: then [again] others came, and they [again] charged them [with perjury], even a hundred, they are all to be executed. 2)                     Rabbi Judah says:  “This […]

Makkot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 6

Makkot, Chapter One, Mishnah Six   Introduction Mishnah six discusses at one point in the judicial process the witnesses are proven to be perjurers in order for them to receive the penalty that they tried to impose upon the accused.     Mishnah Six   1)                     Perjuring witnesses are not to be put to death until [after] […]

Makkot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 7

Makkot, Chapter One, Mishnah Seven   Introduction Both mishnah seven and mishnah eight which we will learn tomorrow contain midrashim, exegeses, of the verse in Deuteronomy 17:6 which states that a person may be executed by the testimony of “two or three witnesses”.  This statement is not a precise legal statement.  If two witnesses are […]

Makkot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 8

Makkot, Chapter One, Mishnah Eight   Introduction Mishnah Eight continues to expound upon the verse in Deuteronomy 17:6 which states that a person may be executed by the testimony of “two or three witnesses”.     Mishnah Eight 1)                     Just as in the case of two witnesses, if one of them was found to be […]

Makkot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 9

Makkot, Chapter One, Mishnah Nine   Introduction Mishnah nine continues to discuss the laws of witnessing capital crimes.  It deals with the question when are witnesses consider two groups and when are they considered one group.  Furthermore this mishnah deals with the requirement of the witnesses to warn the transgressor before he commits his crime. […]

Makkot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 1

Makkot, Chapter Two, Mishnah One   Introduction The second chapter of Makkot discusses the laws regarding accidental killing.  These laws are discussed extensively in Numbers 35:9-28, 32 and Deuteronomy 19:1-13.  According to these passages, if a person killed another person by accident the victim’s relative could exact blood vengeance upon the accidental killer.  If the […]

Makkot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 2

Makkot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Two   Introduction Mishnah two continues to define what killing is considered accidental such that it allows a killer to escape to a city of refuge.   Mishnah Two 1)                     If a man threw a stone into the public domain and killed a person, he goes into banishment. a)                                           Rabbi Eliezer […]

Makkot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 3

Makkot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Three   Introduction Mishnah three discusses categories of accidental killers who do or do not go into exile.   Mishnah Three 1)                     The father goes into banishment for [the death of] his son, and the son goes into banishment for [that of] his father. 2)                     All go into banishment for [the […]

Makkot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 4

Makkot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Four   Introduction Mishnah four begins to discuss the refuge cities, those cities to where the accidental killer would flee.             Mishnah Four 1)                     To where are they banished? To the cities of refuge, to the three cities situated on the far side of the Jordan and the three cities situated […]

Makkot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 5

Makkot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Five   Introduction Mishnah five discusses the making of roads to lead to the cities of refuge and the accompaniment of the manslayer as he makes his way.   Mishnah Five 1)                     And direct roads were made leading from one to the other, as it says, “You shall prepare the way […]

Makkot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 6

Makkot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Six   Introduction The first half of mishnah six states that all killers, accidental or intentional, would initially flee to the city of refuge, before standing trial.  The second half discusses issues concerning the death of the high priest, which according to Numbers 35:25, 28 is what allows the manslayer to […]

Makkot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 7

Makkot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Seven   Introduction Mishnah seven continues to deal with various law concerning the cities of refuge.   Mishnah Seven 1)                     If the trial was concluded when there was no high priest [in office], or if one kills a high priest, or a high priest that kills, [in these cases the manslayer] […]

Makkot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 8

Makkot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Eight   Introduction Mishnah eight deals with the arrival of the manslayer in the city of refuge, his acceptance there, and his eventual leaving of the city.      Mishnah Eight 1)                     A manslayer who went to his city of his refuge and the men of that city wished to do him […]

Makkot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 1

Makkot, Chapter Three, Mishnah One   Introduction The final chapter of Makkot discussed those who are liable to be flogged.  There are three reasons that a person is flogged:  1)  one who transgresses a Biblical law for which the penalty is kareth (heavenly excommunication).  According to the Rabbis one who was flogged is not penalized […]

Makkot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 10

Makkot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Ten   Introduction Mishnah ten discusses the number of lashes a transgressor is to receive.   Mishnah Ten 1)                     How many lashes is he given? a)                                           Forty save one, as it says, “By number forty” (Deuteronomy 25:2-3) which means, a number close to forty. b)                                          Rabbi Judah says: “He is given […]

Makkot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 11

Makkot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Eleven   Introduction Mishnah ten continues to discuss the number of lashes a person is to receive.   Mishnah Eleven 1)                     When they estimate the number of lashes he can stand it must be a number divisible by three. 2)                     If they estimated him capable of receiving forty, and after receiving […]

Makkot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 12

Makkot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Twelve   Introduction Mishnayoth twelve describes where and how the one being lashed and the one lashing should stand.  It also describes the whip itself.   Mishnah Twelve 1)                     How do they lash him? a)                                           His two hands are tied to a pillar on either side of it and the minister […]

Makkot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 13

Makkot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Thirteen   Introduction Mishnah thirteen continues to describe the whip and how the lashes are to be administered.    Mishnah Thirteen 1)                     The handle is a handbreadth long and a handbreadth wide, its tip reaching to the edge of the [offender’s] abdomen.   2)                     He administers one-third [of the lashes] in front […]

Makkot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 14

Makkot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Fourteen   Introduction The first half of mishnah fourteen lists the Biblical verses that are called out while the lashes are being administered.  The second half of the mishnah discusses the offender either dying or befouling himself while being lashed.   Mishnah Fourteen 1)                     And the one who recites, says: “If […]

Makkot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 15

Makkot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Fifteen   Introduction The final two mishnayoth of Makkot are in essence the final two mishnayoth of a long tractate, which at one time included both Sanhedrin and Makkot, a total of 14 chapters.  As is typical of the Mishnah, long tractates are completed with words of “aggadah”, sermonic material, not […]

Makkot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 16

Makkot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Sixteen   Introduction The final mishnah of the tractate is a continuation of mishnah fifteen.   Mishnah Sixteen Rabbi Hananiah ben Akashia says: “The Holy Blessed One, desired to make Israel worthy, therefore gave He gave them much Torah [to study] and many commandments [to perform]: for it is says, “The […]

Makkot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 2

Makkot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Two   Introduction The first fourteen sections of our mishnah mostly lists different types of forbidden foods and a few other Temple related prohibitions for which one is to be flogged.  Section fifteen discusses the amount of untithed produce that if one eats he is liable for a transgression.   Mishnah […]

Makkot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 3

Makkot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Three   Introduction Mishnah continues to discuss which transgressions are punishable by flogging.   Mishnah Three 1)                     One who eats of first fruits previous to the recital over them (Deut. 26:3-10); 2)                     Of most holy things outside of the Temple curtains (Exodus 27:9); 3)                     Of lesser holy things or of second […]

Makkot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 4

Makkot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Four   Introduction Mishnah four discusses the prohibition of taking a mother bird with her young.   Mishnah Four 1)                     If one takes the mother bird with the young (Deuteronomy 22:6-7): a)                                           Rabbi Judah says he is flogged and need not [then] send the mother free; b)                                          But the Sages say:  […]

Makkot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 5

Makkot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Five   Introduction Mishnah five discusses the various prohibitions of shaving one’s head either as a sign of mourning (Leviticus 21:5, Deuteronomy 14:1) or in general (Leviticus 19:26).  These prohibitions are punishable by flogging.   Mishnah Five 1)                     If a man makes a baldness on his head, or rounds the corner […]

Makkot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 6

Makkot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah is a continuation of the previous mishnah which discussed the prohibitions in Leviticus 19:27-28.   Mishnah Six 1)                     He who writes an incision on his skin [is flogged]. 2)                     If he writes [on his flesh] without incising, or incises without writing, he is not liable, until […]

Makkot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 7

Makkot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Seven   Introduction Mishnah seven discusses a nazirite who violates the prohibition of drinking wine.    Mishnah Seven 1)                     If a nazirite has been drinking wine all day, he is liable for only one lashing. a)                                           If they said to him, “Don’t drink wine”, “Don’t drink wine”, and he kept drinking, […]

Makkot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 8

Makkot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Eight   Introduction Mishnah eight is a continuation of mishnah seven which discussed the punishment for the continuous violation of a negative commandment.   Mishnah Eight 1)                     If he has been defiling himself for the dead all day, he is liable for only one set of lashes. a)                                           If they said […]

Makkot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 9

Makkot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Nine   Introduction Mishnah nine discusses a case where one can perform one act and thereby violate eight or nine negative commandments and therefore receive eight or nine sets of lashes.     Mishnah Nine 1)                     It is possible for one to plough one furrow and become liable for eight prohibited […]

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Learn one Mishnah each day with the Conservative Yeshiva's Mishnah Yomit, prepared by faculty member Dr. Joshua Kulp.

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