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 Sanhedrin

Introduction to Tractate Sanhedrin   Tractate Sanhedrin contains mostly laws concerning courts and court procedure, with much of the discussion revolving around courts that had to adjudicate capital cases.  The word “Sanhedrin”, which is a Greek word (and is preserved in the English word “synod”), signified a large council of Sages, and during the times […]

Sanhedrin 90a-92b English

Lesson 4 – Is the “Resurrection of the Dead from the Torah” Sanhedrin 90a-92b (selections) Rabbi Mordechai Silverstein The Conservative Yeshiva To view the Hebrew text, click here. MISHNAH 1. ALL ISRAEL HAVE A PORTION IN THE WORLD TO COME, FOR IT IS WRITTEN: YOUR PEOPLE ARE ALL RIGHTEOUS, THEY SHALL INHERIT THE LAND FOREVER, […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 1, Mishnah 1

Sanhedrin, Chapter One, Mishnah One   Introduction The first four mishnayoth of Sanhedrin discuss how many judges are needed to adjudicate certain cases of civil and criminal law.  The typical number for civil cases was three and the typical number for criminal cases was twenty-three.  The problem will arise in situations where it is not […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 1, Mishnah 2

Sanhedrin, Chapter One, Mishnah Two   Introduction Mishnah two continues to list the numbers of judges needed for different types of cases.   Mishnah Two 1)                     [Cases concerning offenses punishable by] beating [are decided] by three. a)                                           In the name of Rabbi Yishmael they said twenty-three. 2)                     The intercalation of the month and intercalation of […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 1, Mishnah 3

Sanhedrin, Chapter One, Mishnah Three   Introduction Mishnah three deals with the number of judges needed in cases that are of a religious/ritual nature.   Mishnah Three 1)                     The laying on of the elders’ hands and the breaking of the heifer’s neck [are decided upon] by three, according to Rabbi Shimon. a)                                           But Rabbi Judah […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 1, Mishnah 4

Sanhedrin, Chapter One, Mishnah Four   Introduction Mishnah four deals with the number of judges in cases involving capital crimes.   Mishnah Four 1)                     Cases concerning offenses punishable by death [are decided] by twenty three. 2)                     A beast that has sexual relations with a woman or with a man is [judged] by twenty three, as […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 1, Mishnah 5

Sanhedrin, Chapter One, Mishnah Five   Introduction Mishnah five deals with cases which are only adjudicated in front of a full court of seventy one, which was the number of the full Sanhedrin.    Mishnah Five 1)                     A tribe, a false prophet, or the high priest may not be tried save by the court of […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 1, Mishnah 6

Sanhedrin, Chapter One, Mishnah Six   Introduction After having learned in the first five mishnayoth of the chapter how many judges were needed for each type of case, the sixth mishnah gives Biblical proof texts for these numbers.   Mishnah Six The greater Sanhedrin was made up of seventy one and the little Sanhedrin of […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 10, Mishnah 1

Sanhedrin, Chapter Ten, Mishnah One   Introduction Chapter ten of Sanhedrin is one of the most theologically challenging chapters in the entire Mishnah.  It lists those people who have a part in the world to come (olam haba) and those who don’t.  There are two main opinions amongst Jewish authorities with regards to the definition […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 10, Mishnah 2

Sanhedrin, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah discusses seven individual Biblical characters, three kings and four commoners, who do not have a place in the world to come.     Mishnah Two Three kings and four commoners have no portion in the world to come: 1)                     The three kings are Jeroboam, Ahab, and Manasseh.   […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 10, Mishnah 3

Sanhedrin, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Three   Introduction This lengthy mishnah lists groups of people in the Bible who do not have a portion in the world to come.  In each case the mishnah brings a Biblical text to proves its point.   1)                     The generation of the flood has no portion in the world to […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 10, Mishnah 4

Sanhedrin, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Four   Introduction Our mishnah discusses the punishment of a city seduced into idol worship (see Deuteronomy 13:13-19), which was mentioned briefly in chapter nine, mishnah one.  There we learned that the inhabitants are to be executed by decapitation.  The remainder of chapter ten will discuss various details of this law.  […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 10, Mishnah 5

Sanhedrin, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Five   Introduction Mishnah five (and mishnah six) contain midrashim, exegeses, on the verses in Deuteronomy that discuss the city seduced into idol worship. The structure of these mishnayoth is to quote a verse and then bring a law that is derived from that verse.   Mishnah Five 1)                     “You shall […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 10, Mishnah 6

Sanhedrin, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Six   Introduction Midrash six concludes the exegesis on the verses discussing the city seduced into idol worship.   Mishnah Six 1)                     “And you shall gather all its spoil into the public square” (Deut. 13:17):  if it had no public square, one is made for it; if the public square was […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 11, Mishnah 1

Sanhedrin, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah One   Introduction The final chapter of Sanhedrin returns to the categorization of which criminals receive which death penalty, a topic that the Mishnah began to discuss in chapter seven.  Our chapter discusses those who are executed by strangling.  According to the Rabbis anyone whom the Torah states should be executed […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 11, Mishnah 2

Sanhedrin, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Two   Introduction Mishnayoth two through four deal with the rebellious elder, who is considered to be an ordained elder who taught against an authoritative ruling of the high court in Jerusalem.  While Jewish learning is usually quite pluralistic, allowing for the existence of many differences of opinions without deeming one […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 11, Mishnah 3

Sanhedrin, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Three   Introduction Mishnah three continues to discuss the rebellious elder.   Mishnah Three 1)                     There is greater stringency in respect to the teachings of the scribes than in respect to the torah:  [thus,] if [a rebellious elder] says, there is no commandment of tefillin, so that a biblical law may […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 11, Mishnah 4

Sanhedrin, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Four   Introduction Mishnah four discusses the execution of the rebellious elder.   Mishnah Four 1)                     He [the rebellious elder] was executed neither by his local court nor by the court at Yavneh, but rather was taken to the great court in Jerusalem and kept there until the [next] festival  and […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 11, Mishnah 5

Sanhedrin, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Five   Introduction Mishnah five defines the “false prophet” who is executed by strangling.   Mishnah Five  1)                     ‘A false prophet’; he who prophesies what he has not heard, or what was not told to him,  is executed by man. 2)                     But he who suppresses his prophecy, or disregards the words […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 11, Mishnah 6

Sanhedrin, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Six   Introduction The first section of mishnah six defines what it means to prophesy in the name of an idol. The remainder of the mishnah discusses the adulterer.   Mishnah Six 1)                     “He who prophesies in the name of an idol”:  this is one who says, “Thus has the idol […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 2, Mishnah 1

Sanhedrin, Chapter Two, Mishnah One   Introduction Mishnah one contains with special rules regarding the High Priest.   Mishnah One 1)                     The High Priest can judge and be judged; he can testify and others can testify against him. 2)                     He can perform halitzah for another’s wife and others can perform halitzah for his wife or […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 2, Mishnah 2

Sanhedrin, Chapter Two, Mishnah Two   Introduction Mishnah two contains special rules regarding the king.   Mishnah Two 1)                     The king can neither judge nor be judged, he cannot testify and others cannot testify against him. 2)                     He may not perform halitzah, nor may others perform halitzah for his wife. a)                                           He may not contract […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 2, Mishnah 3

Sanhedrin, Chapter Two, Mishnah Three   Introduction Mishnah three discusses the procedures of mourning if a king’s family member dies.   Mishnah Three 1)                     If any of his near kin die he may not go out of the door of his palace. a)                                           Rabbi Judah says:  “If he wishes to follow the bier he may, […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 2, Mishnah 4

Sanhedrin, Chapter Two, Mishnah Four   Introduction Mishnah four deals the rights and responsibilities of a king.   Mishnah Four 1)                     He may send forth the people to a battle waged of free choice by the decision of the court of seventy one. 2)                     He may break through [the private domain of any man] to […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 2, Mishnah 5

Sanhedrin, Chapter Two, Mishnah Five   Introduction Mishnah five teaches that the people must respect and have awe for a king.   Mishnah Five 1)                     None may ride his horse and none may sit on his throne and none may make use of his scepter. 2)                     No one may see him when his hair is […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 3, Mishnah 1

Sanhedrin, Chapter Three, Mishnah One   Introduction Chapter Three begins to discuss the court procedure in cases of financial matters, which only require three judges.  The first mishnah discusses the selection of judges.   Mishnah One Cases concerning property [are decided] by three [judges]. 1)                     This [litigant] chooses one and this [litigant] chooses one and […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 3, Mishnah 2

Sanhedrin, Chapter Three, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah deals with the ability of the litigant to retract on a deal he made before the trial began.    Mishnah Two 1)                     If one litigant said to the other, “I accept my father as trustworthy”, or “I accept your father as trustworthy”, or “I accept three […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 3, Mishnah 3

Sanhedrin, Chapter Three, Mishnah Three   Introduction Mishnah three lists those people disqualified from testifying and judging.   Mishnah Three And these are they  which are not qualified [to be witnesses or judges]: 1)                     A dice player, a usurer, pigeon racers, or traffickers in Seventh Year produce. a)                                           Rabbi Shimon said:  “In the beginning they […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 3, Mishnah 4

Sanhedrin, Chapter Three, Mishnah Four   Introduction Mishnah four lists which relatives are forbidden to testify or act as judges at a trial.   Mishnah Four These are the relatives [that are not qualified to be witnesses or judges]: 1)                     A suitor’s father, brother, father’s brother, mother’s brother, sister’s husband, father’s sister’s husband, mother’s sister’s […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 3, Mishnah 5

Sanhedrin, Chapter Three, Mishnah Five   Introduction Mishnah five continues to discuss those people who are disqualified from testifying or acting as judges.   Mishnah Five 1)                     A friend or an enemy [is disqualified]. a)                                           “A friend”: this is one’s groomsman. b)                                          “An enemy”:  anyone whom he has not spoken to in three days because […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 3, Mishnah 6

Sanhedrin, Chapter Three, Mishnah Six   Introduction Mishnah six begins to describe the process of the interrogation of the witnesses.   Mishnah Six 1)                     How do they check the witnesses? 2)                     They bring them in and warn them, and then they take them out and leave behind the most important of [the witnesses]. 3)                     And […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 3, Mishnah 7

Sanhedrin, Chapter Three, Mishnah Seven   Introduction Mishnah seven describes the court procedures at the end of the trial.   Mishnah Seven 1)                     When the judges reached their decision they would bring in the litigants. 2)                     The chief among the judges says:  “You, so-and-so are not obligated”, or “You, so-and-so are obligated”. 3)                     And from […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 3, Mishnah 8

Sanhedrin, Chapter Three, Mishnah Eight   Introduction Mishnah eight discusses the ability of the litigants to overturn the verdict by bringing new evidence (physical proof or witnesses) after the trial.   Mishnah Eight 1)                     So long as a litigant can produce proof he may overturn the verdict. 2)                     If they had said to him, “Bring […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 4, Mishnah 1

Sanhedrin, Chapter Four, Mishnah One   Introduction The mishnah which we will learn today discusses the differences in how a court acts during non-capital trials (cases entailing penalty not by death) and capital trials.  As we will learn in our mishnah and also in mishnah five of this chapter the Rabbis took capital cases very […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 4, Mishnah 2

Sanhedrin, Chapter Four, Mishnah Two   Introduction Mishnah two contains more information regarding the differences between capital and non-capital cases.   Mishnah Two 1)                     In non-capital cases and those concerning uncleanness and cleanness [the judges declare their opinion] beginning from the eldest, but in capital cases they begin from [them that sit at] the side. […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 4, Mishnah 3

Sanhedrin, Chapter Four, Mishnah Three   Introductio Mishnah three begins to discuss the physical arrangement of the sanhedrin, the scribes who would record the decisions and the disciples of the Sages who observed the proceedings and learned.     Mishnah Three 1)                     The Sanhedrin was arranged like the half of a round threshing-floor so that they […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 4, Mishnah 4

Sanhedrin, Chapter Four, Mishnah Four   Introduction Mishnah four discusses the disciples who sat in front of the Sages in the Sanhedrin and the procedure for a disciple’s appointment to the court.   Mishnah Four 1)                     And there were three rows of disciples of the Sages who sat before them, and each knew his proper […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 4, Mishnah 5

Sanhedrin, Chapter Four, Mishnah Five   Introduction Our mishnah begins with a description of the warning that the judges would give to the witnesses in a capital case.  The mishnah then continues with a discussion of the uniqueness of every human being and the consequential extreme severity of capital punishment.   Mishnah Five 1)                     How […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 5, Mishnah 1

Sanhedrin, Chapter Five, Mishnah One   Introduction Chapter five begins to discuss how the judges examine the testimony of the witnesses.   Mishnah One 1)                     They used to examine witnesses with seven inquiries:  (1)  In what week of years? (2) In what year?  (3)  In what month?  (4)  On what date in the month?  (5)  […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 5, Mishnah 2

Sanhedrin, Chapter Five, Mishnah Two   Introduction Mishnah two continues to discuss the inquiries and examinations performed on the witnesses by the judge.   Mishnah Two 1)                     The more a judge examines the evidence the more he is deserving of praise. a)                                           Ben Zakkai once checked with regards to the stalks of figs. 2)                     What […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 5, Mishnah 3

Sanhedrin, Chapter Five, Mishnah Three   Introduction Mishnah three deals with invalidating the testimony due to discrepancies between the testimony of the two witnesses.   Mishnah Three 1)                     If one said, “On the second of the month”, and the other said, “On the third”, their evidence remains valid, since one may have known that the […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 5, Mishnah 4

Sanhedrin, Chapter Five, Mishnah Four   Introduction Mishnah four deals with the court procedure after the testimony has been presented.   Mishnah Four 1)                     They afterward bring in the second witness and examine him.  2)                     If their words were found to agree together they begin [to examine the evidence] in favor of acquittal. 3)                     If […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 5, Mishnah 5

Sanhedrin, Chapter Five, Mishnah Five   Introduction Our mishnah deals with the end of the trial procedure, before the final verdict is pronounced.  Note that the mishnah gives numerous opportunities for a judge who voted for conviction to overturn his ruling and vote for acquittal.  The Rabbis were very cautious that an innocent man should […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 6, Mishnah 1

Sanhedrin Chapter Six, Mishnah One   Introduction The sixth chapter of Sanhedrin deals with the execution by stoning of a person convicted of a capital crime.  Although stoning sounds like quite a brutal death, and it certainly must have been painful, as we read the chapter try to keep in mind that execution was an […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 6, Mishnah 2

Sanhedrin, Chapter Six, Mishnah Two   Introduction Mishnah two discusses the confession that the convict is to make before he is executed.  In Rabbinic theology, the confession allows the execution to expiate the convict of his crime, thereby causing him to die clean of all sins.   Mishnah Two 1)                     When he is about ten […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 6, Mishnah 3

Sanhedrin, Chapter Six, Mishnah Three   Introduction Mishnah three deals with whether or not the person should wear clothing while being stoned.   Mishnah Three 1)                     When he is about four cubits distant from the place of stoning, he is stripped of his clothing. a)                                           A man is covered in front and a woman both […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 6, Mishnah 4

Sanhedrin, Chapter Six, Mishnah Four   Introduction Mishnah four describes how the person was to be stoned.  The mishnah also discusses the hanging mentioned in Deuteronomy 21:22-23.  We should mention that we don’t really know exactly how this hanging was to be performed.  The JPS translation translates it as “impaling” but this is not the […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 6, Mishnah 5

Sanhedrin, Chapter Six, Mishnah Five   Introduction Mishnah five deals with several subjects:  1)  God’s sorrow at seeing one of His children die; 2)  the commandment to bury all people on the day they die; 3)  the process of burying the executed criminal.   Mishnah Five 1)                     R. Meir said: “When man suffers, what expression […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 6, Mishnah 6

Sanhedrin, Chapter Six, Mishnah Six   Introduction Mishnah six discusses the process which occurs a year or so after the initial burial of the criminal.   At this time formal reconciliation is made between the family of the criminal and the court, thereby restoring proper order to society.   Mishnah Six 1)                     When the flesh was […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 7, Mishnah 1

Sanhedrin, Chapter Seven, Mishnah One   Introduction The first mishnah of chapter seven lists the four types of execution that Jewish law prescribed.   Mishnah One 1)                     Four deaths have been entrusted to the court: stoning, burning, slaying [by the sword] and strangulation. 2)                     R. Simeon says: “burning, stoning, strangulation and slaying.” 3)                     That (the […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 7, Mishnah 10

Sanhedrin, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Ten   Introduction Mishnah ten deals with those who incite individuals or whole towns to commit idolatry.   Mishnah Ten 1)                     One who incites [individuals to idolatry] — this refers to an ordinary person who incites an individual who said, “There is an idol in such and such a place; it […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 7, Mishnah 11

Sanhedrin, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Eleven   Introduction Mishnah eleven deals with different forms of sorcery.   Mishnah Eleven 1)                     A sorcerer, if he actually performs magic, is liable [to death], but not if he merely creates illusions.   a)                                           Rabbi Akiva says in Rabbi Joshua’s name: “If two are gathering cucumbers [by magic] one may be […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 7, Mishnah 2

Sanhedrin, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Two   Introduction Mishnah two describes execution by burning.   Mishnah Two 1)                     The manner in which burning is executed is as follows: a)                                           They would lower him into dung up to his armpits, then a hard cloth was placed within a soft one, wound round his neck, and the two […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 7, Mishnah 3

Sanhedrin, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Three   Introduction Mishnah three describes the final two forms of execution:  slaying by the sword and strangulation.   Mishnah Three 1)                     Slaying by the sword was performed thus: they would cut off his head by the sword, as is done by the civil authorities. a)                                           R. Judah says: “This is […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 7, Mishnah 4

Sanhedrin, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Four   Introduction Mishnah four lists those crimes for which one is stoned and begins to explain them.   Mishnah Four The following are stoned: 1)                     He who has (1) sexual relations with his mother, (2) with his father’s wife, (3) with his daughter-in-law, (4) with a male; (5) with a […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 7, Mishnah 5

Sanhedrin, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Five   Introduction Mishnah five deals with the blasphemer and the special circumstances of his trial.   Mishnah Five 1)                     The blasphemer is punished only if he utters [the divine] name. 2)                     Rabbi Joshua b. Korcha said: “The whole day [of the trial] the witnesses are examined by means of a […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 7, Mishnah 6

Sanhedrin, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Six   Introduction Mishnah six deals with which forms of idol worship will cause a Jew to incur the death penalty.   Mishnah Six 1)                     He who engages in idol-worship [is executed].  This includes the one whoserves it, sacrifices, offers incense, makes libations, bows to it, accepts it as a god, […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 7, Mishnah 7

Sanhedrin, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Seven   Introduction The first half of mishnah seven deals with one who gives of his seed to Molech.  The second half of mishnah seven deals with the “Ba’al Ob” and the “Yidde’oni”.  We will explain all of these terms below.   Mishnah Seven 1)                     He who gives of his seed […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 7, Mishnah 8

Sanhedrin, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Eight   Introduction Mishnah eight deals with one who violates the Sabbath and one who curses his parents.   Mishnah Eight  1)                     He who desecrates the Sabbath [is stoned], providing that it is an offence punished by “kareth” if deliberate, and by a sin-offering if unwitting. 2)                     One who curses His […]

Sanhedrin, Chapter 7, Mishnah 9

Sanhedrin, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Nine   Introduction Mishnah nine deals with a man who has relations with a betrothed virgin.   Mishnah Nine 1)                     He who has sexual relations with a betrothed young woman is not punished until she is a young woman, a virgin, betrothed, and in her father’s house. 2)                     If two men […]

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