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.

Shevuoth

Introduction to Tractate Shevuot

Introduction to Tractate Shevuot   Our tractate deals mostly with oaths (Shevuot).  There are four different kinds of oaths mentioned in the Torah: 1)                  An oath whereby a person promises to do either a positive action (to eat) or a negative action (to not eat) (Leviticus 5:4). 2)                  A false oath (Exodus 20:7). 3)                  A […]

Shevuot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 1

Shevuot, Chapter One, Mishnah One   Introduction Mishnah one is an introductory mishnah to the entire tractate.  Besides mentioning oaths it mentions knowledge of impurity, a topic to be discussed throughout the remainder of the chapter.   Mishnah One 1)                     Oaths are of two kinds, subdivided into four; 2)                     The laws concerning the discovery of […]

Shevuot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 2

Shevuot, Chapter One, Mishnah Two   Introduction Mishnah two begins to define when a person is obligated to bring a sacrifice in a situation where he did not know that he had been impure.   Mishnah Two 1)                     Where there is knowledge at the beginning and at the end but forgetfulness between,  a “sliding scales” […]

Shevuot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 3

  Shevuot, Chapter One, Mishnah Three   Introduction Mishnah three continues to define when a person is obligated to bring a sacrifice in a situation where he did not know that he had been impure.   Mishnah Three 1)                     Where there is no knowledge at the beginning but there is knowledge at the end, the […]

Shevuot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 4

Shevuot, Chapter One, Mishnah Four   Introduction Our mishnah discusses which goat offerings atone for which sins.  There are three goat offerings discussed in this mishnah, all of which are sin-offerings (hatat):  1)  Those offered on festivals; 2)  Those offered on the first of the new month; 3)  The goat offered on the outer altar […]

Shevuot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 5

Shevuot, Chapter One, Mishnah Five   Introduction Mishnah five is a continuation of the discussion in the previous mishnah.  There we learned three different opinions with regards to the topic of which sin-offering goats bring atonement for which sin.  The final opinion was that of Rabbi Shimon, whose full name is Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai.  […]

Shevuot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 6

Shevuot, Chapter One, Mishnah Six   Introduction Mishnah six continues to discuss which sacrificial goat brought as a sin-offering brings atonement for which transgression.   Mishnah Six 1)                     For intentional transgressions of the laws of impurity in connection with the temple and holy food, the goat offered inside [the Holy of Holies] on the Day […]

Shevuot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 7

Shevuot, Chapter One, Mishnah Seven   Introduction Mishnah seven discusses differences between the atonement of Israelites and the atonement of priests.     Mishnah Seven 1)                     [The scapegoat] brings atonement to Israelites, priests, and the anointed high priest alike. a)                                           What [then] is the difference between Israelites, priests, and the anointed high priest? b)                                          [None], […]

Shevuot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 1

Shevuot, Chapter Two, Mishnah One   Introduction Mishnah one discusses the second clause of the first mishnah of chapter one, which dealt with the case where a person either entered the Temple or ate holy food without knowing that he was impure.   Mishnah One The laws concerning the discovery of having contracted uncleanness are […]

Shevuot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 2

Shevuot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Two   Introduction Mishnah two discusses which areas of the Temple are included in these laws.   Mishnah Two 1)                     It is the same whether one [while impure] enters the Temple court or the addition to the Temple court, for additions are not made to the city [of Jerusalem], or to […]

Shevuot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 3

Shevuot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Three   Introduction Mishnah three discusses one who entered the Temple while impure.   Mishnah Three 1)                     If he became impure while in the Temple court [and was aware of it], and then forgot that he was impure, though he remembered that he was in the Temple; a)                                           [Or] he forgot […]

Shevuot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 4

Shevuot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Four   Introduction Mishnah four contains a short digression which discusses the obligation of a court to bring a sacrificial bullock if they give a wrong teaching.  This subject is learned more fully in Tractate Horayot.  This digression is found here because one of the wrongful teachings for which the court […]

Shevuot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 5

Shevuot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Five   Introduction Mishnah five conclude the discussion of a person who enters the Temple while not realizing that he is impure.  It contains a midrashic discussion which took place between Rabbis Eliezer, Akiba, and Ishmael.   Mishnah Five 1)                     Rabbi Eliezer said:  “[Scripture says: ‘If any one touch. . . […]

Shevuot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 1

Shevuot, Chapter Three, Mishnah One   Introduction Our mishnah begins to discuss oaths, the main topic of the tractate.  The oaths discussed in the beginning of this chapter are oaths of utterance, whereby one swears that he has or has not done something, or that he will or will not do something.  One who breaks […]

Shevuot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 10

Shevuot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Ten   Introduction The mishnah that we will learn today contains a list of when the oath of utterance is applicable.  A similar list will appear in tomorrow’s mishnah with regard to vain oaths.  The similarities between these two types of oaths will be contrasted with the rules of the testimonial […]

Shevuot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 11

Shevuot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Eleven   Introduction This mishnah is similar to the previous mishnah except that it discusses the vain oath.  The end of the mishnah discusses a similarity between the two oaths: in both cases one person can adjure another person.   Mishnah Eleven 1)                     A vain oath applies to men and women, […]

Shevuot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 2

Shevuot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Two   Introduction Mishnah two discusses a person who swears not to eat different types of bread.  The question again is, how many different oaths did he make.   Mishnah Two 1)                     “I swear I shall not eat,” and he ate wheat bread, barley bread, and spelt bread, he is liable […]

Shevuot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 3

Shevuot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Three   Introduction Mishnah three discusses a person who swears not to drink.  The question again is, how many different oaths did he make.     Mishnah Three 1)                     “I swear I shall not drink,” and he drank many liquids, he is liable only once. 2)                     “I swear I shall not […]

Shevuot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 4

Shevuot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Four   Introduction Mishnah four continues to discuss how many oaths one is liable for when he takes an oath not to eat.  This mishnah talks about one who violates the oath by eating things that are either not fit to be eaten or forbidden.   Mishnah Four 1)                     “I swear […]

Shevuot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 5

Shevuot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Five   Introduction Our mishnah teaches that a person can swear with regards to things that concern himself or others.  He also may swear about things whether or not they have substance.  The second half of the mishnah contains an important debate between Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Yishmael with regards to […]

Shevuot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 6

Shevuot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Six   Introduction Mishnah six discusses swearing to either break or fulfill a commandment.   Mishnah Six 1)                     If he swore to annul a commandment, and did not annul it, he is exempt. a)                                           [If he swore] to fulfill [a commandment], and did not fulfill it, he is exempt. i)                                                       For […]

Shevuot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 7

Shevuot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Seven   Introduction Mishnah seven concludes the mishnah’s discussion of “oaths of utterance.”   Mishnah Seven 1)                     “I swear I shall not eat this loaf”; “I swear I shall not eat it”; “I swear I shall not eat it”; and he ate it, he is liable only once. 2)                     This is […]

Shevuot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 8

Shevuot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Eight   Introduction Mishnah eight defines a vain oath   Mishnah Eight What is a vain oath? 1)                     If he swore that which is contrary to the facts known to people, saying of a pillar of stone that it is of gold; or of a man that he is a woman; […]

Shevuot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 9

Shevuot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Nine   Introduction Mishnah nine discusses one who takes two oaths, the second oath being the exact opposite of the first oath.     Mishnah Nine 1)                     [If one said:] “I swear I shall eat this loaf”; [and then he said,] “I swear I shall not eat it,” the first is […]

Shevuot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 1

Shevuot, Chapter Four, Mishnah One   Introduction Leviticus 5:1 states, “If a person incurs guilt, when he has heard a public imprecation and—although able to testify as one who has seen or learned of the matter—he does not give information, so that he is subject to punishment.”  In simple English this verse refers to one […]

Shevuot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 10

Shevuot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Ten     Mishnah Ten 1)                     [If] he stood in the synagogue and said,  “I adjure you that if you know any testimony for me you should come and bear testimony for me”, they are exempt unless he directs himself to them.    Explanation If the litigant stood in a public […]

Shevuot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 11

Shevuot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Eleven   Mishnah Eleven 1)                     If he said to two [persons]: “I adjure you, so-and-so and so-and-so, that if you know any testimony for me you should come and bear testimony for me”: a)                                           [And they replied,]  “We swear we know no testimony for you”, and they did know testimony for […]

Shevuot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 12

Shevuot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Twelve   Introduction Mishnah twelve teaches that the claimant must be the one who recites the adjuration.   Mishnah Twelve 1)                     If he sent by the hand of his servant, or if the defendant said to them: “I adjure you that if you know any testimony for him you should come […]

Shevuot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 13

Shevuot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Thirteen   Introduction Mishnah thirteen discusses different possibilities for the language of the adjuration.   Mishnah Thirteen 1)                     [If he said]: “I adjure you”; “I command you”;  “I bind you”; they are liable. a)                                           “By heaven and earth!”, they are exempt. b)                                          “By Alef Daleth”; “By Yod He”;  “By God Almighty”; […]

Shevuot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 2

Shevuot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah continues the lists we have seen in the previous three mishnayoth.   Mishnah Two 1)                     And they are liable for intentional transgression of the oath, and for its unintentional transgression coupled with intentional [denial of knowledge of] testimony, but they are not liable for unintentional transgression. […]

Shevuot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 3

Shevuot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Three   Introduction The first half of mishnah three explains how an oath of testimony is done.  The second half of the mishnah discusses a witness who falsely swears five times that he had no knowledge of testimony.   Mishnah Three 1)                     The oath of testimony:  How is it done? a)                                           […]

Shevuot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 4

Shevuot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Four   Introduction Mishnah four discusses how many of the witnesses deny knowledge such that they become liable for swearing a false oath of testimony.    Mishnah Four 1)                     If both [persons] denied [knowledge] together, they are both liable. 2)                     If one after another, the first is liable, and the second […]

Shevuot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 5

Shevuot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Five   Introduction Mishnah five discusses combining several oaths into one oath or separating one oath into several oaths.   Mishnah Five 1)                     “I adjure you that you come and bear testimony for me that there are of mine in the possession of so-and-so a deposit, a loan, a stolen object, […]

Shevuot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 6

Shevuot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Six   Introduction Mishnah six defines a false oath of testimony as denying testimony that would have aided the litigant in a monetary suit.   Mishnah Six 1)                     “I adjure you that you come and bear testimony for me that so-and-so owes me full damages, or half damages, or double payment, […]

Shevuot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 7

Shevuot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Seven   Introduction Mishnah seven lists cases where although the person falsely testifies, since the case did not concern money, he is not guilty of a false oath of testimony.   Mishnah Seven 1)                     “I adjure you that you come and bear testimony for me that I am a priest, or, […]

Shevuot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 8

Shevuot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Eight   Introduction This mishnah discusses one who gives falsely swears about money that one person promised to give to another.   Mishnah Eight 1)                     [If a man said,]  “I adjure you that you come and bear testimony for me that so-and-so promised to give me two hundred zuz, and did […]

Shevuot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 9

Shevuot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Nine   Introduction The mishnah continues to discuss cases that are not technically considered false oaths of testimony.   Mishnah Nine 1)                     “I adjure you that, when you know any testimony for me, you should come and bear testimony for me,” they are exempt, because the oath preceded the testimony.    […]

Shevuot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 1

Shevuot, Chapter Five, Mishnah One   Introduction Chapter five discusses the oath of deposit.  The scenario in which this type of oath would be taken is one where Reuven requests of Shimon to return to him something he (Reuven) left in his (Shimon’s) guard.  If Shimon denies having accepted the item as a deposit and […]

Shevuot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 2

Shevuot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah explains how an oath of deposit works.   Mishnah Two 1)                     The oath of deposit — how? a)                                           If he said to him: “Give me my deposit which I have in your possession” [and the other replied:] “I swear that you have nothing in my possession”; […]

Shevuot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 3

Shevuot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah distinguishes between cases where a person has taken one oath of deposit and cases where a person has taken more than one oath of deposit.  Similar mishnayoth were taught in 4:5, and 3:2-3 with regards to the other types of oaths.   Mishnah Three 1)                     If […]

Shevuot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 4

Shevuot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Four   Introduction The final two mishnayoth of chapter five teach that in order for one who makes a false oath of deposit to be liable to bring a sacrifice he must deny something to which if he had admitted he would have been liable.  Since he is not liable to […]

Shevuot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 5

Shevuot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Five   Introduction Mishnah five deals with a principle similar to that which we learned yesterday, namely that a person is only liable for an oath of testimony if had he admitted to doing what he swore he did not do he would have been liable to pay money.   Mishnah […]

Shevuot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 1

Shevuot, Chapter Six, Mishnah One   Introduction In the previous three chapters the mishnah discussed oaths which a person takes on his own.  Our chapter begins to discuss oaths which are imposed by a court.  There are several different types of oaths that may be imposed by a court.  The first type of oath, the […]

Shevuot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 2

Shevuot, Chapter Six, Mishnah Two     Mishnah Two 1)                     “You have of mine a hundred denarii”, he said to him, “Yes.” a)                                           The next day he said to him, “Give them to me”, [and he replied,] “I have given them to you,” he is exempt. b)                                          [If he says,] “Nothing of yours is in […]

Shevuot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 3

Shevuot, Chapter Six, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah explains the second rule mentioned in mishnah one:  the denial and the claim must be of the same “kind”.  Our mishnah discusses what does “kind” mean, so that we will know when the person who admits to part of the claim must take an oath.   […]

Shevuot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 4

Shevuot, Chapter Six, Mishnah Four   Introduction In mishnah four we will learn cases where an oath is not taken because of the status of the claimant or defendant.   Mishnah Four 1)                     No oath is imposed in a claim by a deaf-mute, imbecile, or minor. 2)                     And no oath is imposed on a minor. […]

Shevuot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 5

Shevuot, Chapter Six, Mishnah Five   Introduction Mishnah five discusses cases where no oath is imposed because of the nature of the object in dispute.   Mishnah Five 1)                     And these are the things for which no oath is imposed: slaves, bonds, lands, and dedicated objects. a)                                           [The law of] paying double, or four or […]

Shevuot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 6

Shevuot, Chapter Six, Mishnah Six   Introduction Mishnah six continues to discuss land, which as we learned in the previous section, is not subject to the laws of oaths.  Finally, in the last section of the mishnah, after several mishnayoth in which we learned when oaths are not taken, the mishnah states when oaths are […]

Shevuot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 7

Shevuot, Chapter Six, Mishnah Seven   Introduction The final mishnah of chapter six discusses a dispute between two people over the value of a pledge taken to secure a loan.  We will learn that if the defendant admits to owing part of the claim then he must swear that he does not owe the rest. […]

Shevuot, Chapter 7, Mishnah 1

Shevuot, Chapter Seven, Mishnah One   Introduction The first six mishnayoth of our chapter discuss the exceptional cases in which a person takes an oath and thereby collects money from another person.  All of the cases that we have seen in the mishnah until now have been examples of people who take oaths and are […]

Shevuot, Chapter 7, Mishnah 2

Shevuot, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah discusses the oath taken by one who has been robbed.  Through this oath the one who was robbed can recover his money from the robber.   Mishnah Two 1)                     “He who has been robbed” — How so? 2)                     If they testified of a man that he […]

Shevuot, Chapter 7, Mishnah 3

Shevuot, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah discusses the oath taken by one who has been wounded.  Through this oath he can collect money from the one who wounded him.   Mishnah Three 1)                     “He who has been wounded,” — How so? a)                                           If they testified about a person that another went onto […]

Shevuot, Chapter 7, Mishnah 4

Shevuot, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah discusses an oath taken by one person in order to collect from another person who is not allowed to take an oath because he is suspected of taking false oaths.   Mishnah Four 1)                     “He whose opponent is suspected of taking a false oath,” — How […]

Shevuot, Chapter 7, Mishnah 5

Shevuot, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Five   Introduction The mishnah which we will learn today discusses the fifth type of person who swears and collects:  the shopkeeper with his account book.   Mishnah Five 1)                     “And the shopkeeper with his account book,” — How so? a)                                           Not that he [the shopkeeper] says to him [the customer], […]

Shevuot, Chapter 7, Mishnah 6

Shevuot, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Six   Introduction Mishnah six continues to discuss the oath of the shopkeeper.   Mishnah Six 1)                     If he said to a shopkeeper, “Give me fruit for a denar,” and he gave him, and then the shopkeeper said to him, “Give me the denar”, and he replied to him, “I gave […]

Shevuot, Chapter 7, Mishnah 7

Shevuot, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Seven   Introduction Mishnah seven teaches two more categories of people who swear and thereby collect.   Mishnah Seven 1)                     So too they have said that she who impairs her kethubah [by admitting that it had already been partially paid] cannot receive [the remainder of the] payment except on oath; a)                                           […]

Shevuot, Chapter 7, Mishnah 8

Shevuot, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Eight   Introduction Mishnah eight teaches five types of defendants who must take oaths even though the claimant’s claim is not certain.    Mishnah Eight 1)                     And these take an oath though there is no [definite] claim:  partners, tenants, guardians, the wife who transacts the affairs in the house, and the […]

Shevuot, Chapter 8, Mishnah 1

Shevuot, Chapter Eight, Mishnah One   Introduction The first mishnah in this chapter was taught in its entirety in Bava Metziah 7:8.  It is repeated here as an opening to the rest of the chapter which discusses when a guardian is liable to bring a sacrifice for having sworn a false oath.  There are certain […]

Shevuot, Chapter 8, Mishnah 2

Shevuot, Chapter Eight, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah deals with the oath taken by the unpaid guardian, who as we learned in the previous mishnah, can always take an oath to exculpate himself from liability.     Mishnah Two 1)                     If he [the owner] said to the unpaid guardian, “Where is my ox?” and […]

Shevuot, Chapter 8, Mishnah 3

Shevuot, Chapter Eight, Mishnah Three   Introduction Mishnah three continues to discuss unpaid guardians who swear falsely with regards to the object under their watch.   Mishnah Three 1)                     [If the owner said,] “Where is my ox?” and he replied to him, “I do not know what you are talking about,” whereas in reality it […]

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