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 Negaim

Introduction to Tractate Negaim   Leviticus 13-14 contains lengthy description of some sort of scaly disease that can inflict a person’s skin, clothes or a home. Our tractate is an extended commentary, explanation and clarification of these laws. This is not the place for a critical commentary on these laws, why they occupy such an […]

Negaim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 1

Negaim, Chapter One, Mishnah One   Introduction Our mishnah begins to discuss the signs of “negaim” that appear on the skin, meaning what counts as a “nega” and what does not. These are all various shades of white. The two mains signs are called “baheret” and “se’et,” both terms found in Leviticus 13:2.   Mishnah […]

Negaim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 2

Negaim, Chapter One, Mishnah Two   Introduction Leviticus 19:12-13 states: 18 When an inflammation appears on the skin of one’s body and it heals, 19 and a white swelling or a white discoloration streaked with red develops where the inflammation was, he shall present himself to the priest. Our mishnah deals with the color of […]

Negaim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 3

Negaim, Chapter One, Mishnah Three   Introduction For a nega to be impure it must be the size of a barleycorn. Our mishnah teaches that negaim of different colors, for instance, part is white like snow and part is like the skin of an egg, can join together to achieve the requisite barleycorn.   Mishnah […]

Negaim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 4

Negaim, Chapter One, Mishnah Four   Mishnah One 1)      Rabbi Hanina, the vice-chief of priests, says: the colors of negaim are sixteen.   a)      Rabbi Dosa ben Harkinas says: the colors of negaim are thirty-six.   b)      Akaviah ben Mahalalel says: seventy-two.   2)      Rabbi Hanina the vice-chief of priests says: negaim may not be inspected for the […]

Negaim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 5

Negaim, Chapter One, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah explains Rabbi Akiva’s position from the end of yesterday’s mishnah. There he claimed that sometimes delaying the examination of a nega can lead to a leniency. Our mishnah explains when this is so. The mishnah goes over numerous (and I’m not exaggerating) cases in which a […]

Negaim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 6

Negaim, Chapter One, Mishnah Six   Introduction Today’s mishnah is basically the opposite of yesterday’s. It deals with scenarios in which the nega was pure on Shabbat, but then by Sunday, when it was examined it had become impure. We shall explain how this leads to a stringency.   Mishnah Six How does it lead […]

Negaim, Chapter 10, Mishnah 1

Negaim, Chapter Ten, Mishnah One   Introduction Chapter ten deals with negaim that appear on one’s head or beard. These negaim are called “scalls” or “netek/netakim”. According to the rabbis the scall appears on a place on the beard or head from which regular hair has already fallen out. First the hair falls out and […]

Negaim, Chapter 10, Mishnah 10

Negaim, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Ten   Introduction Mishnah Ten deals with negaim that appear in scalp or forehead baldness, mentioned in Leviticus 13:40-44: 40 If a man loses the hair of his head and becomes bald, he is clean. 41 If he loses the hair on the front part of his head and becomes bald […]

Negaim, Chapter 10, Mishnah 2

Negaim, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Two   Introduction In today’s mishnah two sages argue whether the thin yellow hair that is a sign of impurity in a scall must appear only after the scall has already appeared or whether it can precede the scall.   Mishnah Two 1)      Yellow thin hair causes uncleanness whether it is […]

Negaim, Chapter 10, Mishnah 3

Negaim, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Three   Introduction Today’s mishnah continues to deal with Leviticus 13:37 which states, “But if the scall has remained unchanged in color, and black hair has grown in it, the scall is healed; he is clean.”   Mishnah Three 1)      [Black hair] that sprouts up affords protection against yellow hair and […]

Negaim, Chapter 10, Mishnah 4

Negaim, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Five   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with yellow hair that exists before the scall.   Mishnah Five 1)      Yellow hair that preceded a scall is clean. 2)      Rabbi Judah says that it is unclean. 3)      Rabbi Eliezer ben Jacob says: it neither causes uncleanness nor does it afford protection. 4)      Rabbi […]

Negaim, Chapter 10, Mishnah 5

Negaim, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Five   Introduction The first part of our mishnah deals with the obligation to shave the head or beard due to a scall. After a week of isolation, if no signs of impurity appear the person with the scall shaves his head and beard except for the place of the scall. […]

Negaim, Chapter 10, Mishnah 6

Negaim, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah deals with two scalls that are next to each other, with a line of hair separating the two of them. The mishnah is concerned with determining how to tell if one of the scalls has spread.      Mishnah Six 1)      Two scalls side by side […]

Negaim, Chapter 10, Mishnah 7

Negaim, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Seven   Introduction Yesterday’s mishnah dealt with two scalls next to each other but separated by a line of hair. Today’s mishnah deals with two scalls where one surrounds the other, and there is a line of hair separating the inside one from the outside one.   Mishnah Seven 1)      Two […]

Negaim, Chapter 10, Mishnah 8

Negaim, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Eight   Mishnah Eight 1)      One who has a scall with yellow hair within it is unclean.   2)      If subsequently black hair grew in it, he is clean; even if the black hair disappeared again he remains clean. 3)      Rabbi Shimon ben Judah says in the name of Rabbi Shimon: any […]

Negaim, Chapter 10, Mishnah 9

Negaim, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Nine   Mishnah Nine 1)      If one had a scall the size of a split bean and it spread over all his head he becomes clean.   2)      The head and the beard do not prevent [one another], the words of Rabbi Judah. 3)      Rabbi Shimon says: they do prevent. a)      Rabbi […]

Negaim, Chapter 11, Mishnah 1

Negaim, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah One   Introduction Up until now the Mishnah has been dealing with negaim that appear on the body. Chapter eleven deals with negaim that occur in clothing. This is addressed in Leviticus 13:47-59.   Mishnah One 1)      All garments can contract the uncleanness of negaim except those of non-Jews.  2)      One […]

Negaim, Chapter 11, Mishnah 10

Negaim, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Nine   Mishnah Nine 1)      [If a nega] appeared on the standing warp, the already woven cloth remains clean. a)      If it appeared on the already woven cloth, the standing warp remains clean. 2)      If it appeared on a sheet, he must also burn the fringes. a)      If it appeared on […]

Negaim, Chapter 11, Mishnah 11

Negaim, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Eleven   Mishnah Eleven 1)      Any object that is susceptible to corpse uncleanness, though not susceptible to midras uncleanness, is still susceptible to negaim uncleanness. 2)      For instance: the sail of a ship, a curtain, the forehead band of a hair-net, the wrappings of scrolls, a coiled belt, the straps of […]

Negaim, Chapter 11, Mishnah 12

Negaim, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Twelve   Introduction Today’s mishnah, the last mishnah about garment-negaim, deals with some differences in the status between a garment that has been isolated to see if an impure nega develops, and a garment that has already been declared impure.   Mishnah Twelve 1)      If a garment that had been isolated […]

Negaim, Chapter 11, Mishnah 2

Negaim, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Two   Introduction Our mishnah deals with cases where two types of wool or two flax and hemp have been hackled together to make one garment.   Mishnah Two 1)      Camel’s wool and sheep’s wool that have been hackled together: a)      If the majority is camel’s hair, they are not susceptible […]

Negaim, Chapter 11, Mishnah 3

Negaim, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      Colored hides and garments are not susceptible to negaim. a)      Houses whether they are colored or not colored, are susceptible to negaim, the words of Rabbi Meir. 2)      Rabbi Judah says: hides are like houses. 3)      Rabbi Shimon says: those that are naturally [colored] are susceptible […]

Negaim, Chapter 11, Mishnah 4

Negaim, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Four   Introduction The beginning of this mishnah continues to deal with garments that are colored, or at least partly colored. The second half deals with the spread of the nega within the garment.   Mishnah Four 1)      A garment whose warp was colored and whose woof was white, or whose […]

Negaim, Chapter 11, Mishnah 5

Negaim, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Five   Mishnah Five 1)      [A nega] that remained unchanged during the first week must be washed and isolated. 2)      One that remains unchanged during the second week must be burned. 3)      One that spread during the first or the second week must be burned. 4)      If it becomes dimmer in […]

Negaim, Chapter 11, Mishnah 6

Negaim, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Six   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with the reappearance of a nega in a patch that was put on a garment after the nega faded or the reappearance of the nega in the garment itself. The relevant verses are Leviticus 13:56-57:   56 But if the priest sees that the affected […]

Negaim, Chapter 11, Mishnah 7

Negaim, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Seven   Mishnah Seven 1)      A screen that had colored and white stripes, a nega may effectively spread from one to the other.   2)      They asked Rabbi Eliezer: But the white stripe is separate?   a)      He replied: I have heard no ruling on this question. b)      Rabbi Judah ben Batera said […]

Negaim, Chapter 11, Mishnah 8

Negaim, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Eight   Introduction Our mishnah discusses at what point threads become susceptible to negaim.   Mishnah Eight 1)      The warp and the woof can contract the uncleanness of negaim immediately. a)      Rabbi Judah says: the warp, only after it has been boiled, but the woof immediately. 2)      And bundles of flax […]

Negaim, Chapter 11, Mishnah 9

Negaim, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Nine   Mishnah Nine 1)      One who winds [a thread] from one coil to another, or from one spool to another, or from the upper beam to the lower beam, and so also in the case of the two sides of a shirt, if a nega appears on the one, the […]

Negaim, Chapter 12, Mishnah 1

Negaim, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah One   Introduction Chapter Twelve deals with negaim that are found in houses. This is referred to in Leviticus 14:33-53. The first mishnah of the chapter deals with which types of houses are susceptible to negaim. It is similar to the first mishnah of chapter eleven.   Mishnah One 1)      All […]

Negaim, Chapter 12, Mishnah 2

Negaim, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Two   Introduction The last line of this mishnah is the key to understanding it—for a house to be susceptible to impurity it must have stones, wood and earth. Based on partially on that principle, the mishnah lists what material must be in houses for it to be susceptible to nega […]

Negaim, Chapter 12, Mishnah 3

Negaim, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Two   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with how large the nega must be for it to be a sign of impurity.    Mishnah Two 1)      And how many stones must there be in it [for it to be susceptible to negaim]?   a)      Rabbi Ishmael says: four.   b)      Rabbi Akiva says: eight.   […]

Negaim, Chapter 12, Mishnah 4

Negaim, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Four   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with how much wood and earth must be in the wall for it to be susceptible to impurity.   Mishnah Four 1)      [And how much] wood [must be in the wall for it to susceptible]?   a)      Enough to be set under the lintel. b)      Rabbi […]

Negaim, Chapter 12, Mishnah 5

Negaim, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Five   Introduction Ostensibly, this mishnah deals with the procedure in which a house is inspected for negaim. However, most of the mishnah actually inteprets a few biblical verses that discuss this procedure.   Mishnah Five 1)      What is the procedure for the inspection of a house?   a)      “The owner of […]

Negaim, Chapter 12, Mishnah 6

Negaim, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Six   Introduction Today’s mishnah continues to deal with the procedure of inspecting and declaring impure a house in which a nega has been found.   Mishnah Six 1)      [The priest] must not go into his own house to isolate it, nor may he stand within the house in which there […]

Negaim, Chapter 12, Mishnah 7

Negaim, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Seven   Introduction The last mishnah of chapter twelve concludes the discussion of the procedure of declaring a house unclean due to a nega.   Mishnah Seven 1)      He comes again at the end of the week and inspects the nega. 2)      If it has returned, “He shall break down the […]

Negaim, Chapter 13, Mishnah 1

Negaim, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah One   Introduction I bet you are excited to learn that chapter thirteen continues to discuss negaim that afflict houses!   Mishnah One There are ten [laws concerning the negaim in] houses: 1)      (1 + 2) If during the first week a nega became faint or disappeared, it must be scraped […]

Negaim, Chapter 13, Mishnah 10

Negaim, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Ten   Introduction Today’s mishnah continues yesterday’s topic: how long does it take for things which he wears to become impure in a house afflicted by a nega.   Mishnah Ten 1)      If he was standing inside, and he stretched his hands outside, with his rings on his hands, if he […]

Negaim, Chapter 13, Mishnah 11

Negaim, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Eleven   Mishnah Eleven 1)      If a metzora entered a house all the vessels in it, even up to the roof beams, become unclean. a)      Rabbi Shimon says: only up to a height of four cubits.   2)      Vessels become unclean immediately. a)      Rabbi Judah says: only if the metzora stayed there […]

Negaim, Chapter 13, Mishnah 12

Negaim, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Twelve   Introduction The final mishnah of chapter thirteen continues to deal with the status of vessels in a house into which a metzora has entered.   Mishnah Twelve 1)      If he enters a synagogue, a partition ten handbreadths high and four cubits wide must be made for him.   2)      He […]

Negaim, Chapter 13, Mishnah 2

Negaim, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      In the case of a stone in a corner, when the stone is taken out it, he must take it all out; a)      But when [the house is] torn down he tears down his own [part] and leaves that which belongs to his neighbor. b)      Thus […]

Negaim, Chapter 13, Mishnah 3

Negaim, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      A house in which a nega appeared—if it had an upper chamber above it, the beams are considered part of the upper chamber. 2)      If the nega appeared in the upper chamber the beams are considered part of the lower room.   3)      If there was no […]

Negaim, Chapter 13, Mishnah 4

Negaim, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Four   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with the impurity of the afflicted house.   Mishnah Four 1)      A house that has been isolated conveys uncleanness from its inside;   2)      And one that has been certified unclean, both from its inside and from its outside. 3)      Both convey uncleanness  if one enters […]

Negaim, Chapter 13, Mishnah 5

Negaim, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Five   Mishnah Five 1)      If one who builds in cleanliness with stones from a house that was isolated and the nega returned to the [former] house, the stones must be taken out. 2)      If it returned to the stones, the first house must be torn down, and the stones serve […]

Negaim, Chapter 13, Mishnah 6

Negaim, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Six   Mishnah Six 1)      If a house overshadowed a house with a nega and so also if a tree overshadowed a house with a nega, anyone who enters the outer [of the two] remains clean, the words of Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah. 2)      Rabbi Eliezer said:  if one stone of […]

Negaim, Chapter 13, Mishnah 7

Negaim, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Seven   Introduction In yesterday’s mishnah we discussed the topic of “overhanging (ohel)” in connection with a house that has a nega. Today’s mishnah deals with impurity conveyed by overhanging in connection with a person that has a nega.   Mishnah Seven 1)      If an unclean person stood under a tree […]

Negaim, Chapter 13, Mishnah 8

Negaim, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Eight   Mishnah Eight 1)      If a person who was clean put his head and the greater part of his body inside an unclean house, he becomes unclean. 2)      And if an unclean man put his head and the greater part of his body inside a clean house he causes it […]

Negaim, Chapter 13, Mishnah 9

Negaim, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Nine   Introduction Today’s mishnah teaches that with regard to the time it take to become defiled there is a distinction between clothes carried into a house afflicted with a nega and clothes worn into such a house.   Mishnah Nine 1)      If a person entered a house afflicted with a […]

Negaim, Chapter 14, Mishnah 1

Negaim, Chapter Fourteen, Mishnah One   Introduction The final chapter of Negaim deals with the purification of the metzora. Today’s mishnah is basically a summary of Leviticus 14:1-7: 1 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2 This shall be the ritual for a leper at the time that he is to be cleansed. When it […]

Negaim, Chapter 14, Mishnah 10

Negaim, Chapter Fourteen, Mishnah Ten   Introduction Today’s mishnah explains the following verses from Leviticus 14:   26 The priest shall then pour some of the oil into the palm of the priest’s left hand, 27 and with the finger of his right hand the priest shall sprinkle some of the oil that is in […]

Negaim, Chapter 14, Mishnah 11

Negaim, Chapter Fourteen, Mishnah Eleven   Introduction The type of animal that the metzora brings for his guilt and whole burnt offering depend on whether he is rich or poor. If he is rich he brings lambs and if he is poor he can bring birds. Our mishnah discusses a situation where a person goes […]

Negaim, Chapter 14, Mishnah 12

Negaim, Chapter Fourteen, Mishnah Twelve   Mishnah Twelve 1)      A poor metzora who brought the sacrifice of a rich man has fulfilled his duty; a)      But a rich metzora that brought the sacrifice of a poor man has not fulfilled his duty. 2)      A man may bring a poor man’s sacrifice for his son, his […]

Negaim, Chapter 14, Mishnah 13

Negaim, Chapter Fourteen, Mishnah Thirteen   Introduction The final mishnah of Negaim deals with one of the rabbis’ favorite subjects—what happens when different things of different categories are mixed up.   Mishnah Thirteen 1)      If the sacrifices of two metzoraim were mixed up and after the sacrifice of one of them had been offered one […]

Negaim, Chapter 14, Mishnah 2

Negaim, Chapter Fourteen, Mishnah Two   Introduction Today’s mishnah continues with the purification process. It explains the verses from Leviticus where yesterday’s mishnah left off (Leviticus 14:7-8).   7 He shall then sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed of the eruption and cleanse him; and he shall set the live […]

Negaim, Chapter 14, Mishnah 3

Negaim, Chapter Fourteen, Mishnah Three   Introduction Today’s mishnah describes the end of the purification process for the metzora. It explicates the following verses: 9 On the seventh day he shall shave off all his hair — of head, beard, and eyebrows. When he has shaved off all his hair, he shall wash his clothes […]

Negaim, Chapter 14, Mishnah 4

Negaim, Chapter Fourteen, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      There are three who must shave their hair, and their shaving of it is a commandment: the nazirite, the metzora, and the Levites.   2)      If any of these cut their hair but not with a razor, or if they left even two remaining hairs, their act […]

Negaim, Chapter 14, Mishnah 5

Negaim, Chapter Fourteen, Mishnah Five   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with the two birds that are brought by the metzora. One is slaughtered and its blood is spilled into a bucket and then sprinkled onto the metzora. The other is eventually set free.   Mishnah Five 1)      With regard to the two birds: the commandment […]

Negaim, Chapter 14, Mishnah 6

Negaim, Chapter Fourteen, Mishnah Six   Mishnah Six 1)      The mitzvah of the cedarwood is for it to be one cubit in length, and in thickness a quarter of that of the leg of a bed, when one leg is divided into two halves and these two into four.   2)      The mitzvah of the hyssop […]

Negaim, Chapter 14, Mishnah 7

Negaim, Chapter Fourteen, Mishnah Seven   Mishnah Seven 1)      On the eighth day he would bring three beasts: a sin-offering, a guilt-offering and a whole burnt-offering. 2)      And a poor man would bring a sin-offering of a bird and a burnt-offering of a bird.   Explanation Section one: These are the sacrifices clearly outlined in […]

Negaim, Chapter 14, Mishnah 8

Negaim, Chapter Fourteen, Mishnah Eight   Introduction Today’s mishnah continues to describe the process of the metzora bringing his offerings.   Mishnah Eight 1)      He comes to the guilt-offering and he puts his two hands on it. 2)      He then slaughters it. 3)      Two priests receive its blood, one in a vessel and the other […]

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