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 Niddah

Introduction to Tractate Niddah   Leviticus 15 (text is found below) distinguishes between a woman who discharges blood during her menstrual period (vs. 19-24) and a woman who discharges blood not during her menstrual period (vs. 25-30). There are rules (these will get a bit more complicated) that distinguish between the two. Here they are […]

Niddah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 1

Niddah, Chapter One, Mishnah One   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with a woman who discovers that she has had her menstrual period but is not sure when it began. The question is at what point does she have to assume that she was already impure such that the things that she touched must be considered […]

Niddah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 2

Niddah, Chapter One, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      How [does the rule that] it suffices [to reckon her period of uncleanness from] the time she discovers the flow work? 2)      If she was sitting on a bed and was occupied with ritually clean objects and then she leaves [the bed] and then sees [blood […]

Niddah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 3

Niddah, Chapter One, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      Rabbi Eliezer says: there are four types of women for whom it suffices [to reckon] their [period of uncleanness from] the time [of their discovering the flow]. a)      A virgin,   b)      A pregnant woman,   c)      A nursing woman; d)      And an old woman. 2)      Rabbi Joshua […]

Niddah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 4

Niddah, Chapter One, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      Who is regarded as “virgin”? a)      Any woman who has never yet observed a blood flow, even if she is married. 2)      “A woman in pregnancy”? One whose fetus is notice. 3)      “A nursing woman”? Until she has weaned her child. 4)      If she gave her […]

Niddah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 5

Niddah, Chapter One, Mishnah Five   Introduction Today’s mishnah defines whom is considered an old woman, that need not be concerned that she retroactively defiled things. The mishnah uses the world “onah” (in plural “onot”). An “onah” is the period in which she is supposed to have been menstruating. Generally, an “onah” is 30 days, […]

Niddah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 6

Niddah, Chapter One, Mishnah Six   Introduction Today’s mishnah offers a qualification to the rule that the women mentioned in mishnayot 3-5 defile only the things that they touched after they noticed that they had their period.   Mishnah Six 1)      And of what did they speak  when they said  that “it suffices [for them […]

Niddah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 7

Niddah, Chapter One, Mishnah Seven   Introduction Today’s mishnah teaches that although women who have regular menstrual cycle do not retroactively defile things (see mishnah one), they should examine themselves at certain prescribed time regularly to make sure that they has not begun to menstruate.   Mishnah Seven 1)      Although though they said [that for […]

Niddah, Chapter 10, Mishnah 1

Niddah, Chapter Ten, Mishnah One   Introduction Today’s mishnah continues to deal with the topic of distinguishing between virginal blood and menstrual blood—the former is pure and the latter is impure. The specific issue in this mishnah is whether or not one can be sure that the blood that is seen on the wedding night […]

Niddah, Chapter 10, Mishnah 2

Niddah, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      If a menstruant examined herself on the seventh day in the morning and found herself to be clean, and at twilight she did not ascertain her separation [from impurity], and after some days she examined herself and found that she was unclean, she is in a […]

Niddah, Chapter 10, Mishnah 3

Niddah, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      If a zav or a zavah examined themselves on the first day and found themselves clean and on the seventh day and found themselves clean, but did not examine themselves during the other intervening, days: 2)      Rabbi Eliezer says: they are in a presumptive condition of […]

Niddah, Chapter 10, Mishnah 4

Niddah, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      If a zav, a zavah, a niddah, a woman after childbirth or a metzora have died [their corpses] they convey uncleanness by being carried until the flesh has decayed. 2)      If a non-Jew has died he does not convey uncleanness.   3)      Bet Shammai says: all women […]

Niddah, Chapter 10, Mishnah 5

Niddah, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Five   Mishnah Five 1)      If a woman died and a quarter of a log of blood comes out of her, it   conveys uncleanness as a bloodstain and it also conveys uncleanness in a tent.   a)      Rabbi Judah says: it does not convey uncleanness as a stain, since it was detached […]

Niddah, Chapter 10, Mishnah 6

Niddah, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah talks about the purity of a woman during the period where she is “dwelling in clean blood.” Such a woman gave birth and went to the mikveh either 7 days after the birth of a boy or 14 days after the birth of a girl. For […]

Niddah, Chapter 10, Mishnah 7

Niddah, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Seven   Introduction Today’s mishnah continues to deal with the purity status of a woman following the one week or two weeks after childbirth.   Mishnah Seven 1)      But they agree that she may eat second tithe. 2)      And she may set aside her hallah, bring it near to the dough […]

Niddah, Chapter 10, Mishnah 8

Niddah, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Eight   Introduction As background to this mishnah, we should remember that the rabbis count two periods in a woman’s cycle: a seven day period in which blood she sees counts as menstrual which is followed by an 11 day period in which blood she sees counts as zivah, unnatural bloody […]

Niddah, Chapter 2, Mishnah 1

Niddah, Chapter Two, Mishnah One   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with a woman examining oneself to see if she had begun to menstruate.    Mishnah One 1)      Every hand that makes frequent examination: a)      In the case of women is praiseworthy,  b)      But in the case of men it ought to be cut off.   […]

Niddah, Chapter 2, Mishnah 2

Niddah, Chapter Two, Mishnah Two   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with what happens if blood is found on one of the testing-rags after a couple have intercourse.   Mishnah Two 1)      If [blood] is found on his rag they are both unclean and they are liable to bring a sacrifice.   2)      If any blood is […]

Niddah, Chapter 2, Mishnah 3

Niddah, Chapter Two, Mishnah Three   Introduction Our mishnah is related to yesterday’s mishnah where we learned that if the woman sees blood some time after having had intercourse she only defiles her husband from “doubt.” The mishnah explains how long is considered “after time.”   Mishnah Three 1)      What is meant by “after a […]

Niddah, Chapter 2, Mishnah 4

Niddah, Chapter Two, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      All women are in the presumption of being pure for their husband. 2)      For those who return from a journey, their wives are in the presumption of being pure. 3)      Bet Shammai says: a woman needs two testing-rags for every time she has intercourse, or she […]

Niddah, Chapter 2, Mishnah 5

Niddah, Chapter Two, Mishnah Five   Introduction Today’s mishnah distinguishes between pure and impure blood that flow from various sources in a woman’s body.   Mishnah Five The sages spoke of a woman through a metaphor: A chamber, a vestibule and an upper chamber.  The blood of the chamber is unclean, If blood is found […]

Niddah, Chapter 2, Mishnah 6

Niddah, Chapter Two, Mishnah Six   Introduction The rabbis distinguished pure blood (blood that is not considered to have come from the uterus) from impure blood (uterine blood) by virtue of its color. In our mishnah the rabbis list which colors are pure and which are not.   Mishnah Six 1)      Five kinds of blood […]

Niddah, Chapter 2, Mishnah 7

Niddah, Chapter Two, Mishnah Seven   Introduction Today’s mishnah explains the colors found in section one of yesterday’s mishnah.   Mishnah Seven 1)      What is considered red? Like the red of a wound. 2)      Black: Like ink-sediment. a)      Darker than this is impure. b)      Lighter than this is pure. 3)      Like bright crocus: like the […]

Niddah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 1

Niddah, Chapter Three, Mishnah One   Introduction Chapter three deals with a woman who had a miscarriage. There are two issues here: 1) Is she impure due to having given birth? This is a subject we covered a long time ago in Bekhorot chapter 8 and Keritot chapter 1. 2) Is she impure due to […]

Niddah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 2

Niddah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      If a woman miscarried an object that was like a rind, like a hair, like earth, like red flies, let her put it in water: a)      If it dissolves she is unclean, b)      But if it does not she is clean.  2)      If she miscarried an […]

Niddah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 3

Niddah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      If a woman aborted a sac full of water, full of blood, or full of pieces of flesh, she need not be concerned that it was a birth. 2)      But if its limbs were fashioned she must sit for both male and female.   Explanation Section […]

Niddah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 4

Niddah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      If she aborted a sandal or a placenta she sits in uncleanness for both male and female. 2)      If a placenta is in a house, the house is unclean, not because a placenta is a fetus but because generally there can be no placenta without a […]

Niddah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 5

Niddah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Five   Mishnah Five 1)      If a woman aborted a tumtum or an androginos, she must sit for a male and a female.  2)      [If she gave birth] to a tumtum and a male, or to an androginos and a male, she must sit for a male and a female.   3)      […]

Niddah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 6

Niddah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Six   Mishnah Six 1)      If a woman miscarried and it is unknown what it was, she sits for both a male child and a female child.   2)      If it is unknown whether it was a child or not, she sits for both a male and a female   and as a […]

Niddah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 7

Niddah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Seven   Mishnah Seven 1)      If a woman miscarried on the fortieth day, she need not be concerned that it was a valid childbirth. 2)      On the forty-first day, she sits as for both a male and a female and as for a menstruant. 3)      Rabbi Ishmael says: [if she miscarried […]

Niddah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 1

Niddah, Chapter Four, Mishnah One   Introduction The first three mishnayot of chapter four deal with the menstrual impurity of women from three groups that were considered outside of the Jewish fold, as determined by the rabbis: Samaritans, Sadducees and Gentiles.   Mishnah One 1)      The daughters of the Samaritans  are regarded as menstruants from […]

Niddah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 2

Niddah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Two   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with Sadducean women. The Sadducees were one of the main factions during the Second Temple period. They were the rivals of the Pharisees, the group that the rabbis considered themselves to be the descendents of. Truth be told, we don’t know a lot about the […]

Niddah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 3

Niddah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      The blood of a Gentile and the clean blood of a metzoraat (a woman with scale disease): a)      Bet Shammai declares clean. b)      And Bet Hillel holds that it is like her spittle or her urine. 2)      The blood of a woman after childbirth who did […]

Niddah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 4

Niddah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      A woman who is having difficult labor is regarded as a menstruant. 2)      If she had difficult labor for three days of the eleven days and she ceased having pains for twenty-four hours and then gave birth, she is regarded as having given birth in zivah, […]

Niddah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 5

Niddah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Five   Mishnah Five 1)      How long can protracted labor [be considered] as lasting?  2)      Rabbi Meir says: even forty or fifty days.  3)      Rabbi Judah say: the [ninth] month suffices for her.   4)      Rabbi Yose and Rabbi Shimon says: protracted labor is not for more than two weeks [before birth]. […]

Niddah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 6

Niddah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Six   Mishnah Six 1)      If a woman was in hard labor during the eighty days prescribed for the birth of a female, all kinds of blood that she may observe are clean, until the fetus is born. a)      But Rabbi Eliezer holds them to be unclean.   2)      They said to […]

Niddah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 7

Niddah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Seven   Mishnah Seven 1)      Throughout all the eleven days a woman is in a presumption of cleanness.    a)      If she did not examine herself—if this was unwittingly, under duress or intentionally, she is clean. 2)      If the time of her regular period arrived and she did not examine herself […]

Niddah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 1

Niddah, Chapter Five, Mishnah One   Mishnah One 1)      For a fetus born from its mother’s side, she does not sit the prescribed days of uncleanness  nor the days of cleanness, nor does one incur on its account the obligation to bring a sacrifice.  a)      Rabbi Shimon says: it is regarded as a regular birth. […]

Niddah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 2

Niddah, Chapter Five, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      If he was eating terumah when he felt that his limbs shook, he should take hold of his member and swallow the terumah. 2)      And it conveys uncleanness however small the quantity, even if it is only of the size of a mustard seed or less. […]

Niddah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 3

Niddah, Chapter Five, Mishnah Three   Introduction The remainder of this chapter goes through developmental stages of children and notes when they are obligated or subject to various laws.   Mishnah Three 1)      A girl one day old defiles due to menstruation. 2)      A girl ten days old defiles due to zivah. 3)      A boy […]

Niddah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 4

Niddah, Chapter Five, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah teaches that in a legal sense, sexual relations with a girl over the age of three counts as sexual relations. I should emphasize that this mishnah in no way condones such an act (which is certainly rape)—it just teaches that this counts as an act of […]

Niddah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 5

Niddah, Chapter Five, Mishnah Five   Introduction Today’s mishnah teaches that for a boy to be legally capable of intercourse, he must be 9 years old. Again, I should stress that this is a legal definition. The mishnah is not sanctioning boys having sex at that age. Indeed, I’m sure this was quite uncommon, if […]

Niddah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 6

Niddah, Chapter Five, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah deals with the age at which a child’s vows are considered valid. This is an intellectual capacity and not a physical capacity as was the case in the first five mishnayot of the chapter. The vows discussed directly in this mishnah are biblical types of vows—a […]

Niddah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 7

Niddah, Chapter Five, Mishnah Seven   Introduction Today’s mishnah teaches that a girl has three stages of physical development, each with their own legal ramifications. These ages are: 1) ketanah, a minor; 2) naarah, a girl beginning to mature; 3) a bogeret, a mature girl. The father’s rights over his daughter are limited to the […]

Niddah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 8

Niddah, Chapter Five, Mishnah Eight   Introduction Today’s mishnah contains several opinions as to what constitutes the physical development of a girl such that she is considered a bogeret. All four of these opinions relate to the development of the girl’s breasts. I think that the translation of these four opinions is sufficient to understand […]

Niddah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 9

Niddah, Chapter Five, Mishnah Nine   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with a male or female who never show signs of hitting puberty. A female in this category is called an aylonit, which probably comes from the word “ayil”—ram. And a male is called a “saris” which is the Hebrew word for eunuch. The laws of […]

Niddah, Chapter 6, Mishnah 1

Niddah, Chapter Six, Mishnah One   Introduction Today’s mishnah is really a continuation of the topic from last chapter. It discusses what counts as a sign of having reached puberty—the development of pubic hair (the lower sign) or the development of breasts (the upper sign).   Mishnah One 1)      If the lower sign appears before […]

Niddah, Chapter 6, Mishnah 10

Niddah, Chapter Six, Mishnah Ten   Mishnah Ten 1)      Whatever requires a blessing after it requires one before it; 2)      But there are things that require a blessing before them and not after them.   Explanation One must recite a blessing before eating anything, even of the smallest amount. One also must recite a blessing […]

Niddah, Chapter 6, Mishnah 11

Niddah, Chapter Six, Mishnah Eleven   Introduction Today’s mishnah returns to the main subject of the chapter—at what stage of physical development a child becomes obligated in the commandments.   Mishnah Eleven 1)      If a girl has grown two pubic hairs she may perform either halitzah or contract levirate marriage, and she is obligated in […]

Niddah, Chapter 6, Mishnah 12

Niddah, Chapter Six, Mishnah Twelve   Introduction Today’s mishnah clarifies how long a hair must be for it to count as a hair.   Mishnah Twelve 1)      The two hairs spoken of in regard to the red heifer and in regard to leprosy as well as those spoken of anywhere else must be long enough […]

Niddah, Chapter 6, Mishnah 13

Niddah, Chapter Six, Mishnah Thirteen   Mishnah Thirteen 1)      A woman who found a blood-stain is in a spoiled condition and must take into consideration the possibility that it was due to zivah, the words of Rabbi Meir. 2)      But the sages say: in the case of blood-stains there is no [need to consider the […]

Niddah, Chapter 6, Mishnah 14

Niddah, Chapter Six, Mishnah Fourteen   Mishnah Fourteen 1)      If a woman observed [a discharge of blood] on the eleventh day at twilight, at the beginning of a menstruation period and at the end of a menstruation period, at the beginning of a zivah period and at the end of a zivah period; 2)      On […]

Niddah, Chapter 6, Mishnah 2

Niddah, Chapter Six, Mishnah Two   Introduction The next 9 mishnayot have nothing to do with the topic at hand. Rather, they are all formulated in the same format as yesterday’s mishnah—it is possible for x without y, but it is not possible for y without x.   Mishnah Two 1)      Similarly, any [hole in] […]

Niddah, Chapter 6, Mishnah 3

Niddah, Chapter Six, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      Whatever is susceptible to midras uncleanness is also susceptible to corpse-uncleanness. 2)      But there are things that are susceptible to corpse uncleanness but not to midras-uncleanness.      Explanation Section one: For an item to be susceptible to midras uncleanness, which is transmitted by sitting, laying […]

Niddah, Chapter 6, Mishnah 4

Niddah, Chapter Six, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      Anyone who is fit to try capital cases is also fit to try monetary cases. a)      But there are those who are fit to try monetary suits and and unfit to try capital cases. 2)      Anyone who is eligible to act as judge is eligible to […]

Niddah, Chapter 6, Mishnah 5

Niddah, Chapter Six, Mishnah Five   Mishnah Five 1)      Whatsoever is subject to tithes is susceptible to food-uncleanness. 2)      But there are foods that are to food-uncleanness and not subject to tithes.   Explanation Section one: Only food is subject to tithes and terumah. Therefore, anything that is subject to tithes must be a food. […]

Niddah, Chapter 6, Mishnah 6

Niddah, Chapter Six, Mishnah Six   Mishnah Six Whatever is subject to peah   is also subject to tithes. But there is [produce] which is subject to tithes and is not subject to peah.   Explanation The category of produce that is subject to peah (leaving the corner of one’s fields) is narrower than that liable […]

Niddah, Chapter 6, Mishnah 7

Niddah, Chapter Six, Mishnah Seven   Mishnah Seven 1)      Whatever [beast] is subject to the laws of the first of the fleece is also subject to that of the priestly gifts. 2)      But there may be [a beast] that is subject to the law of the priestly gifts and not to that of the first […]

Niddah, Chapter 6, Mishnah 8

Niddah, Chapter Six, Mishnah Eight   Mishnah Eight 1)      Whatever is subject to the law of removal is also subject to the sabbatical year.   2)      But there is [a kind or produce] that is subject to the sabbatical year and is not subject to the law of removal.      Explanation Again, there are two […]

Niddah, Chapter 6, Mishnah 9

Niddah, Chapter Six, Mishnah Nine   Mishnah Nine 1)      Whatever has scales has fins, a)      But there are fish that have fins and no scales. 2)      Whatever has horns has [split] hooves; a)      But there are animals that have [split] hooves and no horns.   Explanation Section one: For fish to be kosher they need […]

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