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.

Ohalot

Introduction to Tractate Ohalot

Introduction to Tractate Ohalot   The word “Ohalot” means “tents” and it refers to the halakhah found in Numbers 19 (quoted below) according to which a person or vessel found in a tent with a dead body is impure even without direct contact with the body. In other words, the tent causes the defilement of […]

Ohalot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 1

Ohalot, Chapter One, Mishnah One   Introduction Our mishnah serves as an introduction to the next several mishnayot. As is frequently the case in the beginning of a tractate, the mishnah is based on numbers (see for instance the beginning of Shabbat and Shevuot). It discusses the different levels of impurity that have their source […]

Ohalot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 2

Ohalot, Chapter One, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      What [is the case of] three? Vessels touching a corpse and [other] vessels [touching these] vessels are defiled with seven days’ defilement. 2)      The third: whether a person or vessels, is defiled with a defilement lasting until the evening.   Explanation Section one: A vessel that […]

Ohalot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 3

Ohalot, Chapter One, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      What is the case of four?  Vessels touching a corpse, a person [touching these] vessels, and [other] vessels [touching this] person, are defiled with seven days’ defilement. a)      The fourth, whether a person or vessels, is defiled with a defilement [lasting until the] evening. 2)      Rabbi […]

Ohalot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 4

Ohalot, Chapter One, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      [Both] persons and vessels can be defiled through a corpse.   2)      A greater stringency applies to persons than to vessels and to vessels than to persons. For with vessels [there can be] three [series of defilements], whereas with persons [there can be only] two.   3)      A […]

Ohalot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 5

Ohalot, Chapter One, Mishnah Five   Introduction Our mishnah is similar to yesterday’s mishnah in that it compares the stringency relating to an impure person with the stringency relating to vessels, in this case clothing. The topic of our mishnah is not the impurity caused by a dead body, but rather the impurity caused by […]

Ohalot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 6

Ohalot, Chapter One, Mishnah Six   Mishnah Six 1)      A person does not defile [as a corpse] until he dies. 2)      Even he is cut up or even if he is about to die, he [still] a)       makes levirate marriage obligatory b)      and exempts from levirate marriage, c)      he feeds [his mother]  terumah  d)      and […]

Ohalot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 7

Ohalot, Chapter One, Mishnah Seven   Mishnah Seven Whole limbs  [of the body] have no [restriction as to] size: even less than an olive-sized portion of a corpse or less than an olive-sized portion of nevelah (carrion), or less than a lentil-sized portion of a sheretz can defile,  [each in the manner of] their respective […]

Ohalot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 8

Ohalot, Chapter One, Mishnah Eight   Introduction Today’s mishnah defines “limbs.” Obviously, the modern use of the word limb is not the same as the rabbinic use of the term. The word “limb” mostly seems to refer to bones, as we shall see.   Mishnah Eight 1)      There are two hundred and forty-eight limbs in […]

Ohalot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 1

Ohalot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah One   Introduction Chapter ten discusses cases where there is a hatchway in a house leading to the roof. The mishnah will discuss various scenarios with regard to how large the hatchway is, and whether or not something covers it.   Mishnah One 1)      A hatchway in a house, which has […]

Ohalot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 2

Ohalot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      If the hatchway does not have an opening of a square handbreadth: 2)      If there is uncleanness in the house, what is directly [below] the hatchway remains clean. 3)      If the uncleanness is directly [below] the hatchway, the house remains clean.  4)      When the uncleanness is […]

Ohalot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 3

Ohalot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      If part of the uncleanness is in the house and part directly [below] the hatchway, the house becomes unclean, and what is directly [above] the uncleanness becomes unclean, the words of Meir. 2)      Rabbi Judah says: the house becomes unclean but what is directly [above] the […]

Ohalot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 4

Ohalot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      If there are multiple hatchways, one above the other,  and they each have an opening of one handbreadth [square], if there is uncleanness in the house,  what is directly [below] the hatchways remains clean. 2)      If the uncleanness is directly [below] the hatchways, the house remains […]

Ohalot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 5

Ohalot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Five   Introduction Today’s mishnah continues to deal with a house with hatchways between multiple stories. The hatchways in today’s mishnah are less than one square handbreadth.   Mishnah Five In a case where the hatchways do not have an opening of a square handbreadth: 1)      If there is uncleanness in […]

Ohalot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 6

Ohalot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Six   Introduction Today’s mishnah (and tomorrow’s) deal with cases where a pot is placed below the hatchway. The mishnah will discuss various scenarios as to where the pot is, and where the source of impurity is and how that effects what becomes impure.   Mishnah Six 1)      In the case […]

Ohalot, Chapter 10, Mishnah 7

Ohalot, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Seven   Mishnah Seven 1)      [In the case where the pot was] placed on the side of the threshold [of the house] such that if it was raised it would touch the lintel over a [space of a square] handbreadth:  2)      If there is uncleanness below, within or above [the pot], […]

Ohalot, Chapter 11, Mishnah 1

Ohalot, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah One   Mishnah One 1)      A house, which has been split [into two]: 2)      If there is uncleanness in the outer [part], vessels in the inner [part] remain clean.  3)      If the uncleanness is in the inner [part], vessels in the outer [are clean]: a)      Bet Shammai says: when the split […]

Ohalot, Chapter 11, Mishnah 2

Ohalot, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Two   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with a portico, a structure made of columns supporting a roof that stands in front of a house.   Mishnah Two 1)      A portico which has been split [into two]: 2)      If there is uncleanness on the one side, vessels on the other side remain […]

Ohalot, Chapter 11, Mishnah 3

Ohalot, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Three   Introduction Our mishnah continues to deal with the portico that had a split in it. The mishnah discusses various objects placed below that either do or do not close the split such that impurity on one side can travel to the other.   Mishnah Three 1)      A thick woolen […]

Ohalot, Chapter 11, Mishnah 4

Ohalot, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      If a person was looking out of a window and overshadowed a funeral procession:   a)      Bet Shammai says: he does not bring uncleanness.   b)      But Bet Hillel says: he does bring the uncleanness. 2)      They agree that if he was dressed in his clothes or if […]

Ohalot, Chapter 11, Mishnah 5

Ohalot, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Five   Introduction Our mishnah continues to discuss whether a person overshadowed by a funeral procession brings uncleanness into the house.   Mishnah Five If a person was lying on the threshold and the funeral procession overshadowed him: Bet Shammai says: he does bring the uncleanness.   But Bet Hillel says: he […]

Ohalot, Chapter 11, Mishnah 6

Ohalot, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Six   Introduction Today’s mishnah is the final one in the series of debates between Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel concerning a person acting as an ohel.   Mishnah Six [In the case] where the uncleanness was in the house and clean persons overshadowed him: Bet Shammai declares them clean, But […]

Ohalot, Chapter 11, Mishnah 7

Ohalot, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Seven   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with a dog who ate the flesh of a corpse and then died on the threshold of a house. His neck is in the house and his stomach, where the piece of flesh is being digested, is outside of the house. The question is: does […]

Ohalot, Chapter 11, Mishnah 8

Ohalot, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Eight   Mishnah Eight 1)      A cellar in a house with a candlestick in it, whose calyx protrudes and an olive-basket is placed such that if the candlestick was taken away the olive-basket would still remain over the mouth of the cellar: a)      Bet Shammai says: the cellar remains clean but […]

Ohalot, Chapter 11, Mishnah 9

Ohalot, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Nine   Mishnah Nine 1)      Vessels [that are] between the rims of the olive-basket and the rims of the cellar, even to the depths, remain clean.   2)      If there is uncleanness in the cellar, the house becomes unclean.   3)      If there is uncleanness in the house, vessels in the walls of […]

Ohalot, Chapter 12, Mishnah 1

Ohalot, Chapter Twelve, Chapter One   Mishnah One 1)      A board placed over the mouth of a new oven,  overlapping it on all sides to the extent of a handbreadth, a)      If there is uncleanness beneath [the board], vessels above it remain clean; b)      If there is uncleanness above it, vessels beneath it remain clean.  […]

Ohalot, Chapter 12, Mishnah 2

Ohalot, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      Netting  placed  over the mouth of an oven, [so that it is] closed with a sealed lid:  a)      If there is uncleanness below [the netting] or above it, everything becomes unclean; b)      But what is directly [above] the air-space of the oven remains clean.  2)      If […]

Ohalot, Chapter 12, Mishnah 3

Ohalot, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      [In a case where] the board is placed over the mouth of an old oven projects from either [end] to the extent of one handbreadth but not from the sides: a)      If there is uncleanness under one end [of the board], vessels [under] the other end […]

Ohalot, Chapter 12, Mishnah 4

Ohalot, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      [With regard to] the shoe of a cradle, for which a hole had been made [in the ceiling to bring it] into the house [below],   2)      If [the hole] is one handbreadth square, everything   becomes unclean; 3)      But if it was not [one handbreadth square] its […]

Ohalot, Chapter 12, Mishnah 5

Ohalot, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Five   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with a house that has two stories, but is not completed. There are roof beams going across each ceiling, but there are gaps in between each beam that have not yet been filled in with the plaster.   Mishnah Five 1)      [With regard to] the […]

Ohalot, Chapter 12, Mishnah 6

Ohalot, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Six   Introduction Today’s mishnah discusses a beam that goes from one wall to another. It also deals with the rabbinic calculation of circumference, so prepare for some math!   Mishnah Six 1)      [With regard to] a beam which is placed across from one wall to another and which has uncleanness […]

Ohalot, Chapter 12, Mishnah 7

Ohalot, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Seven   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with a pillar that has fallen onto its side. There is going to be a space on each side of the pillar under which something could lie, because the pillar is round. For this space to be an ohel, the space must be one handbreadth […]

Ohalot, Chapter 12, Mishnah 8

Ohalot, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Eight   Mishnah Eight 1)      If an olive-sized portion of a corpse is stuck to the threshold: a)      Rabbi Eliezer declares the house unclean. b)      Rabbi Joshua declares it clean. 2)      If it was placed beneath the threshold, the [case] is judged by the half [in which the uncleanness is found].   […]

Ohalot, Chapter 13, Mishnah 1

Ohalot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah One   Introduction Chapter thirteen deals with the size that a hole in a building must be in order for corpse impurity found in a tent to travel to the other side.   Mishnah One 1)      One who makes a new light hole, its minimum size is that of a hole […]

Ohalot, Chapter 13, Mishnah 2

Ohalot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      [With regard to] a window made for letting in air, its minimum size is that of a hole made by the drill. 2)      If a house was built outside it, its minimum size becomes one handbreadth square. 3)      If a roof was placed at the height […]

Ohalot, Chapter 13, Mishnah 3

Ohalot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Three   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with how large an opening in a door must be to allow in and out impurity.   Mishnah Three 1)      [With regard to] a hole in the door: a)      Its minimum size is that of a fist, the words of Rabbi Akiva. b)      Rabbi Tarfon […]

Ohalot, Chapter 13, Mishnah 4

Ohalot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      One who makes a place for a rod, for tongs, or a lamp, the minimum size is whatever is needful, according to the word of Bet Shammai. a)      Bet Hillel says: one handbreadth square. 2)      [If it was made] for a peep-hole, for speaking through to […]

Ohalot, Chapter 13, Mishnah 5

Ohalot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Five   Introduction Our mishnah deals with a window between two rooms that is a square handbreadth and therefore will allow impurity to travel between one room and the other. However, if there is placed in the window something that is not susceptible to impurity, it reduces the size of the […]

Ohalot, Chapter 13, Mishnah 6

Ohalot, Chapter Thirteen, Mishnah Six   Introduction Today’s mishnah refers mostly to cases that are opposite of those found in yesterday’s mishnah. It lists things that do not reduce the area of the window.   Mishnah Six 1)      The following do not reduce [the area of the window]: a)      Bone does not reduce [the area] […]

Ohalot, Chapter 14, Mishnah 1

Ohalot, Chapter Fourteen, Mishnah One   Introduction Chapter fourteen deals with various projections that jut out above the entrance to a house and with whether they form an ohel to allow the impurity to enter the house.   Mishnah One 1)      A projection brings uncleanness, whatever width it may be;  2)      But a balcony or […]

Ohalot, Chapter 14, Mishnah 2

Ohalot, Chapter Fourteen, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      A projection that is above a doorway forms a passage for the uncleanness when it is one handbreadth wide;  2)      If above a window two fingerbreadths high or the size of a hole made by a drill, when of any width whatsoever. a)      Rabbi Yose says: […]

Ohalot, Chapter 14, Mishnah 3

Ohalot, Chapter Fourteen, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      A rod above a doorway, even if one hundred cubits higher,  forms a passage for the uncleanness no matter its width, the words of Rabbi Joshua. 2)      Rabbi Yohanan ben Nuri says: don’t be more stringent than the case of a projection.    Explanation Section one: […]

Ohalot, Chapter 14, Mishnah 4

Ohalot, Chapter Fourteen, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      [In the case of] a projection which goes all round the house, occupying space above the doorway to the extent of three fingerbreadths, if there is uncleanness in the house, vessels beneath [the projection] become unclean.   2)      If the uncleanness is beneath [the projection]: a)      Rabbi […]

Ohalot, Chapter 14, Mishnah 5

Ohalot, Chapter Fourteen, Mishnah Five   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with a case where there are two projections overhanging the entrance to the house. The mishnah will walk us through various scenarios concerning the size of these two projections and where the source of impurity is found.     Mishnah Five 1)      [With regard to] […]

Ohalot, Chapter 14, Mishnah 6

Ohalot, Chapter Fourteen, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah is a continuation of yesterday’s mishnah, concerning two projections, one above the other.   Mishnah Six 1)      If they had a width of a handbreadth but there was not a space of a handbreadth between them: a)      If there is uncleanness beneath them, what is beneath […]

Ohalot, Chapter 14, Mishnah 7

Ohalot, Chapter Fourteen, Mishnah Seven   Mishnah Seven 1)      If they did not have a width of a handbreadth, whether there is a space of a handbreadth between them or whether there is not, if there is uncleanness beneath, between or above them, the uncleanness cleaves upwards and downwards. 2)      A similar [rule applies] to […]

Ohalot, Chapter 15, Mishnah 1

Ohalot, Chapter Fifteen, Mishnah One   Introduction The first two sections of today’s mishnah are found word for word in 11:3. I have copied my explanation from there.   Mishnah One 1)      A thick woolen jacket or a thick wooden block does not bring uncleanness until they are one handbreadth high off the ground. 2)      […]

Ohalot, Chapter 15, Mishnah 10

Ohalot, Chapter Fifteen, Mishnah Ten   Mishnah Ten 1)      One who touches a corpse and touches vessels, one who overshadows a corpse and touches vessels, they [the vessels] are unclean. 2)      One who overshadows a corpse and overshadows vessels, one who touches a corpse and overshadows vessels, they [the vessels] are clean. 3)      If his […]

Ohalot, Chapter 15, Mishnah 2

Ohalot, Chapter Fifteen, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      [With regard to] wooden tablets which touch each other at their corners, and are one handbreadth high off the ground: a)      If there is uncleanness beneath one of them, [a person] touching the second [tablet] becomes defiled with seven-day defilement. b)      Vessels under the first [tablet] […]

Ohalot, Chapter 15, Mishnah 3

Ohalot, Chapter Fifteen, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      [With regard to] jars standing on their bottoms or lying on their sides in the open air and touching one another to the extent of a handbreadth: a)      If there is uncleanness beneath one of them, the uncleanness cleaves upwards and downwards.  2)      When does this […]

Ohalot, Chapter 15, Mishnah 4

Ohalot, Chapter Fifteen, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      [With regard to] a house, sectioned off by boards or curtains from the sides or from the roof beams: a)      If there is uncleanness in the house, vessels beyond the partition remain clean.   b)      If there is uncleanness beyond the partition, vessels in the house become […]

Ohalot, Chapter 15, Mishnah 5

Ohalot, Chapter Fifteen, Mishnah Five   Mishnah Five 1)      [In the case where] it was partitioned off from the floor: a)      If there is uncleanness beneath the partition, vessels in the house become unclean.   2)      [In the case where] the uncleanness is in the house, vessels beneath the partition, a)      If there is a space […]

Ohalot, Chapter 15, Mishnah 6

Ohalot, Chapter Fifteen, Mishnah Six   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with a house that has basically been filled in, in this case with straw. It is treated similarly to the case in yesterday’s mishnah, where a partition was built above the floor.   Mishnah Six 1)      [With regard to] a house filled with straw, without […]

Ohalot, Chapter 15, Mishnah 7

Ohalot, Chapter Fifteen, Mishnah Seven   Mishnah Seven [With regard to] a house filled with earth or pebbles which he [decided] to leave there, or similarly a heap of produce or a mound of pebbles even such as Akhan’s mound, and even if the uncleanness is by the side of the vessels, the uncleanness cleaves […]

Ohalot, Chapter 15, Mishnah 8

Ohalot, Chapter Fifteen, Mishnah Eight   Mishnah Eight 1)      [With regard to] the courtyard of a tomb: a)      A person standing in it remains clean as long as there is a space of four cubits square, according to the words of Bet Shammai. b)      Bet Hillel says: four handbreadths. 2)      [With regard to] a roof […]

Ohalot, Chapter 15, Mishnah 9

Ohalot, Chapter Fifteen, Mishnah Nine   Mishnah Nine 1)      A jar full of clean liquid and sealed with a tightly fitting lid,  which had been made the covering stone of a tomb, a person touching it contracts seven-day uncleanness but the jar and the liquid remain clean.   2)      An animal that had been used as […]

Ohalot, Chapter 16, Mishnah 1

Ohalot, Chapter Sixteen, Mishnah One   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with how thick vessels need to be for them to convey uncleanness from a corpse to other vessels which they overshadow.   Mishnah One 1)      All movable things convey uncleanness when they are of the thickness of an ox-goad. 2)      Rabbi Tarfon said: May I […]

Ohalot, Chapter 16, Mishnah 2

Ohalot, Chapter Sixteen, Mishnah Two   Introduction The beginning of the mishnah illustrates the general rules listed in the end of yesterday’s mishnah.   Mishnah Two 1)      How so? A spindle stuck into the wall, with [a portion of corpse] of half an olive-size above it and [a portion of corpse] of half an olive-size […]

Ohalot, Chapter 16, Mishnah 3

Ohalot, Chapter Sixteen, Mishnah Three   Introduction Our mishnah deals with how one would know whether he has come across an isolated dead body which he must bring to burial in a proper cemetary, or a burial ground, in which case it is forbidden    Mishnah Three 1)      If one finds a corpse unexpectedly lying […]

Ohalot, Chapter 16, Mishnah 4

Ohalot, Chapter Sixteen, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      One who searches, must search over a square cubit and then leave a cubit, [digging down] until he reaches rock or virgin soil. 2)      [A priest] carrying out earth from a place of uncleanness may eat his terumah mixed with hullin. 3)      But one who is […]

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