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

Ohalot, Chapter 16, Mishnah 5

Ohalot, Chapter Sixteen, Mishnah Five   Mishnah Five 1)      If he was searching and came to a river bed, or a pool or a public road, he may end [his search]. 2)     A field in which men have been slain, he may gather the bones one by one, and all [the area] may be accounted […]

Ohalot, Chapter 17, Mishnah 1

Ohalot, Chapter Seventeen, Mishnah One   Introduction Our mishnah deals with the formation of a “bet haperas.” A bet haperas is the term for a field in which the sages suspect corpse impurity to be found. In our case, the bet haperas is formed by a person plowing a field in which a corpse was […]

Ohalot, Chapter 17, Mishnah 2

Ohalot, Chapter Seventeen, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      If a person was plowing and struck against a rock or a fence, or if he shook the plowshare, he only makes a bet peras up until that spot. 2)      Rabbi Eliezer says: one bet peras can form another bet peras.   3)      Rabbi Joshua says: sometimes […]

Ohalot, Chapter 17, Mishnah 3

Ohalot, Chapter Seventeen, Mishnah Three   Introduction Our mishnah lists cases in which it would very much seem that a person has made a bet peras and yet the mishnah rules that he has not. We will see that there is something “dogmatic” or “traditional” about the formation of a bet peras. Even though there […]

Ohalot, Chapter 17, Mishnah 4

Ohalot, Chapter Seventeen, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four [In the case where] there was a bet peras above a pure field, if rain washed down soil from the bet peras to the pure field, even where this was reddish and the [other soil] turned it white, or where this was white and the other turned […]

Ohalot, Chapter 17, Mishnah 5

Ohalot, Chapter Seventeen, Mishnah Five   Mishnah Five 1)      [With regard to] a field in which a grave had been lost, and upon which a house had been built with an upper story above it: a)      If the entrance of the upper room was directly above the entrance of the house, the upper story remains […]

Ohalot, Chapter 18, Mishnah 1

Ohalot, Chapter Eighteen, Mishnah One   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with how a person can harvest grapes that grow in a bet peras without allowing the grapes to become impure.   Mishnah One 1)      How does one harvest the grapes of a bet peras?  a)      They sprinkle [hatat water] on the harvesters and the vessels […]

Ohalot, Chapter 18, Mishnah 10

Ohalot, Chapter Eighteen, Mishnah Ten   Introduction Our mishnah, the final in the tractate (have we really reached the end?), lists places owned by non-Jews that are not considered impure. These places are all for temporary dwelling and therefore there is no assumption that fetuses would have been buried there.   Mishnah Ten Ten places […]

Ohalot, Chapter 18, Mishnah 2

Ohalot, Chapter Eighteen, Mishnah Two   Introduction The next three mishnayot introduce three different types of bet peras: one in which a grave has been plowed, one in which a grave’s location was lost (mishnah three), and a “kochin field” (explained mishnah four). Each of these different types of fields has different rules which govern […]

Ohalot, Chapter 18, Mishnah 3

Ohalot, Chapter Eighteen, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      A field in which a grave has been lost may be sown with any kind of seed, a)      But must not be planted with any kind of plant; b)      Nor may any trees be permitted to remain there except shade-trees which do not produce fruit.   2)      […]

Ohalot, Chapter 18, Mishnah 4

Ohalot, Chapter Eighteen, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      A kokhin field may neither be planted nor sown, but its earth is regarded as clean and ovens may be made of it for holy use.   2)      Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel agree that it [a bet peras in which a grave was plowed over] is […]

Ohalot, Chapter 18, Mishnah 5

Ohalot, Chapter Eighteen, Mishnah Five   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with various ways that a bet peras can be purified.   Mishnah Five 1)      How is a bet haperas purified? a)      They remove [soil to a depth of] three handbreadths, or [soil to a height of] three handbreadths is placed upon it. 2)      If they […]

Ohalot, Chapter 18, Mishnah 6

Ohalot, Chapter Eighteen, Mishnah Six   Mishnah Six 1)      A person who walks through a bet peras on stones that cannot [easily] be moved, or [who rides] on a man or beast whose strength is great, remains clean. a)      [But if he walks] on stones that can [easily] be moved, or [rides] upon a man […]

Ohalot, Chapter 18, Mishnah 7

Ohalot, Chapter Eighteen, Mishnah Seven   Mishnah Seven 1)      If one buys a field in Syria near to the land of Israel: 2)      If he can enter it in cleanness, it is deemed clean and is subject to [the laws of] tithes and sheviit [produce];   3)      But he cannot enter it in cleanness, it [is […]

Ohalot, Chapter 18, Mishnah 8

Ohalot, Chapter Eighteen, Mishnah Eight   Introduction In yesterday’s mishnah we learned that a Jew wishing to buy a home from a non-Jew must examine the home to make sure that the non-Jew had not buried there a miscarried fetus. Today’s mishnah discusses where they must check. Warning: there is a strong “yucky” factor to […]

Ohalot, Chapter 18, Mishnah 9

Ohalot, Chapter Eighteen, Mishnah Eight   Introduction Our mishnah continues to deal with impurity of Gentile dwelling places and even gets into some specifics as to which cities are impure.    Mishnah Eight 1)      Colonnades  are not [subject to the laws] of non-Jewish dwelling places.   2)      Rabban Shimon ben Gamaliel says: a non-Jewish city that […]

Ohalot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 1

Ohalot, Chapter Two, Mishnah One   Introduction Our mishnah lists what things cause impurity through overshadowing (an ohel). These things defile even if they are not touched or are not carried. Below I have explained only terms that are not clear through translation.   Mishnah One 1)      These things defile by overshadowing: a)      a corpse,  […]

Ohalot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 2

Ohalot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Two   Introduction Our mishnah continues to list substances that defile through overshadowing.   Mishnah Two [The following likewise defile:] 1)      A quarter [of a log] of blood,   2)      A quarter [of a log] of mixed blood from one corpse. a)      Rabbi Akiva says: [even] from two corpses.   3)      [With regard […]

Ohalot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 3

Ohalot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Three   Introduction Our mishnah deals with elements of a corpse that have a lower degree of impurity, and can only defile through contact and carriage but not through overshadowing.   Mishnah Three 1)      The following defile by contact and carriage but not by overshadowing: a)      A bone of barleycorn size,   […]

Ohalot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 4

Ohalot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Four   Introduction In mishnaic times burials were often done in caves. Our mishnah discusses the stones used to cover up the graves.   Mishnah Four 1)      The covering stone  and the buttressing stone [of a grave] defile by contact and overshadowing but not by carriage.   a)      Rabbi Eliezer says: they […]

Ohalot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 5

Ohalot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Five   Introduction Our mishnah refers to some of the defiling agents that have been mentioned in other mishnayot in this chapter and notes that if these things do not have the prescribed measure, they are not impure at all. This is different from the skull and vertebrae that are still […]

Ohalot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 6

Ohalot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Six   Introduction In mishnah two we learned that Rabbi Akiva holds that a quarter of a log of blood mixed from two corpses is impure, even though there is not the requisite amount of blood from one corpse.   Mishnah Six 1)      A backbone or a skull [made up from […]

Ohalot, Chapter 2, Mishnah 7

Ohalot, Chapter Two, Mishnah Seven   Mishnah Seven 1)      A bone the size of a barley-corn that is divided into two: a)      Rabbi Akiva declares it unclean b)      But Rabbi Yohanan ben Nuri declares it clean. c)      Rabbi Yohanan ben Nuri says: they did not say ‘bones’ the size of a barley-corn, but ‘bone’ the […]

Ohalot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 1

Ohalot, Chapter Three, Mishnah One   Mishnah One 1)      All objects that defile by overshadowing which were divided and then brought into a house: a)      Rabbi Dosa ben Harkinas declares clean. b)      But the sages declare [it] unclean. 2)      What is the case? a)      One who touches two pieces of nevelah,  each the size of […]

Ohalot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 2

Ohalot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      If a ladleful of corpse-mold was scattered about in a house, the house is unclean   a)      But Rabbi Shimon declares it clean.   2)      If a quarter [of a log] of blood was absorbed in [the ground] of a house, the house is clean. 3)      If it […]

Ohalot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 3

Ohalot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Three   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with blood that is poured out and then lands on the ground and someone or something overshadows it.   Mishnah Three 1)       [Blood] which was poured out in the air: a)      If the place [where it fell] was an incline and [a person or vessel] […]

Ohalot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 4

Ohalot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      How so? If the corpse was outside and its hair inside, the house is unclean. 2)      [With regard to] a bone which had upon it an olive-sized portion of flesh, if one brought part of it within so that the house was overshadowing it, [the house] […]

Ohalot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 5

Ohalot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Five   Introduction Mishnah 2:2 stated that a quarter of a log of “mixed blood” defiles in an ohel. Our mishnah discusses what “mixed blood” is. To understand this mishnah we must remember that only the blood of a corpse defiles. Blood that comes out from a person during his lifetime […]

Ohalot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 6

Ohalot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Six   Introduction When we get to 7:3 we will learn that if there is a dead body in a house, all of the openings are impure, even though the dead body will only go out through one of them. [Note that the opening is considered separate from the house]. Our […]

Ohalot, Chapter 3, Mishnah 7

Ohalot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Seven   Introduction Our mishnah teaches a basic law concerning the ohel. If there is an object that is at least a handbreadth wide and long and a handbreadth high, it can act as an ohel. It conveys impurity that is found beneath it, and it prevents impurity from traveling above […]

Ohalot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 1

  Ohalot, Chapter Four, Mishnah One   Mishnah One 1)      A cupboard  standing in the open air: a)      If there is uncleanness within it, vessels in the [niches in the] thickness [of its walls] remain clean.  b)      If there is uncleanness in [the niches in] its thickness, vessels inside [the cupboard] remain clean. c)      Rabbi […]

Ohalot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 2

Ohalot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      [With regard to] a drawer of the cupboard, which is one cubic handbreadth, but whose outlet is not a square handbreadth, if there is uncleanness inside it, the house becomes unclean; 2)      But if there is uncleanness in the house, that which is within [the drawer] […]

Ohalot, Chapter 4, Mishnah 3

  Ohalot, Chapter Four, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      [In the case where] the cupboard is standing in the doorway and is opened outward, if there is uncleanness inside it, the house remains clean. 2)      If there is uncleanness in the house, that which is within [the cupboard] becomes unclean, for the manner of […]

Ohalot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 1

Ohalot, Chapter Five, Mishnah One   Mishnah One 1)      [With regard to] an oven which stood in a house, with its outlet curved to the outside [of the house], and those burying a corpse overshadowed it: 2)      Bet Shammai says: all becomes unclean.  3)      Bet Hillel says: the oven becomes unclean, but the house remains […]

Ohalot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 2

Ohalot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      [With regard to] a hatch  between the house and the upper story, if there was a pot placed over it and it was perforated [by a hole of sufficient size] to admit liquid: 2)      Bet Shammai says: all becomes unclean.  3)      Bet Hillel says: the pot […]

Ohalot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 3

Ohalot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three If [the pot] was whole: 1)      Bet Hillel says: it protects all [from uncleanness]. 2)      Bet Shammai says: it protects only food, drink and earthenware vessels.   3)      Bet Hillel changed their opinion and taught as Bet Shammai.    Explanation Section one: In this scenario instead of the […]

Ohalot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 4

Ohalot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      [With regard to] a flagon that is full of pure liquid, the flagon is defiled with seven days’ impurity but the liquid remains clean.   a)      But if one poured it out into another vessel, it becomes unclean.   2)      If a woman was kneading [in the upper […]

Ohalot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 5

Ohalot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Five   Mishnah Five 1)      If [lying over the hatch] there were vessels made of dung, vessels of stone, or vessels of [unbaked] earth, everything [in the upper story] remains clean. 2)      If it was a vessel known to be clean for holy things or for [the water of] purification, everything […]

Ohalot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 6

Ohalot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Six   Introduction At the end of yesterday’s mishnah we learned that pure vessels protect against impurity together with the walls of an ohel. Today’s mishnah illustrates how this rule works.   Mishnah Six 1)      How so? If there was a cistern or a cellar in a house and a large […]

Ohalot, Chapter 5, Mishnah 7

Ohalot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Seven   Mishnah Seven 1)      Just as they protect inside so they protect outside. 2)      How so?  In the case of a large basket supported on pegs on the outside [of an ohel], a)      If there was uncleanness beneath it, vessels in the basket remain clean.   b)      But if it was […]

Ohalot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 1

Ohalot, Chapter Six, Mishnah One   Mishnah One 1)      Both persons and vessels can form ‘tents’ to bring uncleanness, but not to [protect objects so that they] remain clean.  2)      How so? There are four people carrying a chest:  a)      If there is uncleanness beneath it, vessels upon it become unclean.  b)      If there is […]

Ohalot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 2

Ohalot, Chapter Six, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      If corpse-bearers were passing along a portico and one of them shut a door and   locked it with a key, a)      If the door can remain in its position on its own,[the contents of the house] remain clean, b)      But if not, they become unclean. 2)      […]

Ohalot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 3

Ohalot, Chapter Six, Mishnah Three   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with a case where corpse impurity is found inside a wall. The question is—does the impurity defile the house which is towards the inside of the wall? Also, does it defile a person standing on top of the wall?   Mishnah Three 1)      A wall […]

Ohalot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 4

Ohalot, Chapter Six, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      [In the case of] a wall between two houses and there is uncleanness within it, a)      The house nearer to the uncleanness is unclean, b)      And the house nearer to the clean part is clean. c)      If [the uncleanness] is in the middle, both are unclean. […]

Ohalot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 5

Ohalot, Chapter Six, Mishnah Five   Mishnah Five 1)      [In the case of] uncleanness among the roof-beams, [with a covering] beneath it thin as thin as garlic-skin,   2)      If there is a space within of a cubic handbreadth, everything becomes unclean.   3)      If there is not a space of a cubic handbreadth, the uncleanness is […]

Ohalot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 6

Ohalot, Chapter Six, Mishnah Six   Mishnah Six 1)      A house serving a wall is subject to the principle of garlic-skin. 2)      How so? [In the case of] a wall between two tomb-niches or two caverns, 3)      If there is uncleanness in them and vessels in the walls, and there is a covering thin as […]

Ohalot, Chapter 6, Mishnah 7

Ohalot, Chapter Six, Mishnah Seven   Mishnah Seven 1)      Vessels beneath the flowerlike top [of a pillar] remain clean.   a)      Rabbi Yohanan ben Nuri declares them unclean. 2)      [In the case of] the uncleanness and the vessels being [together] beneath the flowerlike top [of a pillar]: a)      If there is a space of one cubic […]

Ohalot, Chapter 7, Mishnah 1

Ohalot, Chapter Seven, Mishnah One   Introduction We have learned on several occasions that if a source of corpse impurity is found in a space that has one cubic handbreadth of open air, it is as if the impurity is trapped in a grave and it spreads upward and downward, defiling anything above it or […]

Ohalot, Chapter 7, Mishnah 2

Ohalot, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      All sloping [parts] of ‘tents’ are reckoned like ‘tents.’ 2)      A ‘tent’ [whose sides] sloped downwards and finished off one fingerbreadth [from the ground]: a)      If there is uncleanness in the ‘tent’, vessels beneath the slope become unclean. b)      If there is uncleanness beneath the slope, […]

Ohalot, Chapter 7, Mishnah 3

Ohalot, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Three   Introduction A dead body that is found in a house will eventually be removed, and when it is it will defile the exit through which it is removed. The rabbis move this defilement up and consider any potential exit for the dead body to already be impure, even before […]

Ohalot, Chapter 7, Mishnah 4

Ohalot, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Four   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with a woman who gives birth to a stillborn, but while doing so moves from house to house. The question is: when do we consider her womb to have opened such that the fetus would defile the contents of the house?   Mishnah Four 1)      […]

Ohalot, Chapter 7, Mishnah 5

Ohalot, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Five   Introduction Our mishnah deals with a woman who gives birth to twins, one alive and one a stillborn. The question is: does the stillborn defile the live child?   Mishnah Five 1)      If [at the birth of twins] the first came out dead and the second came out alive, […]

Ohalot, Chapter 7, Mishnah 6

Ohalot, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Six   Introduction This (very well-known) mishnah discusses whether it is permissible to abort a fetus in order to save the life of the mother. I should note that this mishnah is the foundation for all Jewish discussion of abortion. Since this is such a controversial and complex issue, I do […]

Ohalot, Chapter 8, Mishnah 1

Ohalot, Chapter Eight, Mishnah One   Introduction Our mishnah introduces the theme of the entire chapter: what things can act as tents to bring uncleanness from a corpse (or part thereof) to other vessels also found underneath and what objects can prevent impurity from spreading by acting as a barrier.   Mishnah One 1)      Some […]

Ohalot, Chapter 8, Mishnah 2

Ohalot, Chapter Eight, Mishnah Two   Introduction Our mishnah continues to list things that both serve as a barrier against impurity and bring impurity.   Mishnah Two 1)      Projections from a wall, balconies,   dovecotes, crevices and crags, grottoes,   [overhanging] pinnacles, interlaced boughs and protruding stones as long as they are cable of sustaining thin plasterwork, […]

Ohalot, Chapter 8, Mishnah 3

Ohalot, Chapter Eight, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      The following bring [impurity] but do not protect against it: 2)      A chest, a box, a cupboard, a beehive of straw, a beehive of reeds, or the water tank of an Alexandrian ship, such of which [objects] have [flat] bottoms but cannot contain forty se’ahs of […]

Ohalot, Chapter 8, Mishnah 4

Ohalot, Chapter Eight, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four The following protect [against impurity] but do not bring it: A loom [with the woof] spread out, the ropes of a bed, waste baskets, and window-lattices.   Explanation The items listed in this mishnah can act as a barrier against. For instance if one of them covers […]

Ohalot, Chapter 8, Mishnah 5

Ohalot, Chapter Eight, Mishnah Five   Mishnah Five The following neither bring [impurity] nor protect against it: 1)      Seeds, plants [still] attached to the ground, except for the plants mentioned above, 2)      A lump of hail, snow, frost, ice and salt. 3)      [Anything] that hops from one place to another, or leaps from one place […]

Ohalot, Chapter 8, Mishnah 6

  Ohalot, Chapter Eight, Mishnah Six   Mishnah Six 1)      Two [earthenware] jars in which there are two pieces of corpse the size of half an olive, sealed with tightly fitting lids, lying in a house, they remain clean, but the house becomes unclean. 2)      If one of them was opened, that [jar] and the […]

Ohalot, Chapter 9, Mishnah 1

Ohalot, Chapter Nine, Mishnah One   Introduction Chapter nine deals with an empty beehive (or something shaped like it) that has impurity either in it, above it or below it and is found either in a house, in the doorway to a house or outside of a house. The beehive itself is one that is […]

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