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 Oktzim

Introduction to Oktzim   The final tractate of Seder Toharot and indeed of the entire mishnah deals with things that are “stems” to food. The question is when is something considered to be attached to food such that if one part becomes impure the whole is impure and when are they independent? This tractate does […]

Oktzim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 1

Oktzim, Chapter One, Mishnah One   Mishnah One 1)      That which serves as a handle but does not protect, both contracts uncleanness and conveys uncleanness; but it is not included. 2)      If it protects but is not a handle, it contracts and conveys uncleanness and is included. 3)      If it neither protects nor serves as […]

Oktzim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 2

Oktzim, Chapter One, Mishnah Two   Introduction Today’s mishnah discusses what parts of certain types of produce are considered to be part of the plant.   Mishnah Two 1)      Roots of garlic, onions or leeks that are still moist, or their top-parts, whether they are moist or dry, also the central stalk that is within […]

Oktzim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 3

Oktzim, Chapter One, Mishnah Three   Introduction Today’s mishnah lists part of produce that are considered part of the produce for matters of defiling and being defiled. If they are defiled, the rest is defiled and vice versa. But they do not join together to make up the requisite minimum because they are not food. […]

Oktzim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 4

Oktzim, Chapter One, Mishnah Four   Introduction Today’s mishnah lists parts of produce that are neither edible nor used as a handle. Therefore, they are not susceptible to impurity nor do they count as part of the volume. Most of the mishnah should be self-explanatory, so I have only explained some sections.     Mishnah […]

Oktzim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 5

Oktzim, Chapter One, Mishnah Five   Mishnah Five 1)      Stalks of all foods that have been threshed on the threshing-floor are clean. a)      Rabbi Yose declares them unclean. 2)      A sprig of a vine when stripped of its grapes is clean, but if one grape alone is left on it, it is unclean. a)      A […]

Oktzim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 6

Oktzim, Chapter One, Mishnah Six   Introduction Today’s mishnah is that which gives our tractate its name—it deals with stems (oktzim).   Mishnah Six 1)      Stems of figs and dried figs, kelusim, and carobs are both defiled and defile, and they join together. a)      Rabbi Yose says: also the stalks of the gourd. 2)      The […]

Oktzim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 1

Oktzim, Chapter Two, Mishnah One   Mishnah One 1)      Leaves of olives pickled together with the olives remain clean, for their pickling was only for the sake of appearances. 2)      The fibrous substance on a zucchini and the flower-like substance on it are clean. a)      Rabbi Judah says: that as long as it is still […]

Oktzim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 10

Oktzim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Ten   Mishnah Ten 1)      Vessels made of cattle dung or of earth through which the roots can penetrate, do not render the seeds susceptible. 2)      A perforated plant-pot does not render seeds susceptible; but if it has no hole, the seeds do become susceptible. a)      What should be the hole’s […]

Oktzim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 2

Oktzim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      All kinds of pits can be defiled and defile but do not join together. 2)      The pits of fresh dates, even when detached [from the edible part], do join together; but those of dried dates do not join together. 3)      Accordingly, the stems of dried dates […]

Oktzim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 3

Oktzim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      If a pomegranate or melon has rotted in part, [what is rotten] does not join together. 2)      And if [the fruit] is sound at either end but has rotted in the middle, [what is rotten] does not join together. 3)      The stem of a pomegranate does […]

Oktzim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 4

Oktzim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      All kinds of peels defile and are defiled, and join together. 2)      Rabbi Judah says: an onion has three skins: the innermost one whether it is in its entire state or whether it be pierced with holes joins together; the middle one when it is in […]

Oktzim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 5

Oktzim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Five   Mishnah Five 1)      If one chops up [fruit] for cooking, even if [the chopping had] not been completely finished, it is not regarded as connected. 2)      If his intention had been to pickle or to boil it, or to set it on the table, then it is regarded as […]

Oktzim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 6

Oktzim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Six   Mishnah Six 1)      [The shell of] a roasted egg [is considered connected] until it is cracked. a)      That of a hard-boiled egg [is considered connected] until it is entirely broken up. 2)      A marrow-bone serves as connected until it is wholly crushed. 3)      A pomegranate that has been divided […]

Oktzim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 7

Oktzim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Seven   Mishnah Seven 1)      The [outer] leaves of vegetables: if they are green they join together, but if they have whitened they not join together. 2)      Rabbi Elazar bar Zadok says: the white leaves of cabbage join together because they are edible. 3)      So also those of lettuces, because they […]

Oktzim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 8

Oktzim, Chapter Tow, Mishnah Eight   Introduction This mishnah deals with foods that have an empty space in them, or that might have an empty space. Does the empty space count as part of the volume of the food?   Mishnah Eight 1)      Onion leaves or the offshoots of onions, if there is moisture in […]

Oktzim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 9

Oktzim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Nine   Mishnah Nine 1)      A cucumber planted in a pot which grew until it was out of the pot is pure. 2)      Rabbi Shimon said: what is its nature to make it clean? Rather, that which has already become unclean remains unclean, and only that which is pure can be […]

Oktzim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 1

Oktzim, Chapter Three, Mishnah One   Introduction The first four sections of this mishnah divide foods into four categories depending on two factors. First of all, whether they need to have been in contact with water in order to be susceptible to impurity (the topic of Makhshirin). Second, whether a person needs to be think […]

Oktzim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 10

Oktzim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Ten   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with the halakhic status of a bee-hive. Specifically, the sages debate whether it is considered to have the status of land because it is attached to the land.   Mishnah Ten 1)      A bee-hive: Rabbi Eliezer says: it is treated as if it were land; […]

Oktzim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 11

Oktzim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Eleven   Introduction Honey is one of the seven liquids that causes food to become susceptible to impurity (see Makhshirin 6:4). Today’s mishnah discusses when honey from a honeycomb begins to count as honey.   Mishnah Eleven 1)      When do honeycombs become susceptible to uncleanness on account of their being regarded […]

Oktzim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 12

Oktzim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Twelve   Introduction The last mishnah in the entire Mishnah is actually not originally a mishnah! It was a late addition to the Mishnah so that the book could end with a word of peace.   Mishnah Twelve 1)      Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said: In the world to come the Holy […]

Oktzim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 2

Oktzim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah lists things that are not human food and therefore are not susceptible to impurity unless someone decides that they are going to eat them (some of these are a bit gross, so beware). They also require contact with water to become susceptible.   Mishnah Two 1)      […]

Oktzim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 3

Oktzim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      The carrion of an unclean beast at all places, and of a clean bird in villages, need intention but do not need to be rendered susceptible. 2)      The carrion of a clean beast in all places, and that of a clean bird and also fat in […]

Oktzim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 4

Oktzim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Four   Introduction Today’s mishnah discusses what constitutes food such that if it was originally terumah it is still considered terumah and it would still be subject to the laws of food impurity. We should note that the identity of some of these spices is speculative. Nevertheless, the principles are clear. […]

Oktzim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 5

Oktzim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Five   Mishnah Five 1)      Costus, amomum, principal spices, [roots of] crowfoot, asafoetida, pepper and lozenges made of saffron may be bought with tithe money, but they do not convey food uncleanness, the words of Rabbi Akiva. 2)      Rabbi Yohanan ben Nuri to him: if they may be bought with [second] […]

Oktzim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 6

Oktzim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Six   Mishnah Six 1)      Unripe figs or grapes: a)      Rabbi Akiva says: they convey food uncleanness; b)      Rabbi Yohanan ben Nuri says: [this is only] when they have reached the season when they are liable to tithes. 2)      Olives and grapes that have hardened: a)      Bet Shammai says: they are […]

Oktzim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 7

Oktzim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Seven   Mishnah Seven 1)      The heart of a palm is like wood in every respect, except that it may be bought for [second] tithe money. 2)      Unripened dates are considered food, but are exempt from tithes.     Explanation Section one: Heart of palm is not generally considered food and […]

Oktzim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 8

Oktzim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Eight   Mishnah Eight 1)      When do fish become susceptible to uncleanness? a)      Bet Shammai say: after they have been caught. b)      Bet Hillel say: only after they are dead. c)      Rabbi Akiva says: if they can still live. 2)      If a branch of a fig tree was broken off, but […]

Oktzim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 9

Oktzim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Nine   Introduction Today’s mishnah returns to the topic of whether a food needs to first be made susceptible to impurity or whether it needs “intention” in order to be considered food.   Mishnah Nine 1)      The fat [of the carcass] of a clean beast is not regarded as unclean with […]

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Learn one Mishnah each day with the Conservative Yeshiva's Mishnah Yomit, prepared by faculty member Dr. Joshua Kulp.

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