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 Parah

Introduction to Tractate Parah   Get ready to learn a tractate that is literally called “Cow”!  The cow referred to here is the red cow (often called the red heifer) whose ashes were used to purify a person that had contracted corpse impurity. The cow is often called “hatat” or “sin-offering” by the rabbis and […]

Parah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 1

Parah, Chapter One, Mishnah One   Introduction Today’s mishnah discusses how old a “heifer” can be before it becomes a cow. This is relevant to two laws. In Deuteronomy 21 we read that in order to expiate for an unsolved murder a ritual with a “heifer” must be performed. In order to perform the ritual […]

Parah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 2

Parah, Chapter One, Mishnah Two   Introduction There are many occasions when the Torah mandates sacrificing a “par” or a bull. In today’s mishnah there are three opinions as to how old the bull must be.   Mishnah Two 1)      Rabbi Yose the Galilean said: bulls must be no more than two years old, for […]

Parah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 3

Parah, Chapter One, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      Lambs—no more than one year old, a)      And rams—no more than two years old. 2)      And all these years are reckoned from day to day. 3)      One that is thirteen months old is not valid, neither as a ram nor as a lamb. a)      Rabbi Tarfon […]

Parah, Chapter 1, Mishnah 4

Parah, Chapter One, Mishnah Four   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with how old various animals must be before they can sacrificed.   Mishnah Four 1)      The sin-offerings of the congregation and their burnt-offerings, the sin-offering of an individual, the guilt-offering of a nazirite and the guilt-offering of a metzora are valid from the thirtieth day […]

Parah, Chapter 10, Mishnah 1

Parah, Chapter Ten, Mishnah One   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with some stringencies that apply to the ritual purity of vessels and people involved in the hatat water ritual. The mishnah refers to a type of impurity called “madaf impurity.” This is a light form of impurity that only has relevance in the preparation of […]

Parah, Chapter 10, Mishnah 2

Parah, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      One who was clean for the hatat waters who touched something that has madaf uncleannes, he becomes unclean. 2)      A flask that was designated for the hatat waters that touched something that has madaf uncleanness, it becomes unclean. 3)      One who was clean for the hatat […]

Parah, Chapter 10, Mishnah 3

Parah, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      A jar of hatat waters that touched a [dead] sheretz, remains clean. 2)      If the jar was put on it: a)      Rabbi Eliezer rules that it remains clean, b)      And the sages rule that it becomes unclean. 3)      If the jar touched foods or liquids or […]

Parah, Chapter 10, Mishnah 4

Parah, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      One who was clean for the hatat waters and then touched an oven: a)      With his hand becomes unclean, b)      With his foot he remains clean. 2)      If he stood on an oven and put out his hand beyond the oven with the flask in his […]

Parah, Chapter 10, Mishnah 5

Parah, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Five   Mishnah Five 1)      If he was standing outside an oven and he stretched out his hand to a window and he took a flask and passed it over the oven: a)      Rabbi Akiva says that it is unclean, b)      And the sages say that it is clean. 2)      But […]

Parah, Chapter 10, Mishnah 6

Parah, Chapter Ten, Mishnah Six   Introduction The principle that underlies the following mishnah is that the purity required for a vessel holding the hatat waters is greater than the purity required for that holding consecrated foods or terumah. Therefore, if something that is pure enough to hold terumah or other consecrated foods touches something […]

Parah, Chapter 11, Mishnah 1

Parah, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah One   Mishnah One 1)      A flask that one has left uncovered and on returning found it to be covered, is invalid. 2)      If one left it covered and on returning found it to be uncovered, it is invalid if a weasel could have drunk from it or, according to the […]

Parah, Chapter 11, Mishnah 2

Parah, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      Anything that is doubtfully pure in the case of terumah is regarded as clean in the case of the hatat waters. 2)      Anything that is “suspended” where terumah is concerned, the hatat waters are poured out. a)      If clean things were handled on account of it, […]

Parah, Chapter 11, Mishnah 3

Parah, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Three   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with terumah figs that fall into hatat waters. There are two issues here: 1) is the water unclean by virtue of having contact with terumah figs? 2) What happens to one who eats the figs? Does he incur the normal penalty for eating impure figs—death […]

Parah, Chapter 11, Mishnah 4

Parah, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      All that require immersion in water according to the rulings of the Torah defile consecrated things, terumah, unconsecrated food, and [second] tithe; a)      And he is forbidden to enter the sanctuary. 2)      After immersion [but before the sun sets] he defiles holy things and invalidates terumah, […]

Parah, Chapter 11, Mishnah 5

Parah, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Five   Introduction In yesterday’s mishnah we learned some purity rules concerning a person whom the Torah mandated to immerse in mikveh. Today’s mishnah contrasts this with a person whom the sages required to immerse in a mikveh. This would include a person who ate impure foods or drank impure liquids […]

Parah, Chapter 11, Mishnah 6

Parah, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Six   Mishnah Six 1)      All that require immersion in water, whether according to the words of the Torah or according to the words of the scribes, defile hatat waters, hatat ashes, and the one who sprinkled the hatat waters, either through contact or through carrying. 2)      And [they defile] hyssop […]

Parah, Chapter 11, Mishnah 7

Parah, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Seven   Introduction After discussing the purity of hyssop in yesterday’s mishnah, today’s mishnah continues to discuss laws with regard to the type of hyssop used to sprinkle the hatat waters.   Mishnah Seven 1)      Any hyssop that has an accompanying name is invalid.   a)      “This” hyssop is valid. b)      […]

Parah, Chapter 11, Mishnah 8

Parah, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Eight   Mishnah Eight 1)      The hyssop that was used for sprinkling [the hatat waters] is also fit for cleansing the metzora. 2)      If it was gathered for firewood, and liquid fell upon it, it may be dried and it becomes fit. 3)      If it was gathered for food, and liquid […]

Parah, Chapter 11, Mishnah 9

Parah, Chapter Eleven, Mishnah Nine   Introduction Our chapter concludes with a mishnah as to how much hyssop was needed to sprinkle the water.   Mishnah Nine 1)      The mitzvah of the hyssop: it should have three stalks bearing three buds. a)      Rabbi Judah says: each stalk should have three buds. 2)      Hyssop that consists […]

Parah, Chapter 12, Mishnah 1

Parah, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah One   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with the use of hyssop that is too short to dip into the flask with the hatat waters.   Mishnah One 1)      Hyssop that is too short may be lengthened with a thread and a spindle-reed. 2)      He then dips it and brings it up […]

Parah, Chapter 12, Mishnah 10

Parah, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Ten   Mishnah Ten 1)      The lid of a kettle which is joined to a chain: a)      Bet Shammai say: these are regarded as connected in respect of uncleanness but not in respect of sprinkling. b)      Bet Hillel say: if he sprinkled on the kettle, it is the same as if […]

Parah, Chapter 12, Mishnah 11

Parah, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Eleven   Introduction The final mishnah of Parah teaches that the dipping of the hyssop and the sprinkling of the waters must be done during the day. This is derived from the word “day” which is repeated in Numbers 19:19, “The clean person shall sprinkle it upon the unclean person on […]

Parah, Chapter 12, Mishnah 2

Parah, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      If a person sprinkled and it is doubtful whether the water came from the thread or the spindle-reed or the buds, the sprinkling is invalid. 2)      If he sprinkled upon two vessels and it is doubtful whether he sprinkled on both or whether some water from […]

Parah, Chapter 12, Mishnah 3

Parah, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      If he intended to sprinkle upon a thing that is susceptible to uncleanness and he sprinkled upon something that is not susceptible to uncleanness, if any of the water still remained on the hyssop he should not sprinkle with it again. 2)      [If he intended to […]

Parah, Chapter 12, Mishnah 4

Parah, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah refers to a window from which they would sprinkle the hatat waters on impure people.   Mishnah Four 1)      If one was sprinkling from a window in a public domain and [a man who was thus sprinkled upon] entered the sanctuary, and the water was found […]

Parah, Chapter 12, Mishnah 5

Parah, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Five   Mishnah Five 1)      A clean person may hold in the corner of his garment an unclean axe and sprinkle upon it; a)      And even though there is on it enough water for a sprinkling he remains clean. 2)      How much water is necessary for sprinkling? a)      Sufficient for the […]

Parah, Chapter 12, Mishnah 6

Parah, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Six   Mishnah Six 1)      One who sprinkles with unclean hyssop: if [the hyssop] was the amount of an egg the water becomes invalid, and the sprinkling is invalid. a)      If it was less than the amount of an egg, the water remains valid but the sprinkling is invalid. 2)      It […]

Parah, Chapter 12, Mishnah 7

Parah, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Seven   Mishnah Seven If the hands of a man who was clean for the hatat waters became unclean, his body also becomes unclean, and he conveys uncleanness to his fellow, and his fellow to his fellow, even if they be a hundred.   Explanation If the hands of a person […]

Parah, Chapter 12, Mishnah 8

Parah, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Eight   Introduction Except for section one of our mishnah (which teaches another stringency with regard to the purity laws of the hatat waters), the rest of the mishnah discusses what parts of various vessels are considered “connected” to other parts. With regard to Parah, the implication of parts being “connected” […]

Parah, Chapter 12, Mishnah 9

Parah, Chapter Twelve, Mishnah Nine   Mishnah Nine The baskets of a pack-saddle, the bed of a barrow, the iron corner of a bier, the [drinking] horns of travelers, a key chain, the loose stitches of washermen, and a garment stitched together with kilayim are regarded as connected in respect of uncleanness but not in […]

Parah, Chapter 2, Mishnah 1

Parah, Chapter Two, Mishnah One   Mishnah One 1)      Rabbi Eliezer says: a [red] cow for the hatat that is pregnant is valid, a)      But the sages say: it is invalid. 2)      Rabbi Eliezer says: it may not be bought from non-Jews, a)      But the sages say: it is valid. 3)      And not only this, […]

Parah, Chapter 2, Mishnah 2

Parah, Chapter Two, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah deals with various bodily issues that could potentially disqualify the red cow.   Mishnah Two 1)      If the horns or the hoofs of the [red] cow are black they are chopped off. 2)      The eye ball, the teeth and the tongue cause do not invalidate the […]

Parah, Chapter 2, Mishnah 3

Parah, Chapter Two, Mishnah Three   Introduction Most of today’s mishnah deals with Numbers 19:2 which states, “Instruct the Israelite people to bring you a red cow without blemish, in which there is no defect and on which no yoke has been laid.”   Mishnah Three 1)      One that is born from the side, the […]

Parah, Chapter 2, Mishnah 4

Parah, Chapter Two, Mishnah Four   Introduction Today’s mishnah teaches that if something rests upon the red cow it only disqualifies it from use as a hatat if it is done according to the owners wishes.   Mishnah Four 1)      If a bird rested on it, it remains valid. 2)      If a male beast mounted […]

Parah, Chapter 2, Mishnah 5

Parah, Chapter Two, Mishnah Five   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with how many non-red hairs, and the placement of such hairs, will disqualify a red cow from being used as a hatat.   Mishnah Five 1)      If it had two black or white hairs growing within one follicle, it is invalid. a)      Rabbi Judah said: […]

Parah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 1

Parah, Chapter Three, Mishnah One   Introduction Chapter three describes the ritual of how the red cow was burned into ash. This is covered in Numbers 19:3-6:   3 You shall give it to Eleazar the priest. It shall be taken outside the camp and slaughtered in his presence. 4 Eleazar the priest shall take […]

Parah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 10

Parah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Ten   Mishnah Ten 1)      It burst and he stood outside its pit and he took the cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet wool. 2)      He said to them, “Is this cedarwood? Is this cedarwood?” “Is this hyssop? Is this hyssop?” “Is this scarlet wool? Is this scarlet wool?” a)      Three times […]

Parah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 11

Parah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Eleven   Introduction The final mishnah of this chapter concludes the description of the burning of the red cow.   Mishnah Eleven 1)      He then wrapped them together with the remains of the strip of wool and cast them into the fire. 2)      When it was burnt up they would beat […]

Parah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 2

Parah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah discusses how they would preserve the purity of the children of priests so that they could perform the red cow ritual without ever having become impure. This was an extra stringency due to the high degree of gravity with which they took the red cow ceremony.   […]

Parah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 3

Parah, Chapter Two, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      They arrived at the Temple Mount and got down. 2)      Beneath the Temple Mount and the courts was a hollow which served as a protection against a grave in the depths. 3)      And at the entrance of the courtyard there was the jar of the ashes […]

Parah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 4

Parah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      One may not bring a sin-offering by virtue of [the purifications made for] another sin-offering, nor one child by virtue of [the preparations made for] another. 2)      The children had to be sprinkle on each other, the words of Rabbi Yose the Galilean. a)      Rabbi Akiva […]

Parah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 5

Parah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Five   Introduction In mishnah one we learned that they sprinkled the priest with the ashes from all of the red cows that had ever been burned. Our mishnah reflects a legend (I think) according to which there had been seven burned red cows in Jewish history.     Mishnah Five […]

Parah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 6

Parah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Six   Mishnah Six They made a ramp from the Temple Mount to the Mount of Olives, being constructed of arches above arches, each arch placed directly above each foundation [of the arch below] as a protection against a grave in the depths, whereby the priest who was to burn the […]

Parah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 7

Parah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Seven   Mishnah Seven 1)      If the cow refused to go out, they may not take out with it a black one lest people say, “They slaughtered a black cow” nor another red [cow] lest people say, “They slaughtered two.” a)      Rabbi Yose says: it was not for this reason but […]

Parah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 8

Parah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Eight   Introduction Our mishnah continues the description of the ritual of the burning of the cow.   Mishnah Eight 1)      They laid their hands upon him and said, “My Lord the high priest, perform immersion once.” 2)      He went down and immersed himself and came up and dried himself. 3)      […]

Parah, Chapter 3, Mishnah 9

Parah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Nine   Mishnah Nine 1)      They bound it with a rope of reed and placed it on the pile with its head towards the south and its face towards the west. 2)      The priest stood in the east with his face towards the west. a)      He slaughtered with his right hand […]

Parah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 1

Parah, Chapter Four, Mishnah One   Introduction Our mishnah describes various conditions that must be fulfilled for the red cow ceremony to be validly performed.   Mishnah One 1)      If a hatat cow was slaughtered not for its own name, or if its blood was received or sprinkled not for its own name, or if […]

Parah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 2

Parah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Two   Introduction Our mishnah continues to list things that can disqualify the validity of the burning of the red cow.   Mishnah Two 1)      If it was burnt outside its pit, or in two pits, or if two cows were burnt in the same pit, it is invalid. 2)      If […]

Parah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 3

Parah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      If he burned it without wood, or with any kind of wood, and even if only with straw or stubble, it is valid. 2)      If he flayed it and cut up, it is valid. 3)      If he slaughtered it with the intention of eating its flesh […]

Parah, Chapter 4, Mishnah 4

Parah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Four   Introduction Numbers 19:7-10 states, “The priest shall wash his garments and bathe his body in water; after that the priest may reenter the camp, but he shall be unclean until evening. 8 He who performed the burning shall also wash his garments in water, bathe his body in water, […]

Parah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 1

Parah, Chapter Five, Mishnah One   Introduction Our mishnah talks about measures taken to ensure the purity of the vessel into which the ashes and water were mixed.   Mishnah One 1)      He who brings the earthen vessel for the hatat must immerse, and spend the night by the furnace. a)      Rabbi Judah says: he […]

Parah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 2

Parah, Chapter Five, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      If one immersed a vessel for the hatat in water that is not fit for the mixing he must dry it; a)      If in water that is fit for the mixing he need not dry it. 2)      But if [he intended] to collect in it water […]

Parah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 3

Parah, Chapter Five, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      If a pumpkin shell was immersed in water that was not fit for the mixing, it is permissible to mix in it the ashes with the water, as long as it had not been defiled. 2)      If it has been defiled, one cannot mix in it […]

Parah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 4

Parah, Chapter Five, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      A reed pipe that was cut [for use as a container] for the hatat: a)      Rabbi Eliezer says: it must be immersed immediately. b)      Rabbi Joshua ruled: he defiles it and then immerses it. 2)      All are eligible to prepare the mixture, except a deaf mute, […]

Parah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 5

Parah, Chapter Five, Mishnah Five   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with what vessels can used for making the hatat waters.   Mishnah Five 1)      They can make the mixture in all kinds of vessels, even in vessels made of cattle dung, of stone or of earth. 2)      The mixture may also be prepared in a […]

Parah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 6

Parah, Chapter Five, Mishnah Six   Mishnah Six 1)      A potters’ egg is fit [as a vessel]. a)      Rabbi Yose rules that it is unfit. 2)      A hen’s egg: Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Judah rule it is fit [as a vessel]; a)      But the sages rule that it is unfit.    Explanation Section one: A […]

Parah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 7

Parah, Chapter Five, Mishnah Seven   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with a receptacle carved into a rock into which water from a spring would flow. Can this water be used for the red cow ritual?   Mishnah Seven 1)      It is not permissible to collect the water in a trough set in the stone, nor […]

Parah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 8

Parah, Chapter Five, Mishnah Eight   Mishnah Eight 1)      If there were two troughs in one stone and the mixture was prepared in one of them, the water in the other is not prepared. 2)      If a hole of the size of the spout of a water skin passed from one to the other, or […]

Parah, Chapter 5, Mishnah 9

Parah, Chapter Five, Mishnah Nine     Mishnah Nine 1)      If one placed two stones close to one another and made them into a trough, and so also in the case of two kneading troughs, and so also in the case of a trough that was split, the water between them is not deemed to […]

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