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 Yadayim

Introduction to Tractate Yadayim   According to Torah law a person becomes impure only through contact with a “father of uncleanness” and not through contact with something that only has first degree or lesser uncleanness. However, the rabbis decreed that if a person touches something with first degree uncleanness his hands become defiled with second […]

Yadayim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 1

Yadayim, Chapter One, Mishnah One   Introduction The first mishnah of Yadayim is about how much water is necessary for the ritual washing of one’s hands. A log is about 1/2 a liter of water. So the basic amount of 1/4 log works out to about 100 grams of water, a third of a can […]

Yadayim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 2

Yadayim, Chapter One, Mishnah Two   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with what kind of vessel can be used to pour water over one’s hands.   Mishnah Two 1)      Water may be poured over the hands out of any kind of vessel, even out of vessels made of animal dung, out of vessels made of stone […]

Yadayim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 3

Yadayim, Chapter One, Mishnah Three   Introduction The next three mishnayot deal with the water used for netilat yadayim.   Mishnah Three 1)      Water which had become so unfit that it could not be drunk by a beast: a)      If it was in a vessel it is invalid,   b)      But if it was in the […]

Yadayim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 4

Yadayim, Chapter One, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      If he cleansed vessels with the water or scrubbed  measures with it, [the water] is invalid. 2)      If he rinsed with it vessels which had already been rinsed or new vessels, it is valid. a)      Rabbi Yose declares [the water] invalid if they were new vessels. […]

Yadayim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 5

Yadayim, Chapter One, Mishnah Five   Mishnah Five 1)      Water in which the baker dips his loaves is invalid; a)      But if he moistened his hands in the water it is valid. 2)      All are fit to pour water over the hands, even a deaf-mute, an imbecile, or a minor. 3)      A person may place […]

Yadayim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 1

Yadayim, Chapter Two, Mishnah One   Mishnah One 1)      If he poured water over one of his hands with a single rinsing his hand becomes clean.  2)      If over both his hands with a single rinsing: a)      Rabbi Meir declares them to be unclean until he pours a minimum of a quarter of a log […]

Yadayim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 2

Yadayim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Two   Mishnah Two 1)      If he poured the first water over his hands [while standing] in one place, and the second water over his hands [while standing] in another place, and a loaf of terumah fell on the first water, the loaf becomes unclean. a)      But if it fell on […]

Yadayim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 3

Yadayim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      Hands become unclean and are made clean as far as the joint. 2)      How so? If he poured the first water over the hands as far as the joint and poured the second water over the hands beyond the joint and the latter flowed back to […]

Yadayim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 4

Yadayim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Four   Introduction This long mishnah is about cases of doubtful impurity involving hands. While the mishnah is quite long, it is not actually too difficult.   Mishnah Four 1)      If there was a doubt whether any work has been done with the water or not,   a)      A doubt whether the […]

Yadayim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 1

Yadayim, Chapter Three, Mishnah One   Mishnah One 1)      If a person puts his hands inside a house with scale disease, his hands have first degree uncleanness, the words of Rabbi Akiba. a)      But the sages say: his hands have second degree uncleanness. 2)      Whoever defiles garments: at the time when he touches [the uncleanness], […]

Yadayim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 2

Yadayim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah continues with a dispute between Rabbi Joshua and the sages. As part of their argument they mention the concept that the Holy Scriptures, meaning the Tanakh or Bible, defile the hands. This is a topic that will be discussed throughout the remainder of the chapter. There […]

Yadayim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 3

Yadayim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      The straps of the tefillin [when connected] with the tefillin [boxes] defile the hands.   2)      Rabbi Shimon says: the straps of the tefillin do not defile the hands.   Explanation Section one: Tefillin boxes have scrolls of Scripture in them. Therefore, they clearly would defile the […]

Yadayim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 4

Yadayim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      The margin on a scroll   which is above or below or at the beginning or at the end defiles the hands. 2)      Rabbi Judah says: the margin at the end does not render unclean [the hands] until a handle is fastened to it.   Explanation Section […]

Yadayim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 5

Yadayim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Five   Introduction Today’s mishnah contains a fascinating argument over whether two books from the Tanakh, Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) and the Song of Songs (Shir Hashirim) defile the hands. This is basically an argument over whether these books should be included in the Biblical canon. We cannot be certain why there was […]

Yadayim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 1

Yadayim, Chapter Four, Mishnah One   Introduction Yesterday’s mishnah ended with the statement that the sages voted on whether to include Kohelet and Shir Hashirim in the canon. This is taken as referring to a vote that occurred in the academy in Yavneh on a momentous day in history. Today’s mishnah continues with other momentous […]

Yadayim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 2

Yadayim, Chapter Four, Mishnah Two   Introduction Most of this mishnah is found word for word in Zevahim 1:1 and 1:3. Most of my commentary here is the same as that there. It is brought here as well because according to this mishnah, those halakhot from Zevahim originated on that same famous day.   Mishnah […]

Yadayim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 3

Yadayim, Chapter Four, Mishnah Three   Introduction In today’s extraordinarily long mishnah there is a dispute concerning what tithes are given from produce grown in the land of Ammon and Moab on the sabbatical year. Inside the land of Israel seventh year produce is ownerless and no tithes are separated. Ammon and Moab are borderline […]

Yadayim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 4

Yadayim, Chapter Four, Mishnah Four   Introduction Deuteronomy 23:4 states that an Ammonite or Moabite “cannot enter the assembly of the Lord.” The rabbis interpret this to mean that even if an Ammonite or Moabite convert, they still cannot marry a regular Israelite. Our mishnah, whose discussion also occurred “on that day,” deals with an […]

Yadayim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 5

Yadayim, Chapter Four, Mishnah Five   Introduction Today’s mishnah returns to the subject of scrolls defiling the hands.   Mishnah Five The Aramaic sections in Ezra and Daniel defile the hands.   If an Aramaic section was written in Hebrew, or a Hebrew section was written in Aramaic, or [Hebrew which was written with] Hebrew script, […]

Yadayim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 6

Yadayim, Chapter Four, Mishnah Six   Introduction The final three mishnayot of the tractate contain disputes between the Sadducees and the Pharisees. Our knowledge of these groups is quite vague. We know that the rabbis sided with the Pharisees, although the rabbis don’t exactly see themselves as Pharisees. Assumedly this is because this division mostly […]

Yadayim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 7

Yadayim, Chapter Four, Mishnah Seven   Mishnah Seven 1)      The Sadducees say: we complain against you, Pharisees, that you declare an uninterrupted flow of a liquid to be clean.   a)      The Pharisees say: we complain against you, Sadducees, that you declare a stream of water which flows from a burial-ground to be clean?   2)      The […]

Yadayim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 8

Yadayim, Chapter Four, Mishnah Eight   Introduction In this mishnah the argument is no longer with a Sadducee but a Galilean “min.” The word “min” is found in manuscripts of this mishnah, although in printed editions it says “Sadducee.” A “min” is somewhat akin to heretic. The “min” is clearly a Jew, but is part […]

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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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