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.


Bikkurim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 1

Bikkurim, Chapter One, Mishnah One   Introduction There are two mitzvoth when it comes to bikkurim: bringing them and making the formal declaration. Our mishnah clarifies that some people are obligated to bring the fruits and make the recitation, whereas others bring the fruits but don’t make the declaration and there are yet other types […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 10

Bikkurim, Chapter One, Mishnah Ten   Introduction This mishnah lists those who bring bikkurim and make the declaration.   Mishnah Ten These bring and recite: 1)      [One who brings bikkurim] from Atzeret until the Festival [of Sukkot], from the seven species, from fruit grown on the mountains, or dates grown in the valleys, from oil-olives, […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 11

Bikkurim, Chapter One, Mishnah Eleven   Introduction The final mishnah of this chapter relates back to mishnayot two and six.   Mishnah Three 1)      One who bought three trees in another’s field, he brings [bikkurim] and recites.   a)      Rabbi Meir says: even [if he bought] only two.   2)      If he bought one tree with its […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 2

Bikkurim, Chapter One, Mishnah Two   Introduction Our mishnah brings scriptural support (meaning a midrash) for the rules found in the previous mishnah.   Mishnah Two 1)      For what reason may he not bring them? Because it is said, “The first-fruits of your land” (Exodus 23:19)—until all of their growth is on your land. 2)      Sharecroppers, […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 3

Bikkurim, Chapter One, Mishnah Three   Introduction The Torah never directly states that first fruits are to be brought only from the seven species in which Israel was blessed (Deuteronomy 8:8), wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olive oil and date-honey. Nevertheless, our mishnah teaches that bikkurim are brought only from these species and only from […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 4

Bikkurim, Chapter One, Mishnah Four   Introduction Our mishnah continues to explicate mishnah one by providing an example of someone who brings the bikkurim but does not read the declaration when he gives them to the priest.   Mishnah Four These bring [bikkurim] but do not read the declaration: 1)      The convert, since he cannot […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 5

Bikkurim, Chapter One, Mishnah Five   Introduction The first part of this mishnah continues to deal with some halakhic differences between converts and those born Jewish. The second part of the mishnah provides more examples of a person who brings bikkurim but does not make the declaration.   Mishnah Five 1)      Rabbi Eliezer ben Yaakov says: […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 6

Bikkurim, Chapter One, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah contains three more instances of a person who brings but does not recite. In each of these cases one of the other rabbis disputes the sages’ opinion and says that the person both brings the bikkurim and makes the recitation.   Mishnah Six 1)      One who buys […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 7

Bikkurim, Chapter One, Mishnah Seven   Introduction Our mishnah deals with a situation in which a person sets aside his bikkurim and then sells his field before he is able to bring them to the Temple.   Mishnah Seven 1)      If one set aside his bikkurim and [afterwards] sold his field, he brings but does […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 8

Bikkurim, Chapter One, Mishnah Eight   Introduction This mishnah deals with a person whose bikkurim are either lost or ruined.   Mishnah Eight 1)      If one set aside his bikkurim and they were robbed, or rotted, were stolen or lost, or became unclean, he must bring others in their place, but does not recite [the […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 1, Mishnah 9

Bikkurim, Chapter One, Mishnah Nine   Introduction The first part of our mishnah explains the scriptural source for yesterday’s mishnah where we learned that one is responsible to bring replacement bikkurim if his original bikkurim were either lost or ruined. The second part of the mishnah deals with a person who brings bikkurim on two […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 1

Bikkurim, Chapter Two, Mishnah One   Introduction The first four mishnayot of this chapter compare the rules governing bikkurim with those governing terumah and maaser sheni.   Mishnah One Regarding terumah and bikkurim: 1)      One is liable to death 2)      And the [additional] fifth;  3)      And they are forbidden to non-priests; 4)      And they are […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 10

Bikkurim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Ten   Introduction Here we learn in what ways a koy is similar to a domesticated beast.   Mishnah Ten And how is [the koy] similar to a behemah (a domesticated beast)? 1)      Its fat (helev) is prohibited like the fat of a behemah, but one [who eats it] is not liable […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 11

Bikkurim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Eleven   Introduction The final mishnah of this chapter discusses ways that a koy is either different from both a behemah and a hayyah and ways that it is similar to both.   Mishnah Eleven And how is [a koy] neither like a behemah nor like a hayyah? 1)      It is […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 2

Bikkurim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah compares maaser sheni with bikkurim.   Mishnah Two There are [laws] which apply to [second tithe] and bikkurim but not to terumah: 1)      That [second] tithe and bikkurim must to be brought to [the appointed] place; 2)      They require confession; 3)      They are forbidden to an onen. […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 3

Bikkurim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah points out the similarities between terumah and maaser [sheni] that are not shared by bikkurim.   Mishnah Three There are [laws] which apply to terumah and maaser [sheni] but not to bikkurim: 1)      Terumah and the [second] tithe render forbidden [the contents of] the threshing-floor; 2)      […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 4

Bikkurim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Four   Introduction Sometimes bikkurim has unique laws that apply only to it and not to terumah or maaser.   Mishnah Four And there are [laws] which apply to bikkurim which do not [apply] to terumah or maaser sheni: 1)      For bikkurim can become acquired while still attached [to the soil].   […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 5

Bikkurim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Five   Introduction Having completed comparing bikkurim, terumah and maaser with one another, the Mishnah now turns its attention to comparing terumat maaser with bikkurim and maaser. Terumat maaser is the terumah that the Levite takes out of the tithe that he receives (see Numbers 18:26).   Mishnah Five The terumah […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 6

Bikkurim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Six   Introduction The rabbis seem to have caught “comparison fever.” Having finished comparing various agricultural gifts, they thought, “Why stop now?” Our mishnah compares the laws governing etrogim to those governing vegetables and fruits.  If you’’re sick of talking about produce, don’t worry, in the next mishnah we’ll compare different […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 7

Bikkurim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Seven   Introduction The mishnah compares the laws governing human blood with those governing the blood of beasts (domesticated animals) and the blood of a sheretz, a creepy crawly thing, which includes reptiles and amphibians.   Mishnah Seven 1)      The blood of those who walk on two [legs] is like the […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 8

Bikkurim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Eight   Introduction The laws regarding a domesticated beast (a behemah, such as a cow) and those governing a wild animal (a hayah, such as a deer) are different. The rest of the chapter discusses a koy an animal that is in some ways treated as if it was a domesticated […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 2, Mishnah 9

Bikkurim, Chapter Two, Mishnah Nine   Introduction This mishnah notes ways in which a koy is similar to a hayyah, a wild animal (see previous mishnah).   Mishnah Nine How is it like a wild animal? 1)      Its blood must be covered like the blood of a wild animal. 2)      It may not be slaughtered […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 1

Bikkurim, Chapter Three, Mishnah One   Introduction Chapter three discusses how bikkurim were set aside and then it goes on to describe the festive ceremony of the bringing of the bikkurim to the Temple in Jerusalem.   Mishnah One 1)      How does one set aside bikkurim? a)      A man goes down into his field, he […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 10

Bikkurim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Ten   Introduction This mishnah analyzes the differences between the bikkurim, fruits that are brought as an addition to the bikkurim and fruits used to decorate the bikkurim baskets.   Mishnah Ten 1)      Rabbi Shimon says:  there are three elements in bikkurim: the bikkurim, the additions   to the bikkurim, and the […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 11

Bikkurim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Eleven     Mishnah Eleven When did they say that the additions to the bikkurim are like bikkurim [themselves]? When they come from the land [of Israel]; but if they do not come from the land, they were not regarded as bikkurim [themselves].   Explanation This mishnah clarifies a point in […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 12

Bikkurim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Twelve   Introduction This mishnah, the last of the chapter, discusses the ramifications of the fact that the bikkurim belong to the priest and they are his property, a rule we learned in 2:1.   Mishnah Twelve 1)      In what respect did they say that bikkurim are the property of the priest? […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 2

Bikkurim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Two   Introduction Our mishnah begins to describe the ceremony of bringing the bikkurim to the Temple. While a person could bring his bikkurim to the Temple on his own, the mishnah prefers to describe a festive ceremony in which everyone from all of Israel would bring their bikkurim at the […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 3

Bikkurim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Three   Introduction The mishnah continues to describe the procession to Jerusalem. The mishnah is easily understood, so I will comment here on a few interesting matters and refrain from commenting below. Saul Lieberman, the preeminent scholar of rabbinic literature in the 20th century, wrote a book called Hellenism in Jewish […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 4

Bikkurim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Four   Introduction Having been greeted at the entrance to Jerusalem, we continue on our journey to the Temple Mount. Most of this mishnah is straightforward, so I will only deal with certain issues that come up in section two.   Mishnah Four 1)      The flute would play before them, until […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 5

Bikkurim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Five   Mishnah Five The birds [tied to] the basket were [offered] as whole burnt-offerings, and those which they held in their hands they gave to the priests.   Explanation Along with the baskets of fruit and other produce that they brought to the Temple, to augment their gifts, they would […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 6

Bikkurim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah explains at what precise point in the procedure the verses from Deuteronomy 26 were actually recited. In order to better understand this mishnah, I will bring here the biblical verses that it explains:   3 You shall go to the priest in charge at that time […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 7

Bikkurim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Seven   Introduction Evidently, not everyone knew how to recite the bikkurim verses from the Torah. Originally, to remedy this problem someone who knew how to read would read the passage and the person bringing the bikkurim who did not know how to read would repeat the words after him. The […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 8

Bikkurim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Eight   Mishnah Eight The rich would bring their bikkurim in baskets overlaid with silver or gold, while the poor used wicker-baskets of peeled willow-branches, and the baskets and the bikkurim were given to the priest.   Explanation Today’s mishnah again returns to the distinctions made during the bikkurim procession between […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 3, Mishnah 9

Bikkurim, Chapter Three, Mishnah Nine   Introduction In mishnah three we learned that they would decorate the baskets with beautiful fruits. In our mishnah two sages debate how they would decorate the baskets.   Mishnah Nine 1)      Rabbi Shimon ben Nanas says: they would decorate the bikkurim [with produce] other than the seven species. 2)      But Rabbi […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 1

Bikkurim, Chapter Four, Mishnah One   Introduction As I noted in the introduction to the tractate, chapter four of Bikkurim is not an original part of Mishnah Bikkurim. It was appended to some manuscripts and some printed editions of the Mishnah, but its origins are in the Tosefta, a tannaitic companion to the Mishnah. It […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 2

Bikkurim, Chapter Four, Mishnah Two   Introduction In this mishnah we learn in what ways a hermaphrodite is halakhically treated like a man.   Mishnah Two In what ways is he like men? 1)      He causes impurity with white discharge, like men; 2)      He dresses like men; 3)      He can take a wife but not […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 3

Bikkurim, Chapter Four, Mishnah Three   Introduction In this mishnah we see that in some ways the laws that apply to a hermaphrodite are the same laws that apply to women. What the Mishnah seems to be saying in today’s mishnah and yesterday’s is that while a hermaphrodite is mostly treated as if he was […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 4

Bikkurim, Chapter Four, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah lists ways in which a hermaphrodite is similar to both a man and a woman.   Mishnah Four In what ways is he like both men and women? 1)      One who strikes him or curses him is liable, as in the case of men and women; […]

Bikkurim, Chapter 4, Mishnah 5

Bikkurim, Chapter Four, Mishnah Five   Introduction The final mishnah of our chapter, tractate and seder (game, set and match) delineates ways in which a hermaphrodite is like neither a man nor a woman.   Mishnah Five And in what is he different from both men and women? 1)      One does not burn terumah if […]

Introduction to Tractate Bikkurim

Introduction to Tractate Bikkurim   The first fruits of the seven species that Israel was “blessed with” (wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olive oil and date honey) must be brought to the Temple in Jerusalem and given to the priests. These fruits are called in Hebrew, bikkurim. The Mishnah describes an elaborate procession whereby the […]

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