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.


Demai, Chapter 1, Mishnah 1

Demai, Chapter One, Mishnah One   Introduction As I explained in the introduction, when one purchases produce from an am haaretz, one must suspect that he did not separate tithes. This produce is called demai. Our mishnah teaches that with regard to certain types of produce the rules of demai don’t apply. This is because […]

Demai, Chapter 1, Mishnah 2

Demai, Chapter One, Mishnah Two   Introduction As I stated in the Introduction to Tractate Demai, a person who has demai must take out second tithe and bring the second tithe to Jerusalem.  Generally speaking second tithe would be “redeemed” for money, the money would be brought to Jerusalem and there used to buy food […]

Demai, Chapter 1, Mishnah 3

Demai, Chapter One, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah teaches that the rules of demai apply only to cases where a person bought produce from an am haaretz in order to use it for food.  If he bought the produce for another purpose, such as to feed his animals, then he need not separate out […]

Demai, Chapter 1, Mishnah 4

Demai, Chapter One, Mishnah Four   Introduction Because demai, produce which may not have been tithed, is only rabbinically prohibited, some of the rules that apply to tevel, untithed produce which is strictly prohibited by the Torah, do not apply to it.   Mishnah Four 1)      Demai may be used to make an eruv, and […]

Demai, Chapter 2, Mishnah 1

Demai, Chapter Two, Mishnah One   Introduction In chapter one, mishnah three, we learned that if one buys certain types of produce from Achziv and north, he does not have to separate tithes, since that region is not liable for tithes from demai.  We also are usually not concerned lest the produce was brought there […]

Demai, Chapter 2, Mishnah 2

Demai, Chapter Two, Mishnah Two   Introduction The opposite of an am haaretz, one who is assumed not to have tithed his produce, is one who is “ne’eman,” which means trustworthy. He is a person that one can trust to have tithed his produce.  One who buys from such a person need not treat his […]

Demai, Chapter 2, Mishnah 3

Demai, Chapter Two, Mishnah Three   Introduction In the previous mishnah we learned how a person becomes “trustworthy” such that others can buy his produce without fear that it has not been tithed.  In today’s mishnah we learn how someone can become a “chaver.”  The word “chaver” which in modern Hebrew means either friend or […]

Demai, Chapter 2, Mishnah 4

Demai, Chapter Two, Mishnah Four   Introduction Our mishnah deals with how various food professionals observe the laws of demai.   Mishnah Four 1)      Bakers—the sages did not obligate them to separate [from demai produce] any more than suffices for terumat maaser and for hallah. 2)      Grocers may not sell demai [produce]. 3)      All [merchants] […]

Demai, Chapter 2, Mishnah 5

Demai, Chapter Two, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah is a direct continuation of the previous mishnah.  At the end of mishnah four we learned that one who sells produce in small measures cannot sell demai, but rather must separate out the tithes before he sells. In contrast, one who sells in large measures can […]

Demai, Chapter 3, Mishnah 1

Demai, Chapter Three, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah discusses various people to whom one might legitimately give demai.  As we have seen already, since treating the produce of an am haaretz as demai, that is doubting whether it was tithed, was only a rabbinic stringency, the rabbis allowed the law to be lenient in […]

Demai, Chapter 3, Mishnah 2

Demai, Chapter Three, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah teaches that in certain cases a person must tithe produce even if he is getting rid of that produce or it is not yet even his.   Mishnah Two 1)      One who wants to cut off leaves of vegetables in order to lighten his burden, he […]

Demai, Chapter 3, Mishnah 3

Demai, Chapter Three, Mishnah Three   Mishnah Three 1)      If one finds produce on the road and picks it up in order to eat it, and then decides to hide it, he may not hide it unless he has [first] tithed it. 2)      But if from the outset he picked it up only in order […]

Demai, Chapter 3, Mishnah 4

Demai, Chapter Three, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah discusses situations in which a Jew who has tithed his produce gives over the produce to a Samaritan, an am haaretz or a Gentile for them to either mill the wheat or guard it. The question is: do we fear that the Samaritan, am haaretz or […]

Demai, Chapter 3, Mishnah 5

Demai, Chapter Three, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah deals with a person who is at an inn and gives the innkeeper produce for her to cook and prepare for him.    Mishnah Five 1)      One who gives [produce] to an innkeeper [to prepare it for food], he must tithe what he gives to her […]

Demai, Chapter 3, Mishnah 6

Demai, Chapter Three, Mishnah Six   Introduction This fascinating and, I think, relevant mishnah deals with a person whose mother-in-law is suspected of not observing the laws of tithing because she is an am haaretz.  Can he eat at her house, and if so, what does he have to do to make sure that he […]

Demai, Chapter 4, Mishnah 1

Demai, Chapter Four, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah is about trusting a person who says that they tithed their produce, even though that person is not a “chaver” a person who is generally trustworthy when it comes to tithes.  As we shall see, the rabbis were lenient if by not trusting the person one […]

Demai, Chapter 4, Mishnah 2

Demai, Chapter Four, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah deals with a person, we’ll call him Reuven, who has a friend, whom we’ll call Shimon, who is trying to use a vow to get him to come eat with him.  The way this works is that Reuven says that all of his possessions will become […]

Demai, Chapter 4, Mishnah 3

Demai, Chapter Four, Mishnah Three   Introduction As we explained in the introduction to Demai, in the third and sixth years of a sabbatical cycle, a person separates poor man’s tithe from his produce and gives it to the poor.  In our mishnah, there is a debate over whether one has to separate poor man’s […]

Demai, Chapter 4, Mishnah 4

Demai, Chapter Four, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah deals with the prohibition of separating terumah and tithes on Shabbat.   Mishnah Four 1)      One who had designated the terumat maaser of demai, or the poor man’s tithe of produce that had certainly not been tithed, he should not separate them on Shabbat.   2)      But […]

Demai, Chapter 4, Mishnah 5

Demai, Chapter Four, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah deals with a person who sends out an agent to buy produce. Can he trust that the agent will buy from someone who is known to tithe?   Mishnah Five 1)      One who says to another who is not trustworthy in respect of tithes: “Buy [produce] […]

Demai, Chapter 4, Mishnah 6

Demai, Chapter Four, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah deals with a scenario where two people offer compliments as to each other’s produce. The question is:  do we fear that they are colluding and therefore not trust them?   Mishnah Six 1)      One enters a city and doesn’t know anyone.  He says: “Who here is […]

Demai, Chapter 4, Mishnah 7

Demai, Chapter Four, Mishnah Seven   Introduction The previous mishnah dealt with the fear that merchants might collude, each paying compliments to the other’s produce.  Our mishnah deals with another instance in which we might fear that two merchants are colluding.   Mishnah Seven If donkey-drivers entered a city and one of them declared: “My […]

Demai, Chapter 5, Mishnah 1

Demai, Chapter Five, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah teaches how one should separate terumat maaser (one percent of the total produce) and hallah (1/48 of the produce) from loaves of bread that he buys from an am haaretz baker.  The loaves are, in other words, demai.   Mishnah One One who buys bread from […]

Demai, Chapter 5, Mishnah 10

Demai, Chapter Five, Mishnah Ten   Introduction This mishnah deals with giving terumah and tithes for produce grown in two different kinds of pots: perforated and non-perforated. The question is:  is the pot considered to be like land?   Mishnah Ten 1)      A perforated pot is considered like land. 2)      If one gave terumah from […]

Demai, Chapter 5, Mishnah 11

Demai, Chapter Five, Mishnah Eleven   Introduction This mishnah deals with giving terumah from demai produce for produce that has certainly not been tithed, or vice versa, from certainly non-tithed produce for demai. The problem here is similar to the problem in the previous mishnah. He is giving terumah for produce that is only liable derabbanan […]

Demai, Chapter 5, Mishnah 2

Demai, Chapter Five, Mishnah Two   Introduction In this mishnah a person wants to separate terumah and terumat maaser at the same time from his tevel, which is produce that we know has not been tithed.  In other words, we are no longer discussing demai. Terumah is supposed to be 1/50 of one’s produce. Together […]

Demai, Chapter 5, Mishnah 3

Demai, Chapter Five, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah returns to the subject of separating tithes from bread bought from a baker, the topic dealt with in mishnah one.   Mishnah Three 1)      One who bought [bread] from a baker, he may give tithe from hot bread for cold bread or from cold bread for […]

Demai, Chapter 5, Mishnah 4

Demai, Chapter Five, Mishnah Four   Introduction In the previous mishnah we learned of how one tithes when one buys loaves of bread from an am haaretz baker. Here we learn how one tithes when one buys from a bread seller, the merchant who buys bread from the bakers to sell it retail.   Mishnah Four 1)      […]

Demai, Chapter 5, Mishnah 5

Demai, Chapter Five, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah deals with buying produce from a poor person who goes begging from door to door. The problem is that he may receive his food from many different people, some of whom may have tithed and some who do not. As we have stated before, one cannot […]

Demai, Chapter 5, Mishnah 6

Demai, Chapter Five, Mishnah Six   Mishnah Six 1)      One who buys from a wholesaler, and then buys from him again, he may not give tithes from the one [purchase] for the other, even when both came from the same basket and even from the same kind. 2)      But the wholesale merchant may be trusted […]

Demai, Chapter 5, Mishnah 7

Demai, Chapter Five, Mishnah Seven   Mishnah Seven 1)      One who buys from a field owner, and then buys from him again, he may give tithes from the one [purchase] for the other, even when [the purchases come] from two baskets and even from two towns. 2)      A field owner who was selling vegetables in […]

Demai, Chapter 5, Mishnah 8

Demai, Chapter Five, Mishnah Eight   Introduction Throughout the previous five mishnayot we learned that when a person buys from two different places he must be concerned lest one lot of produce had been tithed and one lot had not.  If he tithed from one lot for all the produce he bought, he would be […]

Demai, Chapter 5, Mishnah 9

Demai, Chapter Five, Mishnah Nine   Introduction This mishnah deals with tithing produce bought from a Gentile or from a Samaritan, a group of Israelites that split off from the rest of Israel some time during either the first or second Temple period.   Mishnah Nine 1)      They may give tithes from produce from a […]

Demai, Chapter 6, Mishnah 1

Demai, Chapter Six, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah deals with a Jew who rents a field from someone else, either a Jew, a Gentile or a Samaritan.  There are two types of rental agreements referred to here.  In the first type of agreement, the owner of the field shares part of the crop with […]

Demai, Chapter 6, Mishnah 10

Demai, Chapter Six, Mishnah Ten   Introduction In the previous mishnah we learned that if a chaver and an am haaretz inherited from their father, they can’t swap one type of produce for another.  In this mishnah we learn about a gentile and a convert who come to inherit from their father.  In this case, the convert […]

Demai, Chapter 6, Mishnah 11

Demai, Chapter Six, Mishnah Eleven   Introduction In rabbinic language “Syria” refers to the land that borders the land of Israel to the North and East but is not considered fully part of Israel.  The rules of tithing and terumah do apply to produce grown by a Jew in Syria but one who purchases produce […]

Demai, Chapter 6, Mishnah 12

Demai, Chapter Six, Mishnah Twelve   Introduction This mishnah deals with a chaver (a rabbinic associate) who is acting as an agent for an am haaretz. The question is:  does the chaver have to tithe that which he buys for the am haaretz?   Mishnah Twelve 1)      If an am haaretz said to a chaver, […]

Demai, Chapter 6, Mishnah 2

Demai, Chapter Six, Mishnah Two   Introduction In the second section of the previous mishnah we learned that one who rents a field from another Jew and in return pays the field owner a set amount of crops must give terumah but not tithes.  Now we learn about a Jew who rents a field under a similar type […]

Demai, Chapter 6, Mishnah 3

Demai, Chapter Six, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah and the next deal with scenarios where priests or Levites rent fields from Israelites or vice versa.  The question that needs to be answered is, since the priests get the terumah in any case and the Levites the tithe, do they still split this part of […]

Demai, Chapter 6, Mishnah 4

Demai, Chapter Six, Mishnah Four   Introduction The first half of this mishnah is the mirror image of the previous’ mishnah— – here an Israelite rents a field from a priest or terumah. The second half of the mishnah deals with a person who lives outside of Jerusalem who rents a field from a Jerusalemite.  […]

Demai, Chapter 6, Mishnah 5

Demai, Chapter Six, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah deals with an Israelite who rents a field of olive trees from a priest or from a Levite in order to make oil and share the produce.   Mishnah Five 1)      [An Israelite] who rents olive trees [from a priest or a Levite] for [a share […]

Demai, Chapter 6, Mishnah 6

Demai, Chapter Six, Mishnah Six   Mishnah Six 1)      Bet Shammai says: a man may sell his olives only to a “chaver (an ‘associate’).” 2)      But Bet Hillel says: [one may sell them] even to one who only] tithes. 3)      And the pious among Bet Hillel used to act in accordance with the words of […]

Demai, Chapter 6, Mishnah 7

Demai, Chapter Six, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah deals with a case where two people gathered their grapes into one winepress.  One of them tithes and the other does not.  The question is:  how much of the wine does the one who tithes have to tithe, all of the wine, or only the share […]

Demai, Chapter 6, Mishnah 8

Demai, Chapter Six, Mishnah Eight   Introduction In this mishnah we learn how someone who does tithe may enter into a partnership over land with someone who does not tithe, without having to tithe all of the produce for himself, thereby incurring a significant loss.   Mishnah Eight 1)      Two men who rented a field [for […]

Demai, Chapter 6, Mishnah 9

Demai, Chapter Six, Mishnah Nine   Introduction In this mishnah two brothers inherit property from their father. The father was an am haaretz, meaning he did not tithe, nor did he preserve the purity of his produce.  One of the brothers is a “chaver” one who tithes and is cautious about the laws of property, […]

Demai, Chapter 7, Mishnah 1

Demai, Chapter Seven, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah provides a way for a person who does tithe to eat on Shabbat with a friend who does not tithe.  The problem is that it is forbidden to tithe on Shabbat, so the one who does tithe will have to tithe on Friday the produce that […]

Demai, Chapter 7, Mishnah 2

Demai, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Two   Introduction In this mishnah we learn that although the person eating at someone’s house who does not tithe made a declaration on the eve of Shabbat that he is now tithing the food that he will eat tomorrow, he must, under certain circumstances, again tithe on Shabbat itself. I […]

Demai, Chapter 7, Mishnah 3

Demai, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Three   Introduction An employer has a duty, at least under certain circumstances, to feed his employees. Our mishnah deals with a situation in which the worker does not trust that the employer has tithed the produce and therefore needs to tithe the produce himself.    Mishnah Three 1)      A worker […]

Demai, Chapter 7, Mishnah 4

Demai, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Four   Introduction While Samaritans did seem to tithe the produce that they ate, according to the rabbis they did not tithe that which they sold. Therefore, one who buys produce from them will have to tithe it himself.  In the case in our mishnah, the person is in Samaria, the northern […]

Demai, Chapter 7, Mishnah 5

Demai, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Five   Introduction In this mishnah a person has figs in his house that are either tevel (certainly untithed produce) or demai (doubtfully tithed produce).  He is somewhere else, either in the study house (the Bet Midrash) or in the field and he is concerned that someone in his house might […]

Demai, Chapter 7, Mishnah 6

Demai, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Six   Introduction As we have learned on other occasions throughout this tractate, one cannot separate tithes from produce that is exempt from being tithed on behalf of produce that is obligated in tithes.  Our mishnah discusses one practical implication of this principle.   Mishnah Six 1)      There were before him […]

Demai, Chapter 7, Mishnah 7

Demai, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Seven   Introduction In this mishnah we learn how one remedies a situation in which produce of varying status (untithed, tithed, etc.) becomes mixed up with produce of a different status. This mishnah is quite difficult, so be forewarned.    Mishnah Seven 1)      One hundred [parts of] tevel which [were mixed […]

Demai, Chapter 7, Mishnah 8

Demai, Chapter Seven, Mishnah Eight   Introduction In this mishnah a person has ten rows of jugs each containing ten jugs of wine, and he wants to tithe them.  However, he makes an unclear statement as to which of the jugs will be tithe, leaving the mishnah (and subsequently us) to try to figure out […]

Introduction to Tractate Demai

Introduction to Tractate Demai   According to halakhah a person must separate terumah from his produce and give it to the priests.  We will learn more about this in Tractate Terumah. Afterwards, he separates a tenth of what is left and gives that to the Levites. This is called “maaser rishon” or “first tithe.”  The […]

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