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.

Maaser Sheni

Introduction to Maaser Sheni

Introduction to Maaser Sheni   According to rabbinic interpretation, Deuteronomy 14: 22-27 refers to a second tithe, a tithe that is separated after the first tithe has already been separated. These verses read:   Deuteronomy 14 22 You shall set aside every year a tenth part of all the yield of your sowing that is […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 1, Mishnah 1

Maaser Sheni, Chapter One, Mishnah One   Introduction  The Torah calls maaser sheni “holy” (Leviticus 27:30). Our mishnah teaches that it must be treated as holy produce and not as one would treat hullin, non-sanctified food.   Mishnah One 1)      Second tithe: one may not sell it, use it as a pledge, exchange it, or […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 1, Mishnah 2

Maaser Sheni, Chapter One, Mishnah Two   Introduction Since yesterday’s mishnah taught that one cannot sell maaser sheni, today’s mishnah compares and contrasts this rule with rules governing cattle tithes, and first-born animals.   Mishnah Two 1)      Tithe of cattle: one may not sell it when it is unblemished and alive, and when it is […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 1, Mishnah 3

Maaser Sheni, Chapter One, Mishnah Three   Introduction The rest of this chapter deals with using maaser sheni money to buy food in Jerusalem. There are two important rules to keep in mind here: first of all, food that one buys becomes holy and there are certain rules that apply to it. Second, one can […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 1, Mishnah 4

Maaser Sheni, Chapter One, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah contains cases that are opposite of those found in yesterday’s mishnah. In these cases the non-food item bought does not become hullin.   Mishnah Four 1)      One who bought a wild animal for a shelamim offering or a domesticated beast for non-sacrificial eating, the hide […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 1, Mishnah 5

Maaser Sheni, Chapter One, Mishnah Five   Mishnah Five 1)      One who bought water or salt, or produce still joined to the soil, or produce which cannot reach Jerusalem, he has not purchased maaser [sheni]. 2)      One who bought produce unwittingly, the money must be restored to its former place. 3)      But if intentionally, the […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 1, Mishnah 6

Maaser Sheni, Chapter One, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah teaches the same rule that we saw in yesterday’s mishnah, except whereas yesterday’s mishnah discussed produce, today’s mishnah refers to buying an animal.   Mishnah Six One who bought a domesticated animal unwittingly, the money must be restored to its former place. Intentionally, it must […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 1, Mishnah 7

Maaser Sheni, Chapter One, Mishnah Seven   Introduction The final mishnah of this chapter lists other things that one cannot buy with maaser sheni money.   Mishnah Seven 1)      One may not buy male slaves or female slaves, land, or unclean animals with maaser sheni money. a)      And if he did buy [one of these], […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 2, Mishnah 1

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Two, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah begins to provide some general rules that govern maaser sheni.   Mishnah One 1)      Second tithe is set apart for eating, for drinking and for anointing; for eating what is usually eaten, for drinking what is usually drunk, and for anointing what is usually used […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 2, Mishnah 10

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Two, Mishnah Ten   Introduction In this mishnah a man has sons, some of whom are pure and some of whom are not. He is in Jerusalem and he wants to buy the pure sons wine with maaser sheni money, and give regular non-sacred wine to his impure sons who are not […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 2, Mishnah 2

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Two, Mishnah Two   Introduction In this mishnah Rabbi Shimon and the sages argue whether one can anoint oneself with second tithe oil in Jerusalem.   Mishnah Two 1)      Rabbi Shimon says: one may not anoint oneself with oil of second tithe in Jerusalem. a)      But the sages allow it. 2)      They […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 2, Mishnah 3

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Two, Mishnah Three   Introduction Our mishnah deals with fenugreek of maaser sheni or terumah.   Mishnah Three 1)      Fenugreek of second tithe may be eaten when it is still tender. 2)      Fenugreek of terumah: a)      Bet Shammai says: whatever is done with it must be done in a state of purity, […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 2, Mishnah 4

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Two, Mishnah Four   Mishnah Four 1)      Vetches of second tithe may be eaten when still tender. 2)      And they may be brought into Jerusalem and taken out again.   3)      If they became unclean: a)      Rabbi Tarfon says: they must be divided among pieces of dough. b)      But the sages say: they […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 2, Mishnah 5

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Two, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah deals with maaser sheni coins (money that had been used to redeem maaser sheni produce) and hullin, non-sacred coins, that were mixed up together. The mishnah assumes that the person knows how many of the coins were maaser sheni, but he doesn’t know which coins […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 2, Mishnah 6

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Two, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah deals with a case of a sela of maaser sheni and a sela of hullin that gets mixed up and he wants to take the hullin sela out of Jerusalem.   Mishnah Six 1)      A sela of maaser sheni which was mixed up with a […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 2, Mishnah 7

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Two, Mishnah Seven   Mishnah Seven 1)      Bet Shammai says: one may not turn his selas into gold dinars.   2)      But Bet Hillel permits it. a)      Rabbi Akiva said: For Rabban Gamaliel and Rabbi Joshua I turned silver into gold dinars.   Explanation Section one: According to Bet Shammai, if one has […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 2, Mishnah 8

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Two, Mishnah Eight   Introduction This mishnah continues to deal with what types of maaser sheni coins may be exchanged for which others.   Mishnah Eight 1)      One who changes copper coins of second tithe for a sela:   a)      Bet Shammai says: he may change copper coins for a whole sela. b)      […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 2, Mishnah 9

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Two, Mishnah Nine   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with exchanging maaser sheni coins in Jerusalem for other coins. In Jerusalem one can exchange silver coins for copper coins. This would make it easier to go to the store and buy food, because silver coins are too big for use in a store. […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 3, Mishnah 1

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Three, Mishnah One   Introduction We learned in the first mishnah of the tractate that it is forbidden to sell maaser sheni. Our mishnah teaches that it is also forbidden to make certain deals that make it look as if one is selling maaser sheni.   Mishnah One 1)      One should not […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 3, Mishnah 10

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Three, Mishnah Ten   Introduction Today’s mishnah deals with produce purchased with maaser sheni money that then becomes unclean. This produce cannot be eaten because unclean maaser sheni can never The question is: can it be redeemed?   Mishnah Ten 1)      If that which was bought with maaser sheni money became unclean, […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 3, Mishnah 11

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Three, Mishnah Eleven   Introduction Our mishnah deals with a deer that was bought with maaser sheni money and then something happened to it that caused it to become inedible.   Mishnah Eleven 1)      If a deer which had been bought with maaser sheni money died, it must be buried together with […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 3, Mishnah 12

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Three, Mishnah Twelve   Introduction This mishnah deals with jars that contain maaser sheni wine. The question is: do the jars become sanctified with the sanctity of maaser sheni?   Maaser Sheni 1)      One who lends jars for maaser sheni [wine], even if they were corked, they do not acquire [the sanctity […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 3, Mishnah 13

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Three, Mishnah Thirteen   Introduction This mishnah is a continuation of yesterday’s mishnah. Here we discuss what happens if after corking the jars the owner wishes to change their status. For instance, he decides that instead of selling the jars with the wine he wants to sell the wine and lend the […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 3, Mishnah 2

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Three, Mishnah Two   Introduction In this mishnah we learn that one cannot use second tithe money to buy terumah.   Mishnah Two 1)      One may not buy terumah with maaser sheni money, because this reduces the number of those who can eat it.  a)      But Rabbi Shimon permits it. 2)      Rabbi […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 3, Mishnah 3

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Three, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah deals with a person who has maaser sheni money in Jerusalem, but doesn’t want to use it to buy food or other things that one can buy with maaser sheni money.   Mishnah Three 1)      One who has [second tithe] money in Jerusalem and he […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 3, Mishnah 4

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Three, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah teaches ways in which a person who has maaser sheni money in one place and hullin (non-sacred) produce in another can exchange one for the other.   Mishnah Four 1)      If [one had hullin] produce in Jerusalem and [second tithe money] in the provinces, he […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 3, Mishnah 5

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Three, Mishnah Five   Introduction In our mishnah we learn that all of the sages agree that maaser sheni money can be brought out of Jerusalem once it has been brought in. However, there is a debate whether second tithe produce can be taken out of Jerusalem once it has already been […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 3, Mishnah 6

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Three, Mishnah Six   Introduction In yesterday’s mishnah we learned that maaser sheni produce that has been in Jerusalem cannot be taken out again. Today we learn about regular produce that has not yet been tithed and has entered Jerusalem. Can the maaser sheni from that produce be brought in and taken […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 3, Mishnah 7

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Three, Mishnah Seven   Introduction Our mishnah deals with structures that lie both in and outside of Jerusalem. If we deem them to be within Jerusalem, then maaser sheni produce may be eaten there, but it may not be redeemed. But if we deem them to be outside of Jerusalem, then maaser […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 3, Mishnah 8

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Three, Mishnah Eight   Introduction Today’s mishnah is similar in structure to yesterday’s mishnah, although the content has nothing to do with the laws of maaser sheni. Today we deal with chambers of the Temple, part of which were built on holy ground, within the Temple courtyards, and part of which were […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 3, Mishnah 9

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Three, Mishnah Nine   Introduction As we have learned many times, maaser sheni can be redeemed only outside of Jerusalem. Once in Jerusalem it must be eaten. However, this applies only to pure maaser sheni. Impure maaser sheni, which cannot be eaten and must be redeemed, can be redeemed in Jerusalem. Our […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 4, Mishnah 1

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Four, Mishnah One   Introduction This mishnah deals with variants in the price of the produce of maaser sheni and how they affect the evaluation when he comes to redeem the produce for money.   Mishnah One 1)      One who carries produce of maaser sheni from a place where it is expensive […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 4, Mishnah 10

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Four, Mishnah Ten   Introduction In yesterday’s mishnah we discussed whether one must be concerned that found coins are maaser sheni. In today’s mishnah we discuss other things that are found and whether we must be concerned lest they are holy items.   Mishnah Ten 1)      One who finds a vessel one […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 4, Mishnah 11

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Four, Mishnah Eleven   Mishnah Eleven 1)      One who finds a vessel on which was written a kof, it is korban. 2)      If a mem, it is maaser. 3)      If a dalet, it is demai. 4)      If a tet, it is tevel (untithed produced). 5)      If a tav, it is terumah. 6)      […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 4, Mishnah 12

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Four, Mishnah Twelve   Mishnah Twelve 1)      One who says to his son, “There is maaser sheni [produce] in this corner,” but the son found [produce] in another corner, this may be considered hullin. 2)      [If the father said] there was there a hundred [of maaser sheni] and the son found two […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 4, Mishnah 2

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Four, Mishnah Two   Introduction This mishnah deals with various laws concerning the evaluation of maaser sheni when it comes time to redeem it.   Maaser Sheni 1)      Maaser sheni may be redeemed at the lower market price: a)      At the price at which the shopkeeper buys and not at which he […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 4, Mishnah 3

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Four, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah teaches what happens if several different people want to redeem some maaser sheni produce.   Mishnah Three 1)      If the owner says, “With a sela [I will redeem this maaser sheni] and another person says “With a sela,” the owner has the first right, because […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 4, Mishnah 4

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Four, Mishnah Four   Introduction When a person redeems his own maaser sheni, he must add an extra fifth to the value, but when he redeems someone else’s maaser sheni produce, he need not do so. Our mishnah teaches that there are ways in which a person can get around having to […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 4, Mishnah 5

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Four, Mishnah Five   Introduction This mishnah teaches a way for a person to redeem his maaser sheni without adding a fifth, even if he doesn’t have any coins in his hand. This is another form of deception—a legal means by which to get around paying the added fifth.   Mishnah Five […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 4, Mishnah 6

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Four, Mishnah Six   Introduction This mishnah deals with cases where there were fluctuations in the value of the maaser sheni produce from the time it was given to a buyer until the time it was redeemed.   Mishnah Six 1)      If one took possession from the owner of maaser sheni for […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 4, Mishnah 7

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Four, Mishnah Seven   Mishnah Seven 1)      If one redeemed maaser sheni but did not call it by its name:   a)      Rabbi Yose says: it is sufficient. b)      But Rabbi Judah says: he must name it explicitly. 2)      If a man was speaking to a woman concerning her divorce or her betrothal, […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 4, Mishnah 8

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Four, Mishnah Eight   Introduction It would have been common practice to set aside a coin and then use it progressively as money for maaser sheni produce. In our mishnah a person sets aside an issar, which is worth 1/24 of a dinar, and then uses that issar as redemption money for […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 4, Mishnah 9

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Four, Mishnah Nine   Introduction Our mishnah deals with coins that are found and whether we have to be concerned lest they are maaser sheni.   Mishnah Nine 1)      Any money found is considered hullin, even gold dinars with silver and with copper coins. 2)      If a potsherd was found with the […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 5, Mishnah 1

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Five, Mishnah One   Introduction The final chapter of Maaser Sheni deals with vineyards and other fruit-bearing trees which are in their fourth year. This topic is addressed in Leviticus 19:23-24:   When you enter the land and plant any tree for food, you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. Three years […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 5, Mishnah 10

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Five, Mishnah Ten   Introduction This mishnah and the following three mishnayot are an extended midrash on Deuteronomy 26:12-15, the tithe confession. We should note that according to a simple reading of these verses, they only refer to one type of tithe, although it is not entirely clear to whom this tithe […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 5, Mishnah 11

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Five, Mishnah Eleven   Introduction This mishnah continues to expound up Deuteronomy 26.   Mishnah Eleven 1)      “According to all Your commandments which You have commanded me,” thus, if he took out maaser sheni before the first tithe he cannot make the confession. 2)      “I have not transgressed any of Your commandments”—I […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 5, Mishnah 12

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Five, Mishnah Twelve   Introduction And more midrash….   Mishnah Twelve 1)      “I have not eaten from it in my mourning (oni)”— thus, if he had eaten it in his mourning (aninut), he cannot make the confession. 2)      “Neither have I removed any of it when unclean” — thus, if he had […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 5, Mishnah 13

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Five, Mishnah Thirteen   Introduction You guessed it—more midrash! The confession has now turned from what the confessor, and by extension all of Israel, claims to have done, to the blessings that the confessor is asking. The confession might be understood as a petition to fulfill a contract—we have fulfilled our side […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 5, Mishnah 14

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Five, Mishnah Fourteen   Introduction This mishnah contains an additional midrash on the verse, “And the land which You have given us” which was cited in yesterday’s mishnah.   Mishnah Fourteen 1)      From here they said that Israelites and mamzerim may make the confession, but not converts, nor freed slaves, since they […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 5, Mishnah 15

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Five, Mishnah Fifteen   Introduction This mishnah contains some historical information concerning changes in practice initiated by Yohanan the high priest, who lived some time during the late Second Temple period. The first of these changes deals with the tithe confession, and hence this mishnah is brought here.   Mishnah Fifteen 1)      […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 5, Mishnah 2

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Five, Mishnah Two   Introduction As we learned in the introduction to yesterday’s mishnah, during the fourth year of its growth, the produce of a vineyard or an orchard must be brought to Jerusalem and eaten there. Our mishnah teaches that produce that grew more than a day’s journey from Jerusalem can […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 5, Mishnah 3

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Five, Mishnah Three   Introduction This mishnah is found word for word in Peah 7:6. In it Bet Shammai and Bet Hillel argue whether when one redeems the grapes of a fourth-year vineyard, one has to add an extra fifth, as one does with maaser sheni. They also argue whether the law […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 5, Mishnah 4

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Five, Mishnah Four   Introduction This mishnah deals with the procedure for redeeming fourth year produce. How is the value of the produce evaluated?   Mishnah Four 1)      How does one redeem the fruit of a plant in its fourth year? The owner puts down a basket in the presence of three […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 5, Mishnah 5

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Five, Mishnah Five   Introduction During the sabbatical year, it is forbidden to work the land. Therefore, there is no cost in growing the produce, and one who redeems it cannot reduce this cost.   Mishnah Five 1)      But in the seventh year he must redeem it for its full value.   2)      […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 5, Mishnah 6

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Five, Mishnah Six   Introduction There are two places in which the Torah discusses removing tithes from one’s home. The first is Deuteronomy 14:28-29, “Every third year you shall bring out the full tithe of your yield of that year, but leave it within your settlements.29 Then the Levite, who has no […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 5, Mishnah 7

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Five, Mishnah Seven   Introduction This mishnah addresses the question of what to do with maaser sheni once the Temple has destroyed and it is impossible to eat it in Jerusalem.   Mishnah Seven One who had produce at this time and the time of removal arrived: 1)      Bet Shammai says: he […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 5, Mishnah 8

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Five, Mishnah Eight   Mishnah Eight Rabbi Judah said: in early times they used to send to householders in the provinces [saying:] “Hasten to set right your produce before the time of removal arrives,” until Rabbi Akiva came and taught that all produce which has not reached the time of tithing is […]

Maaser Sheni, Chapter 5, Mishnah 9

Maaser Sheni, Chapter Five, Mishnah Nine   Introduction This mishnah deals with how a person can set aside his tithes and give them to the rightful owners if his produce is at a distance from him. This would be necessary if the time for removal was drawing near and he needed to separate the tithes […]

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