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.


Hanukkah: Byamim HaHem u’Bzman HaZeh – the Test of Time

The Talmud relates the famous story of the pitcher of oil that miraculously burned for eight days and the mitzvah instituted by the Sages to light Hanukkah candles for eight nights.  When we perform this mitzvah we use the standard blessing formula – asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu (“who has sanctified us with His commandments and […]

Hanukkah: It’s Greek to Them – The Apocrypha in the Eyes of the Sages

Hanukkah Source Sheet – It’s Greek to Them (pdf) Hanukkah – It’s Greek to Them (pdf, printable version of this webpage) Sources of the Hanukkah Story Today Hanukkah is perhaps the best-known Jewish holiday throughout the world. However, despite its popularity, Hanukkah is the holiday with the least textual basis. The story of Hanukkah does not appear […]

Hanukkah: Public or Private Observance?

CY Hanukkah Public or Private Observance E-shiur Sourcesheet (pdf) CY Hanukkah Public or Private Observance E-shiur (pdf, printable version of this webpage) Hanukkah is often celebrated as the holiday of “religious freedom.” More accurately, it is a holiday celebrating our ability to practice Judaism unhindered, without pressure or influence to do otherwise. At the time, in the […]

Hanukkah: The Miracle of Freedom

But the truly irrational element in the Hanukah story is freedom.

Hanukkah: The Miracle of the Oil – Why is Hanukkah Connected with Fire and Why is it Eight Days?

The Miracle of the Oil Sourcesheet (pdf) The Miracle of the Oil E-shiur (pdf) The roots of Hanukkah as a holiday celebrating a historical event are fairly clear.  In the year 166-165 B.C.E., the Hasmoneans (called Maccabees in Greek sources) led a rebellion against the Greeks which culminated in the rededication of the Temple on the 25th […]

Hanukkah: Why Do We Still Celebrate Hanukkah?

Sources for Why Do We Still Celebrate Hanukkah (pdf) Why Do We Still Celebrate Hannukah E-shiur (pdf) Today, we know of the historical events surrounding Hanukkah because they are described in several texts, including the two books of Maccabees and the writings of Josephus.  However, these books were either written in Greek or originally written in […]

Hanukkah: Will the Real Hanukkah Please Stand Up?

According to popular Jewish tradition on the 25th of Kislev the Maccabees defeated the evil Greeks and rededicated the defiled temple.  Hanukkah celebrates not only the military victory but also a spiritual one, of good over evil, of light over darkness. Several non-Rabbinic sources (I&II Maccabees and Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews) tell the Hanukkah […]


These Holiday Shiurim, prepared by Conservative Yeshiva faculty members, were made possible by a generous grant from Temple Zion Israelite Center, Miami, Florida. Multi-session courses about holiday topics can be found in Shiurim's Course list. Additional commentary about the development of holiday practices are available in Shiurim - The Online Beit Midrash's Rabbinic Texts section.
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