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.


Purim and Assimilation

Alone among all the Jewish festivals, Purim is a holiday with a traditional injunction to become intoxicated.

Purim: A Holiday is Born, Forever

Purim – A Holiday is Born Source Sheet Purim – A Holiday is Born Shiur Purim is a strange holiday – fun and “funny” at the same time. It is not commanded by the Torah, it lasts only one day, it has neither prohibitions nor Hallel (Psalms of praise), and God’s name is not mentioned […]

Purim: Esther and Joseph – Two Models of Exilic Jews

Esther and Joseph E-Shiur Sourcesheet (pdf) Esther and Joseph E-Shiur (pdf) The story of Esther presents a situation previously unknown in the biblical period. Never before had an independent community of Jews existed, willingly, outside the Land of Israel, at the time that there was a formal Jewish community there. What sources could such a […]

Purim: The Jewish Calendar – As Early and Late as it Gets

The Jewish Calendar As Early and Late as it Gets Source Sheet (pdf) The Jewish Calendar As Early and Late as it Gets (pdf) Much has been made of the fact that Pesach, last March 26, and Rosh Hashanah, on September 5 (2013), were the earliest on the Gregorian calendar since 1899 and the earliest […]

Purim: The Meaning of Vashti’s Tail

PDF Vashtis Tail One of the most famous and perhaps bizarre midrashim concerns Vashti’s refusal to enter Achashverosh’s feast. Esther 1:12 reads, “And Vashti refused to come at the word of the king.” Bavli Megillah 12b asks why she refused and provides two answers: (1) she was plagued with some sort of skin disease or […]


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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