Kosher Kuestions – Terumos and Ma’aseros

Rabbi Peretz Moncharsh

QUESTION: For those of us who are privileged to live in Israel, especially the new immigrants, we immediately learn about the obligation to take tithes, trumot and ma’asrot on fruits and vegetables. I understand that the laws today are only of a Rabbinical nature, yet the demand for adherence by kashrut agencies leads me to believe there is more to it.

Also, are we required to separate trumot and ma’asrot on our home, at home? I thought the kashrut agencies take care of this but now I am hearing many shomer shabbat people do so at home as well, without a bracha.

Please explain the matter, and tell us what is law and required and what is possibly an admirable act but not demanded by Torah or Rabbinical law. 

The general obligation of Terumos and Ma’aseros is certainly miD’Oraisa, as the Torah clearly is the origin of these Halachos, as it says in Devarim 18:4. However the Torah specifies grain, olives and wine; all other fruits and vegetables are only miD’Rabanan according to most Rishonim. Additionally, the Rambam in Terumos 1:26 writes that Terumos and Ma’aseros can only be D’Oraisa when the majority of the Jewish people live in Eretz Yisroel, a situation that does not apply at the present time.

INFORMATION TO JOIN AN ORGANIZATION FOR SEPARATION TRUMOT AND MA’ASROT APPEARS AT THE END OF THE ARTICLE

However the Sefer HaChinuch 284 and Beis Yosef YD 323 write that even though today the obligation to separate Terumos and Ma’aseros is only D’Rabanan, since the origin of the issur is D’Oraisa it follows the general rules of an issur D’Oraisa (Torah prohibition) and is forbidden is a case of a safek. Therefore if doubt arises whether Terumos and Ma’aseros were taken or not, whether the produce originated in Eretz Yisroel etc., one may NOT be lenient because of safek D’Rabanan. Also, the issur of consuming produce from which Terumos and Ma’aseros were not taken is especially severe, as one who eats Tevel is liable to misa b’ydei shomayim, Divine death penalty.

An additional stringency regarding Terumos and Ma’aseros comes from the fact that while we usually say “eid echad ne’eman b’issurim”, any single Torah-observant Jew is trusted to declare food Kosher, this does not necessarily apply to produce since it was known to certainly have been assur at one point in time as Tevel and is called “ischazek issura”.

When fruits and vegetables have a reliable hechsher then according to Halacha there is no requirement for the consumer to take his own Terumos and Ma’aseros, he may rely on the mashgiach to have already done so. However due to many practical considerations, HaRav Elyashiv Shlita and HaRav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita both advise anyone who is G-d fearing to separate Terumos and Ma’aseros without a bracha. As an example of what could potentially go wrong, standard procedure in greengrocers is that the mashgiach visits one a day to separate Terumos and Ma’aseros from all the produce that has been delivered to the store before it is put on the shelves. I have seen more than once customers unwittingly snatching the fresh Tevel as it is unloaded from the delivery truck before the mashgiach can arrive.

If someone wants to save money by purchasing produce at a vendor without a reliable hechsher or if one finds himself in a location where an authoritative hashgacha is not available, one may buy vegetables even if Terumos and Ma’aseros were not yet taken as long as the consumer is knowledgeable in the basic format for separating tithes. One must remove slightly more than 1% of the vegetables and say the formula usually printed in the back of the siddur. It is essential to understand the words and general idea of what is being done, this is not hocus-pocus. Also, most years it is necessary to have a “peruta chamura” a coin designated for redeeming Ma’aser Sheni. There is an organization that will take care of this for you, but I don’t have their contact information on hand. Fruits are more problematic because in addition to Terumos and Ma’aseros they have the additional problem of Orlah, and without a reliable hechsher one cannot always be certain that the fruit does not come from a tree less than 4 years old. I would not recommend purchasing fruit without a hechsher unless one knows exactly which varieties of which species of trees are not present in the local market in any significant quantity under 4 years old.

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Rabbi Peretz Moncharsh, learned in the Yeshivos of Philadelphia, Brisk- R Dovid, Mir and Kollel La’asukei Shmaytsa.  He currently lives in Beitar and is a Moreh Horaah on both the Ashkenazi and Sefardi Batei Horaah as well as the Rosh Kollel of Kollel Shaarei Horaah. Rabbi Moncharsh received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg, R’ Yaakov Tufik (the Sefaradi Rav of Beitar) and the Rabbanut. He did shimush by R’ Tufik and by R’ Yitzchok Kaufman.

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To get us started, as promised, here is the information for those wishing to join the trumot & ma’asrot program under the auspices of HaRav HaGaon Yosef Efrati Shlita. One may call 02-651-7793.

This is the number of the     בית מדרש גבוה להלכה בהתישבות החקלאות

Alternatively, there is also the trumot & ma’asrot program of

Beit Ha’Otzar -Hakeren l’Hafrashot Trumot u’Ma’asrot
Tel: 08-684 7325
Fax: 08-684 7055

One comment

  • Moshe
    August 27, 2009 - 16:43 | Permalink

    Very nice summary – thank you. I am not sure where we are up to, but we are getting close to the point where most Jews live in Israel.

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