Maaser Kesafim

Since the first source of the obligation of maaser kesafim is in this week’s parsha…

Question #1: Paying for Your Kids in Kollel

“I agreed to support my married children for five years. May I use maaser money for this?”

Question #2: Chomesh

What is chomesh?

Question #3: Tuition

May I pay tuition out of maaser kesafim funds?

Question #4: Testing Hashem!

May I ask Hashem to pay me back for the tzedakah money that I give?

Which maaser?

We should first note that the term maaser, without specifying which one, is used sometimes in the Mishnah and Gemara to refer to maaser rishon, and sometimes to refer to maaser sheini, and, in later halachic works, sometimes also to maaser kesafim. These three types of maaser have vastly different laws from one another. Usually, one can understand from context which maaser is intended. If the context alludes to maaser owned by a Levi, or to the first maaser being separated, maaser rishon is intended. If it refers to something that has sanctity, usually maaser sheini is intended. If it refers to a percentage of one’s income that is donated to tzedakah, it refers to maaser kesafim.

The above questions all relate to shaylos about how much someone should donate to tzedakah and how he should prioritize his giving. It is well known that Rav Moshe Feinstein used to complain that these are areas of halacha about which he was asked too infrequently.

Maaser kesafim: giving ten percent of one’s moneys to tzedakah. The poskim dispute whether one subtracts household expenses from one’s income, before calculating maaser.

The concept of maaser is primarily in the case of ayn ani bifanav, when I fulfill the mitzvah by putting aside money for tzedakah. In a case of ani bifanav I do not fulfill my mitzvah by giving him only ten percent.

A person who distributes maaser kesafim to the poor is blessed with a special guarantee of wealth (Taanis 9a). This beracha happens only when someone is meticulous to calculate exactly a tenth of one’s income for tzedakah (Shu’t Avkas Rocheil #3). Furthermore, this beracha is fulfilled only if one gives this maaser money to the poor, but if one gives part of it to other causes, there is no guarantee that wealth will follow (see Shu’t Radbaz 3:441). Therefore, although one may use maaser kesafim to buy an aliyah, pay for a “mi’shebeirach,” purchase sefarim that will be used by the tzibur (Taz, Yoreh Deah 249:1) or similar communal needs, it is preferred to earmark maaser kesafim for the needs of the poor (Rema, Yoreh Deah 249:1). Donations to Torah institutions are considered distributions to the poor (Ahavas Chesed 2:19:2), as are hachnasas kallah expenses (to pay wedding and related expenses for a poor groom or bride).

Chomesh: giving twenty percent of one’s moneys to tzedakah. This is the optimal level of fulfilling mitzvas tzedakah, whereas setting aside ten percent is considered only “midah beinonis,” an average person’s conduct. Someone who gives a chomesh to tzedakah should first calculate and set aside one tenth, and then a second tenth.

Before starting to give regular amounts of tzedakah on an ongoing basis, one should declare that he is following this procedure bli neder, without accepting it as a vow.

Paying for Your Kids in Kollel from Maaser Money

“I agreed to support my married children for five years. May I use maaser money for this?”

The Chasam Sofer authored a responsum (Shu’t Chasam Sofer, Yoreh Deah #231) on this subject, which is fascinating for the many different halachic issues that he clarifies. Someone had arranged the marriage of his scholarly son to the daughter of a talmid chacham,with the following understanding: The father of the son accepted that he would pay every week a certain amount to his mechutan, the bride’s father, who would sustain the young growing family in his home, thus enabling the son-in-law to continue his studies under his father-in-law’s direction. The father of the chosson realized that it will be difficult for him to meet this commitment, and wants to know if he can use the maaser money from his business endeavors to provide the support for which he is responsible.

The Chasam Sofer opens his discussion by quoting two opinions that seem to dispute whether it is acceptable to use maaser money for such an expenditure. The Rema, quoting the Maharil, contends that it is not permitted to use maaser money to pay for a mitzvah, such as donating lamps and candles to the shul, whereas the Shach states, in the name of the Maharam, that it is permitted to use maaser money for mitzvos. Thus, whether one may pay for mitzvos, other than supporting the poor, from maaser money appears to be a dispute among early authorities.

The Chasam Sofer then quotes the Be’er Hagolah, who explains that the two above-quoted opinions are not in dispute. All authorities prohibit using maaser money to fulfill a mitzvah that someone is already obligated to observe. The Maharam, who permitted using maaser money for these purposes, was discussing a case in which the donor intended to use maaser money for this mitzvah from the outset, whereas the Maharil is discussing a situation in which he has been using his maaser money to support the poor, in which case he cannot now divert it for other mitzvos that do not qualify as tzedakah for the poor. Thus, according to the Be’er Hagolah, whether the father can begin meeting his obligations to his son and mechutan with his maaser money will depend on whether he has already accepted the obligation on himself to pay this from other funds, in which case he cannotuse maaser money for it, or if it is an obligation that he is now accepting upon himself, in which case he can specify that he wants to use maaser money to fulfill it.

The Chasam Sofer does not consider the approach of the Be’er Hagolah to be fully correct. He (the Chasam Sofer) notes that the Maharil wrote that maaser moneys are meant to support the poor and not for the acquisition of mitzvos. Therefore, use of maaser money for any type of personal mitzvah is inappropriate, whether he is already obligated to fulfill the mitzvah or not.

The Chasam Sofer concludes that when someone begins donating maaser money, he may stipulate that, sometimes, the money will be used for a mitzvah donation, such as the lighting in shul. However, once he has begun donating his maaser money regularly to the poor, he must continue using it for tzedakah.

Family first

Having determined that there are definitely situations in which maaser money must be given to the poor, the Chasam Sofer then discusses when and whether money designated for the poor can be used to support an individual’s extended family. There is a general rule that one is obligated to the poor to whom one is closest – close family first, more distant family next, neighbors third, members of one’s city next and the out-of-town poor next.

Greater needs

Notwithstanding that family should be supported first, the Chasam Sofer quotes from his rebbi, the author of the Haflaah, that the rules of “closest first” or “family first” are only when the funds are necessary for the same level of need, for example, all have enough to eat, but not enough for clothing. However, if some are short of food, and others have enough to eat but are short on clothing or other needs, the responsibility to make sure that someone has enough to eat comes first, even for someone out of town, regardless of whether there are neighbors or locals who are needy, as long as they have sufficient food.

Yet, concludes the Chasam Sofer, this prioritization is not absolute. All needs of someone’s family are considered his responsibility before the basic needs of others. In other words, the priorities should be as follows:

(1) Family needs.

(2) Most basic needs – food – regardless of location of needy.

(3) People of one’s city.

(4) The out-of-town poor.

Chasam Sofer’s conclusion

If the father had stipulated, at the time of obligating himself to support his son, that he would use maaser money for this obligation, he would be able to use it. Even then, the Chasam Sofer recommends that he use only up to half of his available maaser money to support his son. His reasoning is based on a Mishnah (Peah 8:6) which says that someone is permitted to save his maaser ani (the tithe one gives to the poor in the third and sixth year of the shemittah cycle) to support those that he chooses to, but he should not set aside more than half of his maaser ani for this purpose; the rest should be given to the local poor.

However, this is only when he had originally planned to use maaser money for this purpose. Otherwise, once he created an obligation upon himself to support his son, it is similar to any other obligation that he has, and he may not use his maaser money for this purpose.

Tuition

Rav Moshe Feinstein ruled that one should not pay tuition for sons and daughters in elementary school and high school from maaser funds, because this level of education is obligatory. However, someone eligible for a tuition reduction who elects to pay full tuition may pay the extra from maaser (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 2:113; also see Ahavas Chesed 2:19:2). If paying the expected amount of tuition without resorting to maaser funds creates hardship, one should ask a shaylah.

Yeshiva gedolah tuition and expenses may be paid from maaser, because a parent is not obligated to support a child at this age.

Testing Hashem!

At this point, let us discuss the last of our opening questions: “May I ask Hashem to pay me back for the tzedakah money that I give?”

It is generally prohibited to “test” Hashem, as the Torah states, “Lo senasu es Hashem,” “Do not test Hashem” (Devarim 6:16). One may not say, “I am performing this mitzvah so that Hashem will reward me by providing me with such-and-such (Sefer Yerei’im #361; Sefer Hachinuch, Mitzvah 395, 424; Shu’t Radbaz #882).

However, there is one exception to this rule – one may give maaser kesafim, expecting to be blessed with wealth as a reward (Taanis 9a, as explained by Shu’t Avkas Rocheil #3; Sefer Hassidim #144; Rema, Yoreh Deah 247:4; Ahavas Chesed 2:18. Cf. Shel”a and She’ei’las Ya’avetz #3, quoted in Pischei Teshuvah 247:2).

The Gemara (Taanis 9a) relates that, after Reish Lakeish’s passing, Rabbi Yochanan encountered his nephew (who was Reish Lakeish’s son). Rabbi Yochanan asked his nephew what he had learned in cheder that day. The nephew replied, “Te’aser kedei shetis’asher,” “Give maaser so that you get rich.”

“How do you know?” asked Rabbi Yochanan.

“Go test it,” answered the nephew, who then asked, “But is one permitted to test Hashem?”

Rabbi Yochanan replied, “I heard from my rebbe, Rabbi Hoshiyah, that this is an exception –because of the pasuk in Malachi (3:10), where Hashem begs us to test Him when giving maaser and see for yourself that He opens the windows of Heaven and grants blessings until our lips weary of saying ‘Enough!’”

We see from this that it is permitted to declare that I am giving the correct amount of tzedakah and expect that Hashem will reward me with wealth. I know several people who personally attest that this beracha was fulfilled!

Gifts to the Poor

The Gemara tells us that the Torah reading of Sukkos includes references concerning gifts to the poor, to remind people of these mitzvos during harvest season.

Question #1: Leaving in Today’s World

“Is there a requirement to leave leket, shich’cha and pei’ah in your field today?”

Question #2: In Chutz La’Aretz

“I live in chutz la’aretz. Am I required to separate pei’ah on my backyard vegetable patch?”

Question #3: Cluster Alms

“Why do I need to know how a typical cluster of grapes looks?

Introduction

While harvesting grain and other produce, the Torah presents six different mitzvah opportunities to provide for the poor: leket, shich’cha, pei’ah, peret, oleilos, and maaser ani. I discussed several of these mitzvos in a recent article, but did not complete the topic. This article picks up where that one left off.

In parshas Kedoshim, the Torah mentions the mitzvos of pei’ah, leket, peret and oleilos: When you reap the harvest of your land, do not complete harvesting the corner of your field, and the “leket” of your harvest you should not collect. From your vineyard, do not remove the “oleilos,” and the “peret” of your vineyard you should not collect. Leave them for the poor and the stranger (Vayikra 19:9-10). I deliberately did not translate the words leket, oleilos and peret, since they will be explained shortly.

Shich’cha, peret and oleilos are all discussed at the end of parshas Ki Seitzei (Devarim 24:19-21).

Maaser ani is mentioned in parshas Ki Savo (Devarim 26:12)

Two of these mitzvos, pei’ah and leket, are also discussed in parshas Emor (Vayikra 23:22), in the midst of the Torah’s discussion about the festival cycle (parshas hamo’ados): When cutting the harvest of your land, do not complete the reaping of the corner of your field while you are harvesting, and the “leket” of your harvest you should not collect. Leave them for the poor and the stranger. This pasuk is the one included in our Sukkos reading.

Several halachos are quite clear from these pesukim, even without any commentary. The mitzvah is to leave behind these four items: pei’ah, leket, oleilos and peret, and allow the impoverished to help themselves. This implies that the owner may not choose or favor one pauper over another in the distribution of these gifts, and that neither he, nor anyone else, is even permitted to assist one poor person over another. To quote the Mishnah: He who does not allow the poor to collect, or allows one of them to collect but not another, or helps one of them, is stealing from the poor (Pei’ah 5:6).

Shich’cha

The mitzvah of shich’cha is discussed only at the end of parshas Ki Seitzei (Devarim 24:19): When you reap your harvest in your field, and you forget a sheaf in the field, you may not return to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the orphan and the widow, so that Hashem, your G-d, will bless you in all your undertakings. Shich’cha is different from the other four mitzvos we have previously mentioned in one significant way – it applies to produce only as it is brought in from the field, and not any earlier or later (Pei’ah 5:8).  Therefore, small bundles that were forgotten in the field, but where the intention, initially, was to combine them into larger bundles before bringing them in from the field, are not shich’cha (Pei’ah 5:8). This is different from the mitzvos of pei’ah, leket, peret and oleilos, which apply only at the time of the reaping, when the produce is being cut from the earth.

Shich’cha applies only when the owner or his workers forgot one or two bundles (Pei’ah 6:5). If they forgot three or more bundles, the law of shich’cha does not apply – the poor may not take it, and the owner may retrieve it.

Shich’cha applies only if we can assume that the sheaf or sheaves left behind are likely to be completely forgotten.  However, it does not apply if the owner or his worker will remember later that the bundle was left behind, for any of a variety of reasons, such as, it was left in a place that he will remember where it was, or it was much larger than the rest of his sheaves (Rambam, Hilchos Matanos Aniyim 5:17). Another example is when they forgot to harvest from a certain tree, but they will later remember about the tree because it is distinctive, either because it has its own nickname, or it is unusual in some other way or in its location (Pei’ah 7:1-2).

Shich’cha applies also to grapes, as well as to olives and the fruit of other trees (Pei’ah 6:9; 7:1).

What is leket?

To quote the Mishnah: What is leket? That which falls at the time of the cutting… If it is within [the reaper’s] hand or his sickle, it qualifies as leket and belongs to the poor. If it is beyond his hand or his sickle, it belongs to the owner and does not qualify as leket (Pei’ah 4:10). In other words, stalks of grain that were cut by swinging a sickle, but were beyond the hand or the sickle of the harvester, do not qualify as leket, because they were not severed from the ground in the way that grain is usually cut (Bartenura).

Three and over

The law of leket applies only when the reaper dropped one or two stalks at a time, but if he dropped three or more stalks, he may pick up the stalks and add them to his harvest, and the poor people are not permitted to take them (Pei’ah 6:5).

Piled on top of the leket

What is the halacha if the owner of the field or his employees collected the produce of his own harvest and then piled it in an area of the field where the poor people had not yet collected the leket. In this instance, we will no longer be able to ascertain how much leket grain in the field rightfully belongs to the poor, because the reapers’ pile creates a mixture of leket grain that belongs to the poor and non-leket grain that belongs to the owner.

To discourage this from happening, Chazal instituted that the entire bottom layer of the grain pile is considered the property of the poor (Pei’ah 5:1), even when it is impossible that so much grain fell as leket. This ruling is a penalty leveled upon the owner, to make sure that he does not allow such a practice. He should make sure that his workers pile their produce in an area that does not contain any leket.

What are peret and oleilos?

We have not yet explained the other two mitzvos that are taught in the pasuk that I quoted above, peret and oleilos. These two gifts to the poor exist only regarding grapes.

Peret is to a vineyard what leket is to grain. In other words, while picking the grapes, should a single grape or two fall from the hand of the harvester, they must be left for the poor (Pei’ah 6:5; 7:3). However, just as we explained before that three stalks of grain falling together while cutting are not leket, three of more grapes falling at one time are not peret and may be retrieved by the owner.

Oleilos

Oleilos are grapes that did not grow as part of a proper cluster. Ordinarily, a cluster of grapes includes many small bunches that grow off the main stem near the top of the cluster; when the grapes lie upon one another, they create a bulge, appearing a bit like a “shoulder,” near the top of the cluster. In addition, the central stem of typical cluster grows longer than the small bunches that branch off it, which causes some grapes to hang down at the bottom of the cluster. These two features provide a cluster of grapes with its traditional appearance of the widest part near, but not at, the very top, and the bottom being narrowest, where a few grapes hang lower than the rest of the cluster.

Oleilos are when a cluster of grapes grows without a “shoulder” at the top of the cluster and without any grapes of the main stem hanging lower than the rest of the cluster. A bunch of grapes growing without these features may not be harvested by the owner or his workers and is left for the poor (Pei’ah 7:4).

Maaser ani

Regarding maaser ani, the Torah states: When you complete all the tithes of your produce in the third year, the year of the special tithe, make certain to give it to the Levi, the stranger, the orphan and the widow, who will eat it within the gates of your cities and be satisfied (Devarim 26:12).

This pasuk alludes to at least two different tithes, and teaches that the third year has a tithe different from the previous years. In the third year, you must give one maaser, which we call maaser rishon, to the Levi, and a second maaser that is a maaser for the poor (the stranger, the orphan and the widow). This mitzvah, maaser ani, is mentioned also in parshas Re’eih (Devarim 14:28-29).

There is a fundamental difference between maaser ani and the other gifts to the poor. As mentioned above, gifts to the poor are left for them to help themselves. A more agile and industrious poor person can collect a great deal more leket, shich’cha, pei’ah, peret and oleilos than someone who has difficulty getting around. However, the pasuk in parshas Ki Savo states that the owner gives the maaser ani to the poor, meaning that he chooses which poor person will be the lucky recipient.

Answering questions

At this point, we have enough background that we can discuss one of our opening questions.  “I live in chutz la’aretz. Am I required to separate pei’ah on my backyard vegetable patch?” In other words, do any of these mitzvos of matanos la’aniyim apply outside Eretz Yisrael?

Matanos aniyim in chutz la’aretz

Although these mitzvos are halachically categorized as mitzvos hateluyos ba’aretz, agricultural mitzvos, and the general rule is that these mitzvos apply only in Eretz Yisrael (Mishnah Kiddushin 36b), the Gemara (Chullin 137b) mentions that the mitzvah of pei’ah applies in chutz la’aretz as a rabbinic injunction, and the Rambam explains that this includes all matanos aniyim (Hilchos Matanos Aniyim 1:14). We find this applies to several other of the mitzvos hateluyos ba’aretz, including challah, chodosh, terumos and maasros (because of space constraints, the details and definition of these different mitzvos will be discussed in other articles).

Regarding where in chutz la’aretz these mitzvos hateluyos ba’aretz are applied miderabbanan, there are two different sets of rules:

In the case of challah, the mitzvah applies anywhere in chutz la’aretz. Wherever you live, you are obligated to separate challah from a large enough dough.

Regarding terumos and maasros, the requirement to separate them applies only in lands near Eretz YisraelMitzrayim, Amon, and Moav – corresponding to parts of contemporary Egypt, Jordan and the Sinai and Negev deserts. There is no requirement to separate terumos and maasros from produce grown in Europe, anywhere else in Africa, the vast majority of Asia, and certainly not from produce grown in the Americas or Australia.

The question at hand is whether the matanos aniyim have the same halacha that applies to terumos and maasros, and therefore they apply only in lands near Eretz Yisrael, or whether they are treated like challah and apply everywhere. Most authorities conclude that the obligation of matanos aniyim applies only in places near Eretz Yisrael.

At this point, let us focus on the first question that we posed: “Is there a requirement to leave leket, shich’cha and pei’ah in your field today?”

Answering this question correctly requires that we explain another principle. In the earlier article, I mentioned the Mishnah that states that if all of the poor people in a certain place want the pei’ah to be divided evenly among them, rather than being available for each to forage as he best can, the pei’ah is divided evenly among the local poor. We can ask a question: Granted that the local poor people all agree to divide the matanos aniyim equally, however, these gifts do not belong only to them. All poor people, no matter where they live, are entitled to these matanos. If so, how can the people here decide how to divide their local matanos aniyim, without taking into consideration the rights of poor people elsewhere, who are also potential owners of the matanos aniyim?

The answer is that the poor people who are outside this locale have clearly been me’ya’eish, implicitly given up their legal right to the local matanos aniyim (see Bava Metzia 21b). The poskim conclude that in any situation in which the owner can assume that the poor will not come to collect the matanos aniyim that are left in the field, he is permitted to collect and keep them (Derech Emunah, Hilchos Matanos Aniyim 1:62). Therefore, in today’s world where poor people are not traveling to fields to collect their matanos, there is no obligation to leave leket, shich’cha, pei’ah, peret and oleilos.

Conclusion

In our discussion of the mitzvah of shich’cha, we quoted the pasuk that states that someone who observes this mitzvah will have all his undertakings blessed by Hashem. Rashi (Vayikra 5:17) notes the extent of this blessing. After all, the person forgot only one sheaf, yet Hashem blesses all his undertakings. As Rashi expresses it: We see from here that if someone dropped a coin, and a poor person found it and supports himself with it, Hashem provides the loser of the coin with a beracha.

Separating Terumah and Maaser

Shampooed Tevel

“I have been looking for a specialty shampoo that contains oat bran. Someone found it in a very expensive store, and it does exactly what I want. One day, after showering, I noticed the label says that it is made in Israel! Does this mean that it is prohibited as tevel (produce that did not have terumah or maaser separated)?”

Introduction

The end of parshas Korach contains many references to various mitzvos that the Torah calls “terumah.” In Modern Hebrew, any charitable donation is called a “terumah,” but, in the Torah, this word means an “elevated portion” and can refer to numerous sanctified foods, including korbanos, challah, bikkurim, maaser, and what we usually call terumah and terumas maaser. The fact that the term “terumah” may refer to so many different things is one reason why a superficial reading of the end of parshas Korach can be confusing, unless you study it with Rashi or a different commentary (such as that of Rav Hirsch) that explains the parsha according to the Torah she’be’al peh.

The pesukim in parshas Korach that discuss what we call terumah read as follows: “And Hashem spoke to Aharon: Behold, I have hereby given you the guarding of my terumah… Of the best of the oil, of the best of the wine (tirosh) and grain, the first of what is given to Hashem I have given to you (Bamidbar 18, 1,12).”

Note that the Torah mentions terumah of oil, referring to the olive crop, of tirosh, usually understood to mean as yet unfermented wine (also known as unpasteurized grape juice), and of grain. This implies that the mitzvah min haTorah of separating terumah applies only to olive oil, wine and grain. Indeed, most authorities understand that, min haTorah, the requirement to separate terumos and maasros applies only to the five species of grain (wheat, barley, spelt, rye and oats), grapes, olives, grape juice, wine and olive oil (see Sifra). The requirement to separate terumos and maasros on other fruits and vegetables is rabbinic.

In Chazal’s terminology, the various gifts provided to the kohein and others are called matanos, gifts. These matanos have varying levels of sanctity:

A. Very holy, that may be eaten only by male kohanim in the Beis Hamikdash and only when someone is completely tahor;

B. Somewhat less holy, that min haTorah may be eaten anywhere by a kohein’s immediate household, provided that they are completely tahor;

C. Lesser sanctity that may be eaten by anyone, but only in Yerushalayim and when tahor;

D. No sanctity at all, and, although required to be donated, may be eaten by anyone.

Seven of these “gift” agricultural mitzvos or matanos can be organized in the following way:

1. Bikkurim (sanctity level: B)

The first fruits of the seven species for which Eretz Yisrael is lauded, which are brought to the Beis Hamikdash. These are treated with the same level of sanctity as terumah¸ which we will explain shortly.

2. Terumah gedolah, usually called just “terumah(sanctity level: B)

The separation from produce grown in Eretz Yisrael that the Torah requires we give to the kohein. There is a requirement miderabbanan to separate terumah and maasros also outside Eretz Yisrael, but, according to most authorities, only in lands that are adjacent to Eretz Yisrael. (Because of space considerations, we will not be discussing the vast halachic literature that debates whether there is a requirement to separate terumos and maasros today in countries like Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, which border on Eretz Yisrael. For the same reason, we will not discuss where the borders of Eretz Yisrael are, germane to these mitzvos.We will also not discuss the question as to whether there is a mitzvah to separate terumos and maasros on produce grown by a non-Jew on a non-Jew’s land, because the accepted practice, going back hundreds of years, is to be lenient.)

How much terumah?

Min haTorah, there is no minimal requirement how much terumah one must give to a kohein; to quote Chazal, one wheat kernel given as terumah exempts an entire silo. In the days when the kohein could become completely tahor and then eat the terumah, Chazal instituted a minimal percentage of the crop that should be designated as terumah (one part in sixty, or 1.67%), but preferred that an individual give more. They allowed the individual latitude to decide how much he wants to donate as terumah: one part in forty (2.5%), one part in fifty (2%), or the minimum I mentioned above, one part in sixty (1.67%).

Produce that has not yet had terumos and maasros separated is called tevel, and may not be eaten or used.

We should also note that, according to accepted halacha, the obligation of separating terumos and maasros today is only miderabbanan, even on grain, grapes, and olives, until such time that most Jews, again, live in Eretz Yisrael.

3. Maaser rishon (sanctity level: D, but only after the terumas maaser is separated)

The first tithe (one tenth), given to the levi.

4. Terumas maaser (sanctity level: B)

A tithe separated by the levi from the maaser rishon that he receives, which the levi then gives to a kohein. Since the levi receives ten percent of the crop after terumah has been separated, and he, in turn, is separating ten percent of what he receives, terumas maaser adds up to one hundredth, 1%, of the crop.

Terumah and terumas maaser have the same sanctity, which means that, min haTorah, both of them may be eaten anywhere, but only by a kohein and most of his family and household members and only when both they and the terumah are completely tahor.

The accepted halacha is that the remaining maaser rishon has no sanctity, and may be eaten by anyone, notwithstanding the fact that there is a dispute among tana’im concerning this issue. If the levi chooses to, he may sell the maaser or give it away to whomever he chooses. Furthermore, none of the restrictions we will discuss shortly regarding redemption or use applies to maaser rishon.

A kohein or levi who has his own produce must separate terumos and maasros, although he may then keep what he is entitled to as a kohein or levi (Rambam, Hilchos Maasros 1:13; for details of this law, see Mishpetei Aretz, Terumos Umaasros 13:9).

5. Maaser sheini (sanctity level: C)

A second tithe, separated in the first, second, fourth and fifth years of the seven-year shemittah cycle, that the owner keeps with plans to eat in Yerushalayim when he is tahor. Alternatively, the owner may redeem the maaser sheini’s kedusha onto coins. The coins are brought to Yerushalayim and used to purchase food that is eaten in Yerushalayim. Maaser sheini that is tahor may be eaten by anyone who is tahor and maaser sheini that is redeemed may be eaten by anyone and does not need to be kept tahor.

6. Maaser ani (sanctity level: D)

A different form of “second tithe,” given in years when there is no maaser sheini (i.e., the third and sixth years of the shemittah cycle), that is given to the poor. Once separated, this maaser has no special sanctity and may be eaten by anyone, even by someone who is tamei, but it is property of the poor. The owner of the field decides to which poor person he gives the maaser ani.

Since shemittah produce is ownerless, there are, usually, no terumah and maasros separations that year. In the unusual instances where there are, which is a topic for a different time, there is extensive halachic discussion whether one separates maaser sheini or maaser ani.

7. Challah (sanctity level: B)

A portion given to the kohein separated from dough. This “gift” has the level of sanctity of terumah.

Separating and giving

In general, most of these matanos require two stages to fulfill the mitzvah. The first stage is the proper separation, usually preceded by a brocha, and the second stage is giving the matanah to the appropriate party. As I mentioned above, in the case of maaser sheini, the owner keeps or redeems the produce (rather than giving it to someone). After redeeming maaser sheini, the fruit has no more sanctity.

There are several situations in which there is a mitzvah to separate terumos and maasros, but there is no mitzvah to give the matanah to a kohein, levi or poor person. The most common situation is when it is uncertain, a safek, whether there is a requirement to separate terumos and maasros. We will discuss shortly one such example. In these instances, you are not required to give away the terumos and maasros. They are yours to sell, or even to eat, if there is no sanctity involved, such as maaser rishon or maaser ani (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 371:1).

There is another practical halachic difference when it is uncertain if there is a requirement to separate terumos and maasros: no brocha is recited prior to separating the terumos and maasros.

Using terumah

In today’s world, terumah has relatively little market value. Terumah tehorah may be eaten only by a kohein or his family members who are tehorim. Since we have no parah adumah, we cannot become fully tehorim today and therefore, no one can eat terumah tehorah.

Although terumah may not be eaten today, there are still two potential uses that may be made of terumah. Terumah olive oil may be kindled, but the light must be used by a kohein. If the terumah olive oil is tehorah,care must be taken not to make it tamei. Terumah temei’ah may be used by a kohein for kindling without this concern.

There is also the possibility of using terumah for feeding animals owned by a kohein, a topic that I will leave for a different time, because of space considerations.

The question now becomes what to do with terumah tehorah that has no practical use.

At the beginning of this article, I quoted the pasuk that Aharon was instructed regarding the guarding of my terumah. The term guarding, mishmeres, means that one is required to make sure the terumah is not actively destroyed or made tamei.

Since no one is tahor today, terumah may not be eaten. If the terumah is itself tamei, it is destroyed, preferably by burning it. If the terumah is tehorah, we are neither permitted to eat it nor to destroy it because of the law of mishmeres. What does one do with it?

This is a dispute among halachic authorities, and one of the unusual situations in which Rav Moshe Feinstein disagreed with the opinion of rishonim, without finding a source in rishonim that agreed with him. According to the Sefer Haterumah and the Tur (Yoreh Deah, 331), the halacha requires that terumah tehorah be buried, so that no one mistakenly eats it. Rav Moshe rules that this is considered destroying terumah, since this causes the terumah to rot, which is prohibited. Instead, he requires placing the terumah tehorah in a place where it will be left undisturbed until it decays (Shu’t Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 3:129). A bin or box set aside for this purpose is called a pach terumah, where the terumah tehorah remains until inedible. When it decomposes to this extent, one may dispose of the produce in the regular garbage.

Why is this true?

Once terumah or tevel can no longer be eaten,  it loses its sanctity. Although the concept that decay eliminates sanctity seems unusual, this is only because we are unfamiliar with the mitzvos where this principle applies. Other mitzvos where this concept exists are shevi’is, terumah, challah, bikkurim, maaser sheini and reva’ie (Rambam, Hilchos Terumos Chapter 11; Hilchos Maaser Sheini 3:11; Hilchos Shevi’is 5:3). We burn the special challah portion after separating it only because it has become tamei. If the challah did not become tamei, one may not destroy it but must place it somewhere, until it decays on its own.

Shampooed tevel

At this point, we can discuss our opening question:

“I have been looking for a specialty shampoo that contains oat bran. Someone found it in a very expensive store, and it does exactly what I want. One day, after showering, I happened to look at the label and noticed that it says that it is made in Israel! Does this mean that it is prohibited as tevel?”

Indeed, our questioner may have surmised correctly that the oat bran mighthave once had the status of tevel. If the oats were grown for food, one would be required to separate from them terumos and maasros, and the oats would have a status of tevel until these are separated. However, if the oats were grown for animal feed, there would be no requirement terumos and maasros and no status of tevel. because oats are commonly grown as forage.

More germane to our discussion is that, even if the oats were grown for food, once mixed into the shampoo as an ingredient, they become inedible and lose their status as tevel. Whether they naturally decayed to a stage where they became inedible or were processed or mixed until that point, the kedusha of tevel, terumos and maasros is lost. So, our consumer may continue using the shampoo without any halachic concerns.

Other terumah rules

Cultivated food items, other than grain, grapes and olives, that grew in Eretz Yisrael are obligated in terumos and maasros miderabbanan. There are a few interesting exceptions: for example, there is no obligation to separate terumos and maasros from mushrooms; since they are fungi, they are not considered as growing from the ground. This also affects their brocha, which is shehakol and not ha’adamah.

If I might digress, here is an interesting nifla’os haborei experiment that you can perform yourself. Take some raw vegetables and microwave them for two minutes, and then do the same with some raw mushrooms. When you microwave the mushrooms there will be a considerable amount of water, which does not happen when you microwave the veggies. The reason is that vegetables draw water from the earth through their root, and therefore have no need to store a lot of water in the plant itself. However, mushrooms have no means to draw nutrients, including water, from the soil, and therefore store the water that they need in their cells. When you microwave them, this water is now released.

Ownerless produce

There is no requirement to separate terumos or maasros from produce that is ownerless, such as wild-growing wheat. Similarly, that which grows during shemittah year and is treated as hefker is exempt from terumos and maasros.

Plants grown as fodder, borders, cloth, seed, dyes or anything other than food are exempt from terumos and maasros. If part of the plant is eaten, but the seeds are usually not, the seeds are exempt from terumos and maasros. Rav Shelomoh Zalman Auerbach ruled that produce such as barley, oats and corn (maize), which are predominantly grown as fodder, are exempt from terumos and maasros, unless they were originally planted for human consumption. In his opinion, if they were planted for food, and the farmer subsequently changed his mind and decided to use them as fodder, they are still obligated in terumos and maasros, since they were originally planted for food (Maadanei Aretz, Terumos 2:7:2).

Herbs and spices

As a general rule, plants grown for use only as herbs, spices or tea are exempt from terumos and maasros. It is disputed whether plants whose product is sometimes eaten as a dip is exempt from terumos and maasros. Therefore, accepted practice is to separate terumos and maasros from them without reciting a brocha first, and the owner may then keep the terumos and maasros, as explained above.

What does this mean in practice? Plants such as aloe vera (usually not eaten, but even when consumed, only as an herb), cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg are all exempt from terumos and maasros. However, mustard, ginger and fenugreek should have terumos and maasros separated without a brocha. Although all three of these are used as spices, they also are made into dips or other foods, such as prepared mustard, candied ginger, or chilba, a popular Yemenite dip whose main ingredient is fenugreek.

Peels and shells of fruit that was not maasered are exempt from terumos and maasros if the peels and shells are usually not eaten. However, the peels of apples, pears and plums must be maasered, either as part of the entire fruit, or by themselves. In places where watermelon seeds are considered a snack food, as in Eretz Yisrael today, they are obligated in terumos and maasros. The Chazon Ish ruled that candied orange peel is exempt from terumos and maasros because oranges are not grown for the peel; it is a by-product that someone figured out how to make useful.

Many years ago, when I was involved in kashrus supervision in North America, a similar shaylah was raised. A company that I was overseeing produced, predominantly, various citrus and mint flavors and products, many of them extracted or distilled. Among the many raw materials that were used were oils extracted from the peels of various citrus fruits, which were then processed and used as flavors. Some of the oils were extracted from Israeli produce, and the question was whether there was a requirement to separate terumos and maasros from these peels. The poskim of the kashrus organization ruled that there was no requirement to do so, since peels of citrus fruits are not usually eaten.

Conclusion

Many generations had to be content with reading about Eretz Yisroel and imagining what it might be like to visit. We are fortunate to live in a time when visiting and living in Eretz Yisroel is a reality, and we should be filled with hakoras hatov that we can traverse the land that was promised to our forefathers. Inhabiting our native land includes many special laws that apply within its borders, and we should all be familiar with these special laws. Eretz Yisroel and its special mitzvos provide us with a direct relationship with Hashem, for which we should all strive.

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