|TERUMOS AND MAASROS
Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, Star-K Rabbinic Administrator
As a result of the State of Israels blossoming agricultural advances and innovative marketing strategies, Israeli food exports to foreign markets in all sectors continue to grow and flourish. Some consumer products are very well known to the American marketplace, such as Jaffa oranges, grapefruits, pomelos, clementines and parsley, Carmel tomatoes, Arava peppers, and candies, jams, jellies, canned tomatoes, olives, and pickled products. Other industrial products used for manufacturing are tomato sauce, tomato paste, orange oil and spices. New marketing avenues include private label manufacturing, the purchase of American companies by Israeli companies, and the use of Israeli components in the manufacturing of American labeled products.
Besides all the ingredients and processing concerns which surround the kosher consumer, additional kashrus requirements apply to foods grown, produced, or imported from Israel. A consumer must be sure that terumos and maasros have been properly separated before eating, and that the fruits do not come from trees that are orla or neta revai or shmitta.
What Are Terumos and Maasros? Terumos (literally, separations) and maasros (literally, a tenth) were designated gift portions, compulsory tithes of grains, fruit and vegetables grown and produced in Eretz Yisroel. Certain tithes had to be given to the Kohanim and Leviim, the priests and levites. Other tithes had to be brought to Jerusalem for consumption and other designated tithes had to be given to charity.
What Are Orla and Neta Revai? For the first three years of a trees growth or for the first three years after a tree is replanted, the fruit born of those years are known as orla and are not allowed to be eaten or used for any other purpose (assurim b'hana'ah). Fruits born the year after orla also have a special status and were to be eaten only in Yerushalayim unless they were redeemed. These fourth year fruits are known halachically as neta revai. These restrictions are still maintained today. Detailed maps of thousands of Israeli orchards are kept so that the trees can be monitored in order that orla and neta revai fruits will not be consumed in error. Orla is also applicable in the Diaspora, however the halacha states that one must know that this fruit that was grown outside Eretz Yisroel is definitely orla. If one is in doubt, this fruit is permitted.1
In spite of the fact that we do not have a Bais Hamikdash today, or that we, as a nation, are not fully settled in Eretz Yisroel, one of the most critical mitzvos hatluyos baaretz, the special mitzvos of Eretz Yisroel that our Chachamim, Sages, have instituted and implemented in our days, is the requirement that the kosher consumer, both in Eretz Yisroel and in the Diaspora, remove the proper required terumos and maasros before eating the grains, fruits and vegetables grown and produced in Eretz Yisroel and combined into other manufactured products.
What Has to Be Separated? During the six year cycle prior to shmitta, the year of the Biblically ordained agricultural rest, the following is separated:
Teruma Gedola - the portion given to the kohanim, the priests. Due to terumos sanctified nature, the Kohen could only eat teruma in a state of tahara, purity. Since the kohanim are in a state of tuma, impurity, today, the teruma remains uneaten and is to be discarded properly by wrapping the food in plastic before throwing it away. According to Torah law, one fulfills his teruma obligation with even a small amount of food separation.
Maaser Rishon - the first tithe that was separated and given to the Leviim. Maaser rishon does not carry the same sanctity as teruma, and can be eaten by everyone. Even though there is some uncertainty regarding bona fide levitical lineages, we are still obligated to verbally separate the maaser. If maaser was never separated, then this food has a status of tevel, unseparated, which is forbidden to be eaten. Once separated, a Yisroel may eat this maaser. We did not give the maaser to a Levi unless we were certain that the maaser was never given.
Terumas Maaser - from the separated maaser rishon donation, the Levi was obligated to donate 1/10 of the gross maaser to the Kohen. This gift, called terumas maaser, has the same degree of kedusha, sanctity, as teruma. According to Torah law, we have been given an exact amount of donation which is 1/10 of the maaser or approximately 1/100 of the total product. If terumas maaser was not separated then the maaser rishon is considered tevel and would be forbidden to be eaten.
Additionally, two other tithes alternated through the six year Sabbatical cycle.
Maaser Shaini - the second tithe separated on produce harvested in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th years of the Sabbatical cycle. This tithed portion was brought to Jerusalem to be eaten. If the owner of the maaser shaini lived too far away from Jerusalem to carry the actual produce, he was permitted to transfer the kedusha, sanctity of the maaser shaini onto money. This money was brought either by himself or by other Jewish pilgrims to Jerusalem to purchase food and drink during their stay in Jerusalem. Since we have a halachic provision permitting the transfer of kedushas maaser shaini onto coinage, we follow the same procedures today, transferring the sanctity of maaser shaini onto coins. Once the maaser shaini is transferred, the coins are disposed of in an appropriate manner.
Maaser Oni - on the third and sixth years this tithe was substituted for the maaser shaini separation, and was given to the poor. Today, that separation must be donated to them as well, if one is certain that this product never had maaser oni separated. If one is in doubt about the separation of maaser oni, one is still obligated to separate this maaser but need not give it to the poor.
Neta Revai - One other category of special separation not related to the shmitta cycle, but linked to the growth cycle of fruit trees, is neta revai. When a tree reached its fourth year of growth, the fruits were brought to Yerushalayim - much like maaser shaini. The procedure governing the transfer of revai onto coins is similar to maaser shaini.
To Summarize - Today, the pertinent hafrashos, separation amounts, are as follows:
If one does not want to say the long version, the following may be said:
When using this method, only a little over one hundredth of the food will not be permitted to eat; all the rest may be eaten. Even though the tithes constitute over one fifth of the food, one is permitted to eat most of the tithes oneself, even though he may not be a Kohen or a Levi. Under no circumstances will it suffice merely to break off a piece of the food and throw it away. The aforementioned instructions must be strictly followed. The laws of the tithes apply to everyone, including the Kohen and Levi.
Editor's Note: Due to the difficult economic situation in Israel, consumers are urged to purchase goods produced and manufactured in Israel. Unfortunately, kosher consumers are often reluctant to purchase food items from Israel due to the confusion regarding the separation of terumos and maasros. Hopefully, this article will help the Kashrus Kurrents reader understand and implement these procedures.
1. Safek orla shegadal b'chutz la'aretz sfaiko mutar.