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Can I buy produce from Israel?

One can, and certainly is encouraged to, purchase produce from Israel. It is one
of the great ways that we can show our love for the land of Israel and gratitude
for witnessing the rebirth and growth of her settlement as well as providing her
with moral and economic support.

Do I need to do anything to the produce before eating it?


Unlike produce from outside of Israel, due to the kedushas ha’aretz, holiness of
the land, one must (is privileged to) remove tithes from Israeli produce. These
tithes are a part of the mitzvos ha’teluyos ba’aretz, additional commandments that
are generated by the kedushas ha’aretz. Without the removal of these tithes, the
produce is considered tevel, not tithed, and cannot be eaten. Without proper
kashrus certification, one cannot assume that produce from Israel has had the
tithes properly removed. Indeed the Chief Rabbinate of Israel issued a note many
years ago stating that exported fruits and vegetables are not tithed. When
traveling in Israel, as well, one must always check to see that the fruits and
vegetavles that one is purchasing have been tithed under reliable supervision.

Are there any exceptions?


The following Israeli produce can be considered tithed:
Items with a reliable American or Israeli hashgacha
In our neighborhood, stores under RCBC will have tithed Israeli produce

What produce needs to be tithed?


The Torah obligates one to tithe any dagan, tirosh and itzhar (grains, wine/grapes
and oil/olives). Some authorities believe that this Torah obligation extends to
fruits as well, while others maintain that fruits are only rabbinically obligated
in tithes. Vegetables are rabbinically obligated in tithing. Practically
speaking, one must separate tithes on all Israeli grown grains, fruits and
vegetables.

What are the tithes that must be separated from the produce?

Teruma Gedola: Teruma is the first tithe separated from the produce and is
applicable in all years of the seven year planting cycle except the shemita
(seventh) year. The Torah does not specify the amount of teruma that must be
separated and therefore the removal of any amount of teruma would be sufficient to
fulfill the Biblical obligation. However, the Rabbis recommended the removal of
between 1.67% and 2.5% of the total produce for teruma. Once separated, the
teruma is given to a kohen of the separator’s choice. (An impure kohen or a non-
kohen who consumes teruma or anyone who consumes tevel l’teruma, produce that has
not had teruma removed from it, is punishable by misa bidei shamayim.) In our
times, since we cannot ascertain the reliability of a person’s claim to being a
kohen, we are precluded from giving them teruma. Even if we were to be certain of
a given individual’s lineage, today’s kohanim are tamei mes, impure, and unable to
purify themelves without a para aduma (red heifer). Given these limitations, we
no longer give teruma to kohanim, and therefore separate a tiny undefined amount
and discard it in a respectful manner.

Maaser Rishon: Maaser (10%) rishon (first) similar to the teruma discussed above,
is given in every year of the seven year planting cycle except the shemita
(seventh) year. As opposed to teruma, maaser rishon, as its name implies,
requires 10% of the produce (remaining after teruma has been taken) to be
separated and given as a gift to the levi of the separator’s choice. The maaser
rishon (except for the terumat maaser, see next paragraph) is chulin, not holy,
and therefore once it has been separated only constitutes a monetary obligation of
the separator towards the levi (it would be considered stealing to withhold it).
Today, since no levi can make a firm claim to the maaser rishon – due to the
uncertainty of his lineage, the possibility that maaser was already separated from
the produce and the fact that he is not empowered to represent the entire shevet
Levi – we apply the Torah principle of hamotzi m’chavero a’lav ha’raya, the
claimant bears the burden of proof, and allow the separator to keep the maaser
rishon for their own use. Nevertheless one is still required to separate the
maser.

Terumas Maaser (maaser min ha’maaser): Terumas maaser is the obligation of the
levi to separate 10% of his maaser rishon (or effectively 1% of the original
produce) and give it to the kohen. Today when the maaser rishon is not given to
the levi (see previous paragraph), the obligation to separate and give the terumas
maaser will devolve upon the owner of the produce. Terumas maaser has all the
same requirements and restrictions as regular teruma (see above).

Maaser Sheni: Maaser (10%) sheni (second) requires the owner to separate 10% of
the remaining produce after teruma and maaser rishon have been removed (or 9% of
the original produce) then transport it to and consume it in Yerushalayim. If
transporting the produce is too difficult, the Torah offers one the ability to
redeem the produce at a 25% premium to its assessed value and then use those funds
to purchase produce to be consumed in Yerushalayim. Maaser sheni is given in the
first and second and fourth and fifth years of the seven year planting cycle.
After the destruction of the beis hamikdash, the option of bringing the fruits to
Yerushalayim no longer exists. Therefore today we redeem the produce onto a coin
that is valid currency in the country in which the redemption is taking place (a
nickel should suffice today), and use the maaser sheni in a regular fashion.
However the coin must be safeguarded carefully and clearly identified. In order
to help you out we have set aside coins in the shul for this purpose. You can
redeem your maaser sheni onto these coins. We will continually “redeem” these
coins so that they will always be available to you

Maaser Ani: Maaser (10%) ani (poor) is given in place of maaser sheni in those
years of the seven year planting cycle that maaser sheni is not given (third and
sixth). Similar to maaser rishon, maaser ani is chulin and once it has been
separated only constitutes a monetary obligation of the separator towards the poor
(it would be considered stealing to withhold it). No poor person can make a firm
claim to the maaser due to the possibility that maaser was already separated from
the produce and the fact that no poor person is empowered to represent the entire
class of poor people. We therefore apply the Torah principle of hamotzi m’chavero
a’lav ha’raya, the claimant bears the burden of proof, and allow the separator to
keep the maaser ani for their own use.

Neta Rivai: Produce of the fourth year of a tree’s production (the first three
being arla which cannot be used or consumed) which must be eaten in Yerushalayim
or redeemed and has the same status as maaser sheni (see above). In similar
fashion one must redeem the produce on currency that is safeguarded for that
purpose. Again, you can refer to the coin in the shul set aside for that purpose.

What is the status of the food if these tithes are not separated from the food?
Food that has not been properly tithed is considered tevel and may not be consumed
even by kohanim or leviim.

Do I make a Beracha when I separate the Teruma and Maaser?


We would recite a beracha prior to performing the mitzva of separating terumos and
maasros if we were certain that the produce is obligated to be tithed and has not
yet been tithed. Produce exported from Israel is considered demai, produce whose
need for tithing is uncertain. The reason for this uncertainty stems from the
fact that exported Israeli produce is usually done through aggregators/co-
ops/export companies who source their produce from a number of farmers. This
creates the possibility that some of the produce was sourced from farmers who have
already tithed, farmers who are not Jewish (according to those authorities that
non-Jews in Israel are exempt from tithing) or from farmers whose farms are
located in areas of Israel that are not obligated in tithing. As with other Torah
ordained mitzvot with such an uncertainty, one performs the mitzva, but does not
recite the beracha. In conclusion, we would not recite the beracha when tithing
exported Israeli produce.

Other requirements to keep in mind?


There is a requirement to separate teruma and maaser min hamukaf, from that which
is proximate. Therefore, one should be careful to keep the designated teruma
portion close to the remaining produce while performing the mitzva of separation.

One should separate teruma individually for each type of produce and even within
each grouping from produce of similar quality.

The separation of the tithes removes the status of tevel from the produce and as
such transforms the food to an edible state. One is, therefore, not permitted to
separate teruma or maaser on shabbos or yom tov since the resultant status change
is akin to the restricted act of making a vessel usable on shabbos or yom tov
(misaken mana).

How do I make my produce fit to eat?

The focus of the tithing of exported Israeli produce is twofold: I) to remove all
tithes that have any kedusha, holiness, associated with them– teruma and terumas
maaser and II) to remove the tevel status from the produce which will involve
identifying, but not separating the remaining tithes – maaser rishon, maaser
sheni, maaser ani, neta rivai.

Since in our case the teruma will be discarded, we only will separate a minimal
amount of teruma that is sufficient to discharge the Torah obligation . In
addition, we will separate 1% of the produce as terumas maser. In total, we will
separate slightly more than 1%. However, one cannot separate the terumas maaser
without having first identified the maaser rishon from which it is being
separated.

The Separation of Terumos and Maasros: The Procedure

(1) Place the fruit or vegetables in one place.


(2) Remove slightly more than 1% of the produce and place it next to the rest of
the remaining produce
(3) Set aside a nickel OR refer to the coin set aside in the shul.
(4) Recite the following:

(I)(Teruma) “The amount in excess of 1% of the separated portion that is on the


northern side should be teruma gedola”

(II)(Maaser Rishon) “The remaining 1% of the separated portion and an additional


9% on the northern side of the remaining produce should be maaser rishon”

(III)(Terumas Maaser) “The 1% of the separated portion that I just designated as


part of my maaser rishon should now become terumas maaser”

The remaining tithes only need to be identified in order to remove the tevel
status from the produce, but need not be separated. In the case of maaser sheni
and neta rivai, although they do not need to be removed, they do require
redemption on a coin.

(IV)(Maaser Sheni and Maaser Ani:) “If I am obligated to separate maaser sheni,
then 10% of the remaining produce on the southern side should be maaser sheni .
“If I am obligated to separate maaser ani, then 10% of the remaining produce on
the southern side should be maaser ani”

(V) (Redeeming Maaser Sheni & Neta Rivai): “If I have separated maaser sheni or if
the produce is rivai then its value plus 25% should be redeemed on the coin I have
designated for such purpose, “or” the coin set aside in Beth Abraham for this
purpose.

(VI) The separated produce (1%+) is then wrapped and discarded. The coin can be
reused and ultimately redeemed on the coin set aside in the shul by simply stating
so, but should be clearly identified as a coin of maaser sheni and/or rivai.
Alternatively, one can also wrap the coin and discard it with the teruma and
terumas maaser.

If one is unable recite the full text above, then after following the instructions
above and separating 1%+ of the produce, one can recite the following text: “All
separations of teruma and maaser and redemptions of maaser sheni and rivai should
be accomplished in accordance with the text of the Chazon Ish (Rav Avrohom
Karelitz zt”l)”

Prepared by Rabbi Elchonon Grunwald & Simon Wolf


Edited by Rabbi Yaakov Neuburger