Terumos and Ma’asros

Eretz Yisroel has the unique privilege of being the recipient of the Ribono Shel Olam’s brochos throughout the year. Its agricultural industry continues to grow and flourish. Some consumer products imported from Eretz Yisroel, such as Jaffa oranges and grapefruits, are very well known to the American marketplace while other products including clementines, carrots, red peppers, jams, jellies, tomatoes, olives, and pickled products are not as familiar. Finally, there are a host of industrial products like orange oil, lemon oil and parsley that provide a steady supply of raw materials.

Besides all the general consumer kashrus concerns regarding ingredients, processing and certification, there are additional kashrus requirements that apply to foods grown and produced in Eretz Yisroel. For instance, one must be sure that terumos and ma’asros have been properly separated before consumption. Furthermore, one needs to ensure that the fruits do not come from trees that violate the conditions for orla, neta revai or shmitta. These are some of the fundamental and critical mitzvos hatluyos ba’aretz.

The tithes that are separated during the six year cycle prior to shmitta include Terumos, Ma’asros and Terumas Ma’aser.

Terumos (literally, gifts) and ma’asros (literally, tithings or tenths) are designated gift portions of grains, fruits and vegetables grown and produced in Eretz Yisroel. Teruma and Terumas Ma’aser had to be given to the Kohanim, and ma’aser to the Levi’im. Ma’aser Sheini had to be brought to Yerushalayim for consumption, and Ma’aser Oni was given to the poor.
The specifics of each tithe follow:

  • Teruma Gedola – the portion given to the Kohen. Due to the sanctified nature of terumos, the Kohen could eat teruma only in a state of tahara (purity). Since today Kohanim are in a state of tumah, 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. Our chachamim determined that one who separated 1/50 (or 2%) to the Kohen fulfilled his teruma obligation.
  • Ma’aser Rishon – the first tenth that was separated and given to the Levi’im. Since Ma’aser Rishon does not carry the same sanctity as teruma, it could be eaten by everyone. Even though there is some uncertainty regarding the bona fide lineage of Levi’im, we are still obligated to verbally separate the ma’aser. If ma’aser was never separated, then this food has a status of tevel, unseparated produce, which is forbidden to be eaten. Once separated, a Yisroel may eat this ma’aser if the Levi gives it to him.
  • Terumas Ma’aser – This is from the separated Ma’aser Rishon donation; the Levi was obligated to donate 1/10 of the gross ma’aser to the Kohen. This gift, referred to as Terumas Ma’aser, has the same degree of kedusha (sanctity) as teruma. Mid’oraisa, according to Torah law, we have been given the exact amount to donate, which is 1/10 of the ma’aser or approximately 1% of the total product. If Terumas Ma’aser was not separated, then the Ma’aser Rishon is considered tevel and would be forbidden for consumption.

These two tithes were separated and alternated throughout the six year Sabbatical cycle:

  • Ma’aser Shaini – the second tenth separated on produce harvested in the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th years of the shmitta cycle. This portion was brought to Yerushalayim to be eaten. If the owner of the Ma’aser Shaini lived too far from Yerushalayim to carry the actual produce, he was permitted to transfer the kedusha of the Ma’aser Shaini onto money. This money was brought either by himself or other Jewish pilgrims to Yerushalayim to purchase food and drink during their stay. Since we have a halachic provision permitting the transfer of kedushas Ma’aser Shaini onto coinage, we follow the same procedures today by transferring the sanctity of Ma’aser Shaini onto coins. Once the Ma’aser Shaini is transferred, the food is permitted to be eaten, and the coin is discarded.
  • Ma’aser Oni – This was substituted for the Ma’aser Shaini separation in the 3rd and 6th years and was given to the poor. Today, that separation is still donated to them if one is certain that Ma’aser Oni had never been separated.If one is in doubt, one is nevertheless obligated to separate this ma’aser but need not give it to the poor.

Any fruit that grew during the first three years of a tree’s growth, or during the first three years after a tree is replanted, is known as orla and may not be eaten or used for any other purpose (assurim b’hana’ah). Fruits borne the year after orla also have a special status and had 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, and the trees monitored, in order to avoid orla and neta revai fruits from being consumed in error. Orla is also applicable chutz la’aretz; however, halacha dictates that one must know definitively whether the fruit grown outside of Eretz Yisroel is orla. If one is in doubt, the fruit is permitted. The procedure governing the transfer of neta revai onto coins is similar to that of Ma’aser Shaini.

To summarize, today the pertinent hafrashos (separation amounts) are as follows:

  • Teruma Gedola – a small amount, respectfully discarded by wrapping it in plastic.
  • Ma’aser Rishon – 1/10 of the total after teruma has been given; it is verbally stipulated by noting its physical placement (e.g., north, south), and not actually separated.
  • Terumas Ma’aser – 1/10 of the ma’aser (i.e., 1% of the total products to be separated), discarded in the same manner as Teruma Gedola.
  • Ma’aser Shaini – 1/10 of the remaining product (given in the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th years of the cycle); its kedusha can be transferred onto a coin, which should be specifically set aside for the transfer of Ma’aser Shaini. The separated portion of food needs to be at least a peruta’s worth (about ten cents) of food for the transfer to be valid. If it is not, halachic guidance is required (See below for more information.)
  • Ma’aser Oni – 1/10 of the remaining product (given in the 3rd and 6th years of the cycle) when Ma’aser Shaini is not given.

Is there a way to separate Ma’aser Shaini if the portion of food that is separated is worth less than a peruta?
Yes. This separation can be accomplished if the person is in possession of or has permission to use a peruta chamura. A peruta chamura is a coin that is vested with the power of accepting additional Ma’aser Shaini separations on products worth less than a peruta. Halacha states that a peruta is worth the value of pure silver, which is the size of half of a kernel of barley. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, zt’l, ruled that to be considered a peruta the coin must have purchasing power. The smallest coin that fulfills this requirement is a dime.

To invest a coin with the power of peruta chamura, one must take a regular coin and an item of produce from Eretz Yisroel such as grapes, olives, or one of the five types of grain (barley, rye, wheat, oat, or spelt) from which one is certain that Ma’aser Shaini has never been separated. Once the first separation is completed, the coin is vested with the power of accepting additional separations up to the amount of the coin’s value.

For what products could the peruta chamura be used when separating ma’aser?
It could be used for either finished products (e.g., candy bars, baked goods, prepared foods) or produce (e.g., an almond) which contain ma’asros but are worth less than a peruta.

How many times can a coin containing the peruta chamura be used?
One must realize that the peruta chamura’s value fluctuates with the price of silver. These days, the price of silver is very depressed so that the value of a peruta is worth less than a
nickel. If, for example, you made a peruta chamura with a dollar coin, you could use that coin for nine additional hafrashos (separations), as follows: The dime would be vested with the kedusha of the peruta chamura and could then be used for nine additional hafrashos until the entire value of the dollar has been used.

What can be done once the peruta chamura coin is filled?
If a dime was used, it should be respectfully discarded as noted above. If a dollar coin was used, it can be preserved for future hafrashos by transferring 9/10 of the value to a dime. The procedure to preserve the peruta chamura for future use is as follows: The owner of the dollar coin containing the peruta chamura places it next to a dime and then verbally transfers the kedusha of the nine additional separations from the dollar to the dime. Very important: When making the transfer, the owner states that the peruta chamura is not being transferred and that only the nine additional hafrashos are being transferred to the dime. The dime is then discarded in the trash and the peruta chamura can be reused for another nine hafrashos. This process can be repeated each time the coin is filled.

In a multi-ingredient product (e.g., a candy bar), howmany separations are transferred onto the peruta?
One for each ingredient of the candy bar. All hafrashos can be done at the same time. Note: If the product bears a reliable hechsher, you can be assured that terumos and ma’asros have already been separated. If it doesn’t, then other kashrus concerns aside from terumos and ma’asros may need to be considered.

Who is permitted to take terumos and ma’asros?
Terumos and ma’asros can only be taken by a Yehudi above the age of Bar/Bas Mitzvah.

Can terumos and ma’asros be taken on Shabbos or Yom Tov?


The procedure is as follows:

    1. This document should be posted in a conspicuous place.
    2. The coin (a dime or more) that you are using for the separation must be in front of you (for the Ma’aser Shaini).
    3. Break or cut off more than 1/100 (i.e., > 1%) of the food and set it aside from the rest (for teruma and Terumas Ma’aser).
    4. Recite the following (either in Hebrew or English):
      יותר מאחד ממאה שיש כאן הרי הוא תרומה גדולה בצד צפונו*, אותו אחד ממאה שיש כאן ועוד תשעה חלקים כמותו בצד צפונו של הפירות* הרי הוא מעשר ראשון. אותו אחד ממאה שעשיתיו מעשר ראשון עשוי תרומת מעשר*, ומעשר שני בדרומו* ומחולל הוא וחומשו על פרוטה במטבע שיחדתיה לחילול מעשר שני ורבעי. ואם צריך מעשר עני יהא מעשר עני בדרומו*. אם הוא רבעי יהא מחולל הוא וחומשו על פרוטה במטבע שיחדתיה לחילול מעשר שני ורבעי
      ˝ אאם מעשר מינים הרבה צריך להוסיף כל מין על מינו
      Yoser m’echad meme’ah sheyaish kaan harey hu teruma gedola b’tzad tzefono.* Oso echad meme’ah sheyaish kaan ve’od tish’a chalakim k’moso b’tzad tzefono shel hapairos* harei hu ma’aser rishon. Oso echad meme’ah she’asisiv ma’aser rishon osuy terumas ma’aser,* uma’aser shaini b’dromo,* u’mchulal hu v’chumsho al peruta b’matbai’ah sh’yichiditei l’chilul ma’aser shaini v’reva’i. V’im tzorich ma’aser oni y’hei ma’aser oni b’dromo. Im hu reva’i y’hei mechulal hu v’chumsho al peruta b’matbai’ah sh’yichiditei l’chilul ma’aser shaini v’reva’i.
      * If there is a food of more than one type that requires separation, one must additionally recite “kol min al mino.”English equivalent: Whatever is MORE than one hundredth of this food will be teruma on the north side of the piece which I have set aside.* The one hundredth, which is left in the piece I have set aside, plus nine other pieces the same size on the north side of the food* will be Ma’aser Rishon. That same one hundredth in the piece I set aside which I have made ma’aser will be Terumas Ma’aser.* Furthermore, I am proclaiming Ma’aser Shaini to be in effect on the south side of the food,* and I am redeeming it and its fifth on a peruta (smallest amount of money recognized by the Torah for most purposes) of this coin which I have in front of me. If this food requires Ma’aser Oni,
      the Ma’aser Oni shall take effect on the south side of the food.* If this food is subject to the laws of Neta Revai, then it and its 1/5 shall be redeemed on a peruta of this coin which I have in front of me.
      * If there is a food of more than one type that requires separation, one must additionally recite “each type of food for its type.”
    5. Double wrap the broken or cut-off piece in plastic and discard.
    6. The coin – dime, quarter or dollar – must eventually be disposed of in such a manner that it will not be used.
    7. The food may now be eaten.

If it is difficult to say the long version, the following may be said:
All separations and redemptions shall take effect as is specified in this STAR-K document outlining the procedure for separating terumos and ma’asros, tithes and redemptions, which
I have in my possession. When terumos and ma’asros are separated using this procedure, only a little over 1/100 of the food will not be permitted for consumption; all the rest may be eaten. Even though the tithes constitute over 1/5 of the food, one is permitted to eat most of the tithes oneself even if he is not 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 tithes applyto everyone, including the Kohen and Levi.

Certified Products
Products produced in Eretz Yisroel under Mehadrin kashrus standards bearing a Mehadrin symbol have already undergone the necessary separation of terumos and ma’asros and are permitted for consumption. STAR-K and all other reliable American certifications on an Israeli product indicate that all terumos and ma’asros have been separated. When in doubt, one should consult with one’s rav or the STAR-K hotline to ascertain whether hafrasha is necessary.