Published Spring 2002 | Updated June 2016
As a result of the State of Israel’s 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 ma’asros 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 Ma’asros? Terumos (literally, separations) and ma’asros (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 tree’s 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 ba’aretz, 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 ma’asros 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.
Ma’aser Rishon – the first tithe that was separated and given to the Leviim. Ma’aser 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 ma’aser. If ma’aser 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 ma’aser. We did not give the ma’aser to a Levi unless we were certain that the ma’aser was never given.
Terumas Ma’aser – 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, called terumas ma’aser, 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 ma’aser or approximately 1/100 of the total product. If terumas ma’aser was not separated then the ma’aser rishon is considered tevel and would be forbidden to be eaten.
Additionally, two other tithes alternated through the six year Sabbatical cycle.
Ma’aser 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 ma’aser shaini lived too far away from Jerusalem to carry the actual produce, he was permitted to transfer the kedusha, sanctity of the ma’aser 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 ma’aser shaini onto coinage, we follow the same procedures today, transferring the sanctity of ma’aser shaini onto coins. Once the ma’aser shaini is transferred, the coins are disposed of in an appropriate manner.
Ma’aser Oni – on the third and sixth years this tithe was substituted for the ma’aser 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 ma’aser oni separated. If one is in doubt about the separation of ma’aser oni, one is still obligated to separate this ma’aser 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 ma’aser shaini. The procedure governing the transfer of revai onto coins is similar to ma’aser shaini.
To Summarize – Today, the pertinent hafrashos, separation amounts, are as follows:
- Teruma Gedola – a small amount, to be discarded properly by wrapping in plastic.
- Ma’aser Rishon – 1/10 of the total after teruma has been given (stipulated, not physically separated).
- Terumas Ma’aser – 1/10 of the ma’aser, i.e. approximately 1/100 of the total products, to be separated and discarded in the same manner as teruma gedola.
- Ma’aser Shaini – 1/10 of the remaining product whose kedusha can be transferred onto a coin which should be specifically set aside for ma’aser shaini transfer. One’s separated piece of food needs to be at least a peruta’s (about five cents) worth of food for the transfer to work.
- Ma’aser Oni – 1/10 of the remaining product in the third and sixth year of the cycle when ma’aser shaini is not given.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a way to separate ma’aser shaini if the piece of food 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 of products worth less than a peruta. In order to vest a coin with the power of peruta chamura, one must take a regular coin and either Eretz Yisroel grown grapes, olives, or one of the five types of grain (barley, rye, wheat, oat, or spelt) from which one knows for sure that ma’aser shaini has never been previously separated. After the first separation, the coin has been vested with the power of accepting additional separations up to the amount of the coin’s value.
What products would this peruta chamura be used for? Any finished products such as candy bars, baked goods, prepared foods, or produce such as an almond, that contain ma’asros which 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. The halacha states that a peruta is worth the value of pure silver which is the size of a half kernel of barley. Today, the price of silver is very depressed, so that the value of a peruta is worth less than a nickel. However, 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. Therefore, if you make a peruta chamura with a dollar coin, you will be able to use that coin for nine additional hafrashos (separation). You have vested the first dime’s worth with the kedusha of the peruta chamura and you will be able to use the coin for nine additional hafrashos until you have used up the whole dollar.
What can be done once the coin is filled?If a regular dime is used it can be discarded. If one made a peruta chamura with a dollar coin, a dime can be placed next to the dollar coin containing the peruta chamura, and the owner can verbally transfer the kedusha of the nine additional separations from the dollar to the dime. The dime is then discarded and the peruta chamura can be reused for further hafrashos. Important: When one verbally makes the transfer, one must say that the peruta chamura is not being transferred, and only the nine additional hafrashos, separations, are being transferred to the regular dime.
In a multi-ingredient product (i.e. candy bar), how many separations are transferred onto the peruta?One per each ingredient of the candy bar. All hafrashos can be done at the same time. Note: If it comes with a reliable hechsher, terumos and ma’asros have already been separated. If it doesn’t have a reliable hechsher, there may be kashrus concerns besides terumos and ma’asros.
Who is permitted to take off terumos and ma’asros?Terumos and ma’asros can only be taken by a Yehudi above Bar/Bas Mitzvah.
Can terumos and ma’asros be taken off on Shabbos and Yom Tov? No.
Procedure for Separating Terumos and Ma’asros
The following procedure may be used:
- This document should be posted in a conspicuous place.
- The coin (a dime or more) that you are using for the separation must be in front of you (for the ma’aser shaini).
- Break or cut off more than one hundredth of the food and set it aside from the rest (for teruma and terumas ma’aser).
- Say the following (either in Hebrew or English):Yoser m’echad memeah sheyaish kaan harey hu teruma gedola b’tzad tzefono.* Oso echad memeah sheyaish kaan ve’od tisha chalakim k’moso b’tzad tzefono shel hapairos* harei hu ma’aser rishon. Oso echad memeah sheasisiv ma’aser rishon osuy terumas ma’aser,* uma’aser shaini b’dromo,* u’mchulal hu v’chumsho al peruta b’matbayah sh’yichidite lechelul ma’aser shaini v’revai. V’im tzorich ma’aser oni y’hei ma’aser oni b’dromo. Im hu revai y’hei mechulal hu v’chumsho al peruta b’matbaiah sh’yichidite l’chilul ma’aser shaini v’revai.*kol min al mino
Translation: (If there is a food of one type that requires separation) Whatever is MORE than one hundredth of this food shall 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* shall be ma’aser rishon. That same one hundredth in the piece I set aside which I have made ma’aser shall 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 needs 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 fifth 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, add each type of food for its type.
- Wrap the broken or cut-off piece in plastic and discard.
- The coin – nickel, dime or quarter – must eventually be disposed of in such a manner that it will not be used.
- 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 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.
Manufactured foods with reliable Rabbinic certification coming from Israel have already been subjected to all necessary tithe taking. One may eat them without hesitation. The Star-K, and all other reliable American certifications on an Israeli product, means that all terumos and ma’asros have been separated.
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 ma’asros. Hopefully, this article will help the Kashrus Kurrents reader understand and implement these procedures.
1. Safek orla shegadal b’chutz la’aretz sfaiko mutar.