כ׳ באייר ה׳תשע״ד (May 20, 2014)

Rosh Hashana 12a-b: Tithes

The Mishna (2a) taught that the first day of Tishrei is the beginning of a new year for vegetables. The Gemara on our daf  clarifies that the intention of the Mishna is to teach that the ma’asrot – tithes that are taken from produce grown in Israel – begin a new season on the first day of Tishrei.

The rules of terumot and ma’asrot – contributions given to the kohanim and levi’im from produce – are as follows:

  • When a farmer has completed his harvest and the produce reaches its final state of preparedness for market, teruma gedolah (about 1/50 of the produce) is set aside to be given to the kohen.
  • From the produce remaining, ma’aser rishon (1/10 of the remaining produce) is set aside for the levi. During the Second Temple period, when Ezra ha- found that few levi’im had joined those who returned to the Land of Israel, he ruled that this tithe could (or should) be given to kohanim.
  • From the produce remaining, another tenth is separated. In the first, second, fourth and fifth years of the seven year shemita cycle this produce is called ma’aser sheni – the second tithe – and is taken to Jerusalem where it is eaten (or it is redeemed and other food products are purchased with the proceeds, and eaten in Jerusalem). In the third and sixth years of the shemita cycle, the money is given to the poor as ma’aser ani – the poor man’s tithe.

Which types of produce are obligated in these terumot and ma’asrot on a Biblical level is subject to a disagreement between the rishonim (which may be based on different positions taken by the Talmud Bavli and Talmud Yerushalmi). Generally speaking, vegetables are divided into three categories: dagan (grains), kitniyot (pulses), and yerakot (vegetables). Examples of dagan are wheat and barley, which are included in the seven species of produce of the Land of Israel. They are certainly included in the obligation of terumot and ma’asrot. Some opinions place kitniyot in that category, as well. All agree that the obligation of terumot and ma’asrot for yerakot is only of Rabbinic origin.

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