The Mishnah (2:5) states:
If someone separated challah from flour, it is not considered Challah. [If the kohen keeps the flour] it is considered as theft in the hands of the kohen.
The Mishnah explains that if one separates challah before the dough is obligated to have challah removed, the act is meaningless. An issue raised by the commentators is that we find that if one separated maaser prematurely, while the wheat was still as sheaves, then that which is separated is maaser. What is challah any different?
Rashi (Kiddushin 46b) and Bartenura (2:5) explain that the Torah writes when teaching the obligation for separating challah, that it must be “the beginning of your dough”. Consequently if it is not dough, then the separation is meaningless. The Tosfot HaRid however asks that when the Torah discusses maaser it writes, “a tithe from you grain” (Devarim 12:17) which would only be at the time it reaches the granary (miruach ha’keri -“smoothing of the pile”). Nevertheless, as already explained, maaser separated prior to that point is considered maaser. So our original question returns, why is there a difference? The Tosfot HaRid answers that there is an additional passuk that discusses grain and refers to the wheat as produce and grain, prior to miruach ha’keri: “You shall tithe entire crop (tevuat zareacha)…” (Devarim 14:22)
The Meiri answers this question in a similar way but without the need for an additional passuk. He explains that the term “dough” is only every used to refer to flour that has been already mixed liquid. Prior to that point it is simply flour. The term dagan (grain) however can refer to wheat even when it is still in its sheaves.
The Rash (Trumot 1:10) however provides a different source that treats teruma differently. Torah writes when instructing the leviim to separate trumat maaser from their maaser rishon, “you shall raise up from it a gift to Hashem, a tithe from a tithe” (Bamidbar 18:26). The Gemara (Pesachim 35b) learns that since the Torah only specified the requirement for the levi to separate trumat maaser, if maaser rishon was taken early, the levi need not separate trumah gedolah along with trumat maaser. Returning to our issue, the Rash explains that we therefore have a special pasuk that teaches that premature separation by maaser is affective, while by challah we do not.
Until this point we have maintained the assumption that there is a difference between challah and teruma and resorted to pesukim as the source for the difference. The Ramban however explains that in truth challah is equivalent to trumah – our confusion is related to timing. For both there are three lifecycle phases. The time prior to a third of a produce’s development for teruma is equivalent for challah when the product is just flour. For both, any separation at the stage is meaningless. After that stage, for teruma prior to the smooth of the pile one is allowed to snack from the product and if they separated maaser it is significant. Likewise for challah once water has been added until the dough has been rolled, if one separated challah it would be affective. The final stage is when the pile has been smooth for teruma and for challah once the dough has be rolled. At that point, no part can be consumed without the required separation.
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