A Baker's Demai

Demai (2:4) | Yisrael Bankier | 8 years ago

This week we began Masecht Demai. Demai refers to produce purchased from an Am Haaretz – an individual who is not particular with the laws of separating terumot and maasrot. Despite the fact that most Amei Haaretz separated everything required of them, Yochanan Kohen Gadol observed a significant proportion that did not. Consequently, other than Teruma Gedola which was universally adhered to, he decreed that maasrot must be allocated.1 However since this requirement was based on a doubt, those gifts that were purely financial (ma’aser rishon, maaser ani) could stay in the position of the owner. Terumat maaser however would need to be separated and given to a Kohen whereas ma’aser sheini of demai would need to be taken to Yerushalaim.2

The Mishnah (2:4) teaches that a baker was afforded further leniencies when it came to demai. A baker would only be required to separate terumat maaser and challah3. Absent from that list is maaser sheni. We shall try to understand why.

The Bartenura explains that the reason for the leniency was due to the pressure applied by the local authorities forcing them to sell at low prices. Given the difficulty, the Chachamim resisted pressuring them any further with all that comes with separating maaser sheni. The Bartenura however adds that this ruling is only in the cases where the baker sells to a chaver (one trusted with separating terumot and maasrot). If however he was selling to an am haaretz, the baker would be required to separated maaser sheni as well.

This appears to align with the position of the Rambam (Maaser 9:12) who explains that the leniency was only that requirement of separating maaser sheni was transferred to the purchaser. Since the baker had to separate challah, trumat maaser was nevertheless also separated by the baker to ensure that both were separated in a state of purity.

Rashi (Yoma 9a) however explains that in this case the Chachamim relied on the fact the most Amei Haaretz separated terumot and maasrot. It appears that there is a complete exemption from separating maaser sheni.4 The Tosfot HaRosh however understands that the dispensation was only with respect to taking the separated maaser sheni to Yerushalaim or redeeming it. The baker would still be required to separate the maaser sheni to ensure that everything had properly been separated. The leniency was only that the baker may then consume it outside Yerushaliam without redeeming it.

The Tosfot Yeshanim however ask that there is a simpler solution. The Chachamim could have allowed the baker to separate the maaser sheni and then redeem it with a peruta – the lowest valued coin. Even though ideally the money used to redeem should be greater than the value of the maaser sheni, we find that with the respect to hekdesh (items consecrate for use in the Beit HaMikdash) that a redemption in this manner would still work.

The Tosfot Yeshanim provides two answers. The first answer is that they did not want to legislate this solution - an unideal one in normal circumstances - because they did not want it to be used in other contexts. The Ritva provides a similar answer based on a different concern. He explains that since the Chachamim had already exempted the baker from taking maaser sheni to Yerushalaim, there was a concern that adding this relatively minimal requirement would ultimately be neglected.

The second answer of the Tosfot Yeshanim however is that unlike hekdesh, for maaser sheni redemption with a sha’ve peruta simply does not work. The Ritva question the reason why one would treat maaser sheni harsher than hekdesh. The Biur HaGra (YD 294:20) explains that the reason it works for hekdesh is because onaah (fraud) does not apply to hekdesh. That logic does not apply to maaser sheni.

The Shulchan Aruch (YD 294:4) rules that nowadays one redeems maaser sheni (and peirot revaii) with a peruta and discard the coin in the ocean. It appears that this align with the opinion that maintains that is permissible. The Levush however explains that since today maaser sheni cannot be consumed in any fashion it has next to no value. Consequently, redeeming with the worth of a peruta is indeed its value.

1 See Volume 7, Issue 10, “Da Mai? Teshuva!” for a more details explanation of the origin of this decree.

2 Albeit with some leniencies, see 1:2.

3 The portion removed from a significant amount of dough and given to a Kohen.

4 One may ask why the Chachamim did not rely on this to exempt the baker from separating trumat maser as well. See the Gevurat Ari that deals with this question.


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