Trumah (and Nedarim?)

Eduyot (5:2) | Yisrael Bankier | 12 years ago

The fifth perek begins with Tana’im adding more debates where Beit Hillel rules more stringently than Beit Shammai. The following case is presented by R’ Yosi (5:2):

One can take trumah from [untithed] olives [to satisfy the requirements of trumah] for [the olives as well as] oil, and from grapes for wine – this is the opinion of Beit Shammai. Beit Hillel says, one cannot take trumah in this manner.

The Melechet Shlomo explains that it appears that they argue on the level of lechatchila – i.e. Beit Shammai holds that one can even ideally separate trumah in this manner. Matters are complicated when we contrast this Mishnah with one we learnt some time ago (Terumot 1:4):

One cannot separate [trumah] from olives for oil or from grapes for wine. If one does: Beit Shammai maintains that [part of the separated grapes/olives] is trumah for itself [but not the part that was separated for the wine/oil. The result is a mixture of chulin and trumah - meduma]. Beit Hillel maintains that none of it is trumah.

Here it appears that everyone agrees that one should not separate trumah in this manner. The debate concerns the status bedi’eved – after the fact.

The Tosfot Yom Tov’s initially suggests that our Mishnah represents the sole opinion of R’ Yosi. Consequently, this Mishnah can argue on the Mishnah in Terumot (and he feels this is how the Rambam understood the apparent contradiction). After a lengthy analysis the Melechet Shlomo however concludes that we must understand that the debate in our Mishnah is also on the level of bedi’eved. The only reason why it is termed in this (misleading) manner, is to fit into the style of the case that preceded it.

The above two explanations fit in well with the understanding that the reason why Beit Hillel rejects this mode of taking trumah is because it constitutes “separating from a product that is unfinished [grapes] for a product that is finished [wine]” which is expressly invalid.39

The Rash (see Tosfot Yom Tov) however cites a Yerushalmi where there are two beraitot both in the name of R’ Yosi. In the first all conclude that if b’dieved trumah was taken, it need not be separated again - like our Mishnah. The second beraitah is exactly the same as the one in Terumot. The Rash explains that the difference is whether the person first asked the kohen if he may provide all the trumah as grapes. If he did not, then Beit Hillel holds that even b’dieved it is not trumah. If however permission was granted by the kohen, then Beit Hillel still maintains that he should refrain (in case he does not get permission in the future); nonetheless if he proceeds, then it is trumah.

This understanding seems to fit better with the explanation of the Rambam (Trumot ) that the reason why even b’dieved one cannot separate trumah in this manner is “a gezeirah in case it will result in bothering the kohen to crush [the grapes] himself.” In other words, if the kohen wanted wine, by separating extra grapes to cover the requirement for wine instead of just providing him with his quota of wine, it could result in the unnecessary exertion of effort and loss (Bartenura).

The Mishnah Rishona asks a strong kashya: since we are suggesting that this law is a rabbinic gezeirah, it implies that on a biblical level it is indeed trumah. The Chachamim however do not have the power to dissolve the status of trumah from the separated product!

One could perhaps suggest an answer based on an earlier explanation of the Mishnah Rishona. He explains that the debate in Trumot between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel whether separated product is partially trumah or not trumah at all, relates to their debate in Masechet Nedarim. There they argue whether a neder (vow) can be partially annulled. Beit Hillel maintains that once it is partially annulled the entire neder is absolved. The Mishnah Rishona explains that trumah, nedarim and hekdesh are the same in that sanctification is brought about through speech.

Perhaps then, here the Chachamim are not removing the trumah status from the object. Instead they are attacking the very mechanism that was employed to bring it about thereby preventing it from ever becoming trumah. The transgression of the rabbinic decree results in a partial absolution of the declaration – the “neder”.40


39 The source of this law is the pasuk (Bamidbar ): “This will be considered your trumah, and it is exactly like grain from the threshing floor or wine from the vat.”

40 This suggestion clearly requires more development. For example, the Ran (73) maintains that the concept “a partial cancellation of a neder results in a full cancellation” only applies to the case in which it was brought (where the person that made the neder did not know that his father was amongst the group). If however if it was a case where a person made a neder to pay the loan and interest, then only the interest component would be absolved, which would possibly be comparable to our case. This format however does not allow for further analysis.

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