Annulling Terumah

Trumot (4:10) | Yisrael Bankier | 5 years ago

During the course of the week we have begun learning about mixtures involving terumah. If terumah was mixed with less than one hundred parts chullin (regular produce) then the mixture is meduma. The entire mixture is sold to a Kohen and the (cheaper) price of terumah excluding the terumah component in the mixture. If however there is one-hundred parts chulin to the terumah in mixture then the terumah is batel (annulled). An amount equal to the terumah that fell in is nevertheless removed and given to a Kohen.

A number of Mishnayot discuss how we calculated the proportions of chulin to terumah. In one Mishnah (4:8-9) we find a debate between R’ Eliezer and R’ Yehoshua regarding a case where a black terumah fig fell into a mixture of fifty black and fifty white figs. R’ Eliezer rules stringently that the white figs cannot be included in the calculations and the black figs are therefore all meduma. R’ Yehoshua however rules leniently allowing all the figs to be included in the calculations which, in this case, would result in the terumah being batel1.

In the next Mishnah (4:10) however we find their positions reversed. The case discussed is where on pressed some terumah figs on the top of a figs in a container, but is on sure which container. According to the Bartenura, in each of the containers there is more than one hundred times of chulin compared to the terumah. In this case, R’ Eliezer takes the lenient position. Despite the fact that when know the terumah is on the top, we can still include the contents below it to annul the terumah (where ever it is). R’ Yehoshua however argues that for the terumah to be batel there would need to be one hundred containers – one hundred surfaces.

Why do the approaches of R’ Eliezer and R’ Yehoshua changes in the two mishnayot? This is the question of the Rash.

The Mishnah Rishona cites the Yerushalmi that explains that there is a debate amongst the Tanaim regarding the positions of R’ Eliezer and R’ Yehoshua with each position maintaining that R’ Eliezer is either consistently strict or lenient. The two Mishnayot separately present the understanding of each of the Tanaim. The Mishnah Rishona however finds this difficult since the second Mishnah begins “In this [case] R’ Eliezer is lenient and R’ Yehoshua is strict” implying that it is a change from their previous positions.

The Mishnah Rishona therefore explains as follows. Firstly, he understands that, unlike the Bartenura, in the case of the containers, it is unnecessary for there to be one hundred times the trumah in each container, but rather the case is where there is one hundred times in all the containers combined2. Nevertheless, R’ Eliezer is still lenient in the case of the containers. This is much like the leniency afforded in the case where terumah fell into one of two piles. In that case we consider the contents of both piles when determining if the terumah is batel. The reason is that since on a biblical level we only need a majority of chulin to annul the terumah and the two piles are likely to be emptied or possibly combined, a leniency can be afforded. The same rational could apply the second case. In the case of a black and white figs however, the black and white figs will never “mix” and always be discernable.

The Mishnah Rishona continues that according to R’ Yehoshua the stringency requiring one hundred parts to batel terumah is based on the fact that there is a permissible way of resolving the issue – davar she’yesh lo matirin – a Kohen can consume the entire mixture. Consequently, in the first case with the black and white figs, the difference in colour is not important since the requirement of one hundred parts of chulin alone is enough of a heker (reminder). That heker however is only if they are in one mixture. When distributed across containers, one would however need to rule stringently. R’ Yehoshua would argue that this case is different to the later case of two piles, since we are dealing with pressed figs that would not mix with the contents of the other containers even if they were combined.


1 The Mishnah also includes the opinion of R’ Akiva who maintains that there is a difference whether one knows the colour of the terumah fig.

2 See Rashi Zevachim 73a.

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