Bitul Terumah - It is Black and White

Trumot (4:8) | Yisrael Bankier | 3 months ago

If terumah falls into chulin (regular produce) then it is only annulled if the chulin is one-hundred times the terumah. If there is not enough chulin then the mixture is termed meduma and it is sold to the kohen for the value of the chulin in the mixture. The Mishnah (4:8) records a debate regarding a terumah fig that fell into a mix of black and white figs. R' Yehushua argues that the even if we know the colour of the terumah fig, both coloured figs can join to batel (annul) the terumah fig. R' Eliezer however argues that the two different colours can never combine, even if the colour of the terumah figs is unknown. In other words, in that case, there would need to be one hundred white figs and one hundred black figs to ensure the one terumah fig is batel. R' Akiva however understands that the two different colour figs can combine, but only when the colour of the terumah figs is unknown. We shall try to understand this debate.

R' Yochanan in the Yerushalmi explains that R' Eliezer reasons that if there was not enough in combination, only the colour that matched the terumah fig would be assur. How then can the other figs, that would be independently mutar, combine to annul the terumah one? Considering the argument, we can understand R' Akiva's position. If one does not know the colour of the fig, then both colours are part of the doubt. If however we do know the colour, how do we understand R' Yehoshua, who maintains that both colours can combine?

Bar Padaya in the Yerushalmi explains that the reason R' Yehoshua allows the combination is because the two colours can be ground together. The Rash explains that since, if the figs were all ground together then the colours would not be discernible and they would combine, they can already now.

The Ridbaz however asks that one can apply the same logic in a case of meduma. Since one could add more chulin until there is one hundred parts chulin to annul it, it should also be considered annulled. If that were true, how would we ever have a case of meduma?1 The Ridbaz explains that this case is different. It is not considered a case of a mixture of different coloured figs, but rather one mass with the terumah already in one hundred parts chulin. The only thing preventing bitul is the discernible colours. Consequently, this case is different since it is addressing a solution for this one mass.

The Rash Sirilio explains that Bar Padaya's logic can only be applied to terumah nowadays, when the law of terumah is rabbinic. In a similar manner, the Gemara explains, Bar Padaya normally only considers mixtures of wine or oils as sufficiently mixed. The Mahara Fulda explains that he is lenient in this case, since on a biblical level, only a majority is required for bitul. One hundred is a rabbinic stringency.

The Mishnah Rishona however presents a different understanding of the debate. If only a majority is required, why were the Chachamim strict requiring one hundred? The Mishnah Rishona suggests it is because a mixture of terumah is like a davar she'yesh lo matirin. In other words, there is another way that the prohibited mixture can be resolved. One can ask a Chacham to matir (undo) his neder -- the separation and designation of terumah. The Mishnah Achrona admits that the Gemara (Nedarim 59) concludes that terumah is not a davar she'yesh lo matarin since there is no mitzvah to undo such a neder. Nevertheless, if one truly regretted the separation, the neder could be annulled. Consequently, the Chachamim dealt with terumah stringently, but not to the extent of a true davar she'yesh lo matirin (to which bitul would not apply).

The Mishnah Rishona continues, that R' Yehoshua argues that since in our case the terumah would already be annulled in the majority, the Chachamim were satisfied with a heiker -- a simple reminder -- which is satisfied with a total of one hundred chulin figs, even if they are not all part of the safek. R' Eleizer however rules stringently, since he maintains that for such mixtures a majority would not be enough on a biblical level, and sixty would normally be required. That would be true even if we did not know the colour of the terumah fig. Without sixty for each colour, it would be considered a mixture of two piles, one colour permitted and the other prohibited. Finally, R' Akiva agrees with R' Yehoshua that a majority is enough and only a heker is required. However, if the colour of the terumah fig is known, then that other colour figs cannot act as part of the heker and not considered present as part of the mixture at all.


1 This argument is only according to the opinion the one can actively annul issurim that are rabbinic.

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