Estimations in Terumot Revisited

Trumot (4:3) | Yisrael Bankier | 12 years ago

By now we well know that the Torah did not provide a measure for teruma gedolah (the first gift) – “even on kernel can exempt a large pile”. We learnt this week however about the range of measures which the Chachamim provided – one sixtieth to one fortieth. Recall also that when actually separating teruma and selecting the amount, it must done by approximation.

The Mishnah (4:3) teaches that if approximation1 falls short of the minimum amount provided by the Chachamim, the owner must separate more until the total amount is equal to the proportion that the owner would ordinarily separate. The Mishnah however adds that this second separation has leniencies. The Chachamim explain that it can be performed using exact measures. R’ Yehuda adds that the obligation to separate teruma while it is in close proximity to the tevel for which it is taken (min ha’mukaf) is also not required. To understand the debate and why these requirements are alleviated we need to look at the law requiring the separation of teruma gedolah by estimation.

The Bartenura (1:7), following the Yerushlami (1:4), explains that the requirement of using estimations is based on the pasuk: “Your gift shall be reckoned (nechshav)…” (Bamidbar 18:27). It seems to suggest that the obligation is biblical. If so then it is difficult to understand why the requirement is lifted when separating teruma a second time in reaching the shiur.

Many rishonim explains that the estimation requirement is actually rabbinic. The reference made to a pasuk is merely an asmachta (textual support/trigger) but not a real source. The Rash(1:7) explains the separating in this fashion would ensure that people would tend towards the more generous measure of teruma (ayin yafeh). The Tosfot (Gittin 31a) adds that because someone will be fearful that they will select a less than minimum amount, they are likely to err on the side of caution and give more generously.

The Rambam (Trumot 3:4) simply states that the obligation to separate by approximation steams from the fact that the Torah did not provide a measure. The Raavad agrees that the Torah did not provide a measure for approximation yet explains that the obligation is based on different concern. If a person was particular in trying to separate a precise measure, he may face complications if he adds or subtract from that measure.

Let us turn our attention now to the debate regarding whether the requirement of min ha’mukaf is also waived in this further separation. Recall that the Chachamim believe it is still required while R’ Yehuda does not. The Mishnah Rishona brings the Raavad’s two understandings of min ha’mukaf to explain the debate. One understanding is that since teruma is taken by estimation, the accuracy will be greatly improved if it is close to the tevel for which it is taken. The second explanation is that if teruma is taken at a different location, there is a concern that one might forget and mistakenly use the previously tevel produce to take teruma for other produce.

The Mishnah Rishona explains that the R’ Yehuda might maintain that the reason for min ha’mukaf is because of the first understanding, to improve the accuracy of the estimation. Since when taking teruma this second time one can do so using exact measures, there is no longer a need for it to be performed nearby. The Chachamim however might understand that the reason for min ha’mukaf is to ensure one does not forget that the teruma has been taken. Such a concern is just as relevant for separating teruma this time and min ha’mukaf is therefore still required.

1 The Mishnah Rishona explains that if one intentionally separated at a below minimum amount then it would be teruma d’oraita and ma’asrot would need to be separated from any further additions.


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