Intentionally Eating Terumah

Trumot (7:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 3 months ago

The seventh perek opens by teaching that if a non-kohen deliberately at terumah, he must pay a kohen the value of what he ate. The additional chomesh (twenty-five percent) that is paid by one that ate terumah by mistake, is not required. We will try to understand this ruling.

The Bartenura explains that this ruling only applies if the individual was not prewarned prior to consuming the terumah. If he had, since he would be liable to lashes, he would be exempt from payment. The reason is that in general, when faced with the two punishments of lashes and payment, one only receives lashes. The Bartenura however continues by noting that if he was not prewarned, then he would be liable to two punishments -- the second of which being mita bidei shamayim. This punishment that is not administered by beit din would not exempt the individual from payment.

The Mishnah LeMelech (Hilchot Terumot 6:6) however notes that the Gemara (Ketubot 30b) discusses the case where on ate terumah deliberately. The issue it addresses is how one can liable to the two punishments at the same time, such that he is obligated with lashes and therefore exempt from payment. The issue is that as soon as he takes the kohen's terumah he is liable for the payment and only liable for eaten terumah later. Consequently, since the two obligations are not simultaneous, both punishments should apply. Even if someone else placed the food in his mouth, the monetary obligation would occur when he began chewing it, and the lashes only once he swallowed the terumah. The Gemara concludes that the simultaneous obligation would only be in the case where someone else place the food down his throat, but not to the extent that he would be unable to prevent swallowing it.

The Gemara appears to present a difficultly for the Bartenura (and Rambam). Even if on ate the terumah deliberately, they would indeed be liable to both punishments unless it were in the specific circumstance described in the Gemara.

The Derech Emunah (Terumah 10:5) cites the Markevet HaMishnah who explains that according to the Rambam, if one takes the terumah in order to eat it, the violation of consuming terumah and therey the obligation of receiving lashes already begins at the point in time. Since this is the time that the obligation of payment would also occur, he would only receive the one punishment of lashes.

The Mishnah Rishona however suggest that there is a difference between the case where one ate terumah that already belonged to a kohen and the case where one ate terumah that they separated from their own produce1. In the former case, the moment that he takes the terumah that belongs to the kohen it would be considered stealing, and the financial obligation is engaged. In the case where one takes terumah that he separated from his own produce, when he takes the terumah it is not (yet) considered stealing. It would be comparable to the case of the gizbar (treasure in the Beit HaMikdash) who handles hekdesh. Handling it alone does not make him liable to meilah until he uses it for his own purpose. Consequently, the Bartenura must be commenting on the case where non-kohen ate the terumah he separated. The financial obligation would only engage at the time he ate the terumah, which is the time that he would also be liable to lashes.


1 According to the Aruch Hashulchan (HaAtid Zerayim 72:6) that would be specifically if there was a kohen how would usually give his terumah to.

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