Is Chomesh a Kapara

Trumot (6:2) | Yisrael Bankier | 6 years ago

Only a Kohen is allowed to eat terumah. If someone else does so by mistake, then they need to pay the value of what was consumed (keren) and an additional chomesh (6:1). Chomesh literally means a fifth, however it is a fifth of the total value once it is added with the principle amount. In other words, it is a quarter of the original value. The payment is the form of regular tithed produce and it becomes terumah. We also learnt from a number of Mishnayot that there is a difference between the keren and chomesh. For example (6:2), if one ate terumah belonging to a particular Kohen, the keren is paid to that Kohen while the chomesh may be paid to any Kohen.

If however one eats terumah deliberately, then he only pays the keren and not the chomesh. In this case the keren does not become terumah. Why does it appear to be more lenient when one deliberately transgresses the prohibition?

The Rambam in his commentary on the Mishnah explains that the Torah only mentioned the obligation of chomesh in the context of one that ate Terumah by mistake – he did not know it was terumah or he did not know he was not allowed to eat it. Similarly, it is only in that context that the Torah refers to the payment as being kodesh – as becoming terumah. In the case however, where one deliberately eats the terumah “his sin is too great bear”. It would seem that the inflated payment is provided as an avenue for teshuva and for a brazen sinner that path is closed. The Mishnah Rishona explains that while the violation of eating terumah may not be remedied in this way, he must still pay the principle value since he effectively stole the property of a Kohen.

The keren and chomesh being a kapara (atonement) appears in an interesting case. The Mishnah (6:2) discusses a woman who is a daughter of an Yisrael and eats terumah by mistake. She then marries a Kohen, and as a result she is allowed to eat terumah. The Mishnah explains that if the terumah had not yet been given to a Kohen she “pays the keren and chomesh to herself”. The Tifferet Yisrael explains that the “payment” is required since it takes the form of terumah and must be treated as terumah. If however it belonged to a kohen when she ate it, she pays the Kohen the keren, but may keep the chomesh. The requirement to pay, despite the fact she can be the recipient, fits with our understanding that payment of keren and chomesh is mean of kapara for the past violation.

The Mishnah Rishona however understands that keren alone is for kapara and not chomesh. Consequently, while the keren must be separated, even if she is allowed to keep it, the chomesh does not need to separated or designated. He suggests that this is implied by the Bartenura who explains that in the second case, she can withhold the chomesh. The Barteunrau however does now write, that the chomesh must be separated and can be kept.

The Mishnah Rishona (3:1) uses this distinction to explain why one who eats safek (doubtful) terumah is exempt from paying chomesh. Keren alone is enough because it is sufficient to achieve kapara. He cites the Bartenura in Challah (3:6) as support for this understanding. There the Mishnah discusses dough belonging to a ger and we are not sure if he converted prior to the obligation of separating challah. The Mishnah explains that challah must be separated, but if a non-kohen eats it, he is exempt from paying chomesh. There the Barenura explains that this is because the keren achieves a kapara and therefore must be paid due to a possible violation. According to the Mishnah Rishona, this implies that the chomesh does not.

The Tosfot R’ Akiva Eiger (Challah 3:6) finds this difficult. He cites the Rash who explains that the reason why a Kohen cannot forgo the payment of keren and chomesh is because they are a kapara – implying that both are a kapara. When the Mishnah teaches that he is exempt from chomesh it teaches us a chiddush. Consider the case where a non-kohen ate their own terumah, e.g. terumah he inherited from his maternal grandfather that was a Kohen. In that case, since had he not eaten it, he could have sold it to a Kohen, if he eats it, he separates both keren and chomesh yet both are sold to a kohen. The Mishnah in Challah teaches that this is also true in cases of doubt where the safek terumah would be a sold to a kohen. If one ate it, while is exempt from providing chomesh freely, it must still be separated but can then be sold a Kohen. Indeed the Mishnah LeMelech (10:14) explains that in all cases of sefek, whenever the Mishnah states that one is not obligated to give chomesh, they must still separate keren and chomesh to achieve a kapara. Since however it is a doubt, both keren and chomesh are sold to a Kohen.


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