The Mishnah in Masechet Trumah (3:8) writes:
If someone intends to say: “trumah” and says “ma’aser”, “ma’aser” but says “trumah”, “olah” but says “shlamim”, “shlamim” but says “olah”, “I will not enter this house” but mentions another house, “I will not benefit from this” yet says something else – his words have no effect until his words and heart (i.e. intentions) are in agreement”
In other words, if someone intends to call that which he separated as ma’aser, yet mistakenly says “this is trumah”, his words have no halachic significance. Our Mishnah expands this idea from the area of trumot u’ma’asrot to kodshim and nedarim as they are also areas where a prohibition is created through a verbal proclamation. The Mishnah leaves us with a simple explanation that “his words have no effect until his words and heart are in agreement.” In other words, one’s words are insignificant unless they are married with matching intentions.
This law is also brought in Gemarah Pesachim (73a) and there Tosfot mention a well known rule: “matters of the heart are insignificant” (eg, Kiddushin 49b). To explain this apparent difficulty the Tosfot therefore differentiate between two types of cases. The first, where “matters of the heart are insignificant” are where the person speaks with certainty, yet thinks something else. In our case however, the person really wanted to say one thing, but made a verbal mistake. Here, the mouth alone could not obligate someone to do something what they did not intend.
Another question raised by the Rishonim is whether one need make a verbal proclamation at all, when separating trumah. It appears from a number of places in the Gemarah that verbal proclamations are not required and one can designate trumah with thought alone. In other words the requirement that “his words and mouth be in agreement” is necessary here only because his words have contradicted his thoughts. Yet in reality, there is no requirement for a verbal proclamation. One such source for this law comes from Gemarah Shvu’ot (26b): “From where do we know [that it is enough] if someone simply resolves in his heart? The Torah states ‘kol nediv libo’ (Shmot 35:22).” There the Gemarah proves that by trumah and kodshim, intention alone can create the desired effect. (See also Gittin 31a.) The Rishonim also bring a strong proof from the Mishnah (1:6) which included a mute person as one who should ideally not separate trumah, but if he did, the separated produce is indeed trumah!
The Rambam combined these two laws together (Hilchot Trumot ):
If someone intends to say “trumah” and says “ma’aser”, “ma’aser” but says “trumah” – his words have no effect until his words and heart (i.e. intentions) are in agreement. Someone who separates trumah designating it mentally making no verbal proclamation, has indeed [successfully] separated trumah…”
The Minchat Chinnuch (mitzvah 397) however writes that the Rambam and Tosfot in practice argue whether thought alone is sufficient or whether a physical separation of the trumah is also required. Rashi and Tosfot have explicitly stated trumah can be designated with a verbal proclamation alone (see Pesachim). Conversely, the Minchat Chinnuch argues that the Rambam also requires a physical separation. This is because the Rambam appeared to focus on one point - “no verbal proclamation” – as being the difference in the final case implying that physical separation is still required. [NB: it appears that the Kesef Mishnah did not understand the Rambam in the manner.]
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