Mistaken Teruma

Trumot (3:1) | Yisrael Bankier | 12 years ago

The third perek begins by teaching that if one separated a kishut (gourd) as teruma and it was found to be bitter, the separated kishut is indeed teruma, but the owner must return and separate teruma again. We shall try to understand this case and the ruling of the Mishnah.

The Yerushalmi explains that in this case it was only discovered later that the kishut was bitter, and that it was inedible. Normally, if one would separate something inedible to be teruma the act would be meaningless. In this case however, there is a doubt whether the kishut was edible at the time of separation. The owner must therefore separate teruma again just in case the original kishut was inedible at the time of its separation. In the end, since there is a doubt which of the two is really teruma, the kohen takes both, paying for the larger of the two.

The Bavli (Yevamot 89a) however understands that the kishut was definitely bitter from the outset, yet its selection was unintentional (shogeg) as he was not aware of its poor quality at the time. In this case, a fine (knas) is applied requiring teruma to be separated a second time becuase it is considered gross negligence (shogeg karov le’meizid) – he should have tested the state of the gourds prior to his selection.1

The difficulty with the Bavli is that at first glance, it seems to contradict the continuation of the Mishnah. The Mishnah teaches that if one takes vinegar as teruma for wine inadvertently and it was known that the barrel was vinegar prior to this separation, the vinegar is not considered teruma. The cases seem to parallel one another in their details. In both cases, the separated product was an inferior quality to that for which it was separated and it was definitely inferior at the time of separation. Yet in our case that which was separated is considered teruma, while in the latter case it is not. Why?

The Tosfot answer that the Mishnah is according to Rebbi who maintains that vinegar and wine are considered two distinct minim (species/categories). As learnt previously, separating teruma from one type for another is invalid. Consequently in the case of vinegar, the separation is invalid, while in case of the bitter gourd, since it involves only one min the separation is valid after the fact. They add that according to the Chachimim who understand that wine and vinegar are one type, the ruling in that case and our one would be the same – the vinegar would be teruma, yet teruma would need to be separate again.

The Rashba explains that the Mishnah can even be explained as expressing the opinion of the Chachamim. Even though the Chachamim maintain that wine and vinegar or one type, they are nonetheless referred to by different names. At the time of separation, the owner intended to separate wine, only later to discover it was vinegar. The separation is therefore one in error and void. In the case of the gourds however, the owner did separate gourds as intended albeit ones that were of an inferior quality.

The Meiri explains in a similar manner that in the case of the vinegar, the owner had checked the barrel sometime prior and had confirmed that it contained high quality wine. This outward show demonstrated that he wished only to designate high quality wine as teruma.Thus when at the time of separation the barrel had already turned to vinegar, the designation was against his intention and therefore invalid. In the case of the gourds however, there was no outward show that owner wanted to separate the best gourds.2

1 The Tosfot explain that he could have performed hafrasha on a mashehu so that he could perform a taste test.

2 The Meiri adds the third case is where the owner intended to take the inferior product to be teruma where that which is separate is considered teruma (albeit bedieved) with no additional teruma separation required.


Weekly Publication

Receive our publication with an in depth article and revision questions.

Subscribe Now »

Audio Shiurim

Listen to the Mishnah Shiurim by Yisrael Bankier

Listen Now »