Planting Terumah

Trumot (9:4) | Yisrael Bankier | 6 years ago

Most of the ninth perek discusses the ramifications of planting terumah. For example, we learnt (9:4) that if one planted terumah, then that which grows is considered terumah.

The Gemara (Shabbat 17b) explains that this law was one of the eighteen rabbinic decrees instituted in the attic of Chananya ben Chizkiya ben Guryon (see Shabbat 1:4). The Gemara initially suggested that the gezeira was motivated by a concern that an Yisrael (non-Kohen) would plant his tahor terumah instead of giving it to a Kohen. Once planted, that which grows is no longer considered terumah. Consequently, he might do so, in order that he could keep it. The Gemara however rejects this as being a concern since an Yisrael has other means of practically circumventing the requirement of giving terumah. Since on a biblical level there is no measure for the requirement of giving terumah gedolah, according to Shmuel it could be satisfied with separating a single kernel. The fact that the Yisrael did not take this step, means that we do not need to be concerned that he will replant the separated terumah.

Instead the Gemara explains that the basis of the gezeira was concern regarding tameh terumah in the hands of a Kohen. Since the Kohen is forbidden from consuming terumah that is tameh, he might want to instead keep it for planting since he can then cosume the produce that grows. While waiting to plant the produce however, the Kohen may inadvertently eat it, which would be a serious violation.1

The Mishnah Rishona notes that there was no concern that the Kohen might plant his tahor terumah to grow chulin. He explains that the Chachamim were not concerned that the Kohen would transgress a prohibition; terumah that is tahor is only meant for consumption. Consequently, there was no concern that the Kohen would plant tahor terumah. Tameh terumah on the other hand cannot be consumed and may therefore be planted. It was regarding that case therefore that the Chachamim were concerned.

Recall that the Gemara dismissed the concern that an Yisrael would plant terumah gedolah since if he wanted to avoid giving terumah he could designate one kernel instead. The Tosfot site the Riva who asks that there is also terumat maaser that has a fixed amount for which one kernel would not suffice. Consequently, a concern that an Yisrael would plant terumat maaser should have been enough. The Ri answers that indeed, that concern was also a consideration when instituting the gezeira. Nevertheless the Gemara wanted to provide the basis for the gezeira that also covered terumah gedolah – in other words all types of terumah.

The Tosfot Yeshanim however cites the Maharam, who explains that since terumat maaser was separated from maaser rishon which was given to the Levi, and maaser rishon was only given to a chaver there was no concern that such a Levi would plant the terumat maaser. The Tosfot HaRosh adds that since the Levi did not toil in producing that food, he is also less likely to resist in giving the terumah gedolah. The Sefat Emet however objects, since an Yisrael can separate the terumat maaser himself (Gittin 32b). The Ritva however explains that an Yisrael separating terumat maaser is rare and would not be the basis of a gezeira.

The Tosfot Yeshanim also cites the Riva the provides a different explanation. Recall that when we learnt Demai, that while everyone separated terumah gedolah, there was a concerned that not everyone separated the rest of the maasrot. Consequently, those that wanted to avoid giving terumat maaser would simply avoid separating it, rather than replanting it. The Sefat Emet finds this answer difficult since there is significant proportion – the beinonim – that we might suspect of stealing but would never eat tevel due to its severe punishment (mita). Consequently, these people might separate the terumat maaser to avoid the prohibition of tevel, yet replant it so they can keep it.

1 The Sefat Emet notes that this appears to lend support for Rashi’s opinion that there is no mitzvah to specifically burn tameh terumah otherwise the concern would simply be that the Kohen is not performing that mitzvah.


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