Parshas Behukotai



Laws of Tithing



1. According to the Torah, one should separate the Trumah, Maaser and Maaser Sheni off certain kinds of fruits and vegetables. In the olden days, about 1/50 of the harvest was being given away to Kohanim. The Maaser made one tenth of what had been left and was being given away to Leviim. The second Maaser, i.e. one tenth of what had been left, was subject to various laws. In the third and the sixth years of a seven year cycle, the Maaser Sheni was being given to the poor. In the rest of the years it was commanded to be consumed in Jerusalem. If the master had difficulties transporting a big amount of the Maaser Sheni, he could redeem it with money and buy new food in Jerusalem with it. Nowadays, we are still commanded to separate these parts of the harvest, but the Trumah is burnt and the Second Maaser is redeemed with using a coin.


2. The Torah obligates us to separate the Trumah and both Maasers only off the food, growing in the Holy Land, but the Rabbis required that we separate them also from the food, growing in close proximity to the land of Israel (in Babylon, Egypt, etc.) In the lands, situated far from the land of Israel, there is no obligation to separate Trumah or Maaser. Nevertheless, even outside the Land of Israel, one is not allowed to consume vegetables and fruits, growing in the Holy Land, unless the Trumah and Maaser have been separated.


3. We are allowed to buy fresh fruit and vegetables from non-Jews. At the same time, we are to be sure these are not the fruit of Israel. In case of buying Israeli fruit, one needs proper “Hashgahah” (Rabbinical supervision), to make sure the Trumah and Maaser have been separated. Moreover, the vast majority of non-religious kibbutzim keep cultivating the soil also in the seventh year. In this case one is forbidden to buy anything grown by them. Some Israeli Rabbis sell the whole land of Israel to a non-Jew for the seventh year, but according to the majority opinion, this doesn’t help the case, because prohibition to work the soil in the seventh year is still in power even after the sale. Moreover, selling any part of the Holy Land to a non-Jew is generally forbidden.