ט׳ באייר ה׳תשע״ט (May 14, 2019)

Bekhorot 27a-b: Priestly Gifts From Abroad

The Gemara on today’s daf teaches a number of leniencies regarding terumat ḥutz la’aretz – priestly gifts from abroad (outside the land of Israel).

Among these leniencies we find:

  • Rava said: Teruma from abroad is not subject to the laws of a priest who helps in the threshing floors, which is forbidden. The Gemara relates that Rav Ḥama gave it to his attendant, who was a kohen.
  • Shmuel said: Teruma from abroad is neutralized in a larger quantity, i.e. there does not need 100 parts of ordinary produce to nullify the teruma. The Gemara relates that Rabba neutralized it in a larger quantity and used to eat it in the days of ritual impurity.
  • Shmuel further said: One may eat teruma from abroad without separating the priestly gifts, leaving the separation for afterwards.

The Biblical obligation to separate teruma and ma’aser is limited to the land of Israel, inasmuch as all agricultural mitzvot only apply in Israel. Nevertheless, there is an ancient custom to separate these priestly gifts and tithes even outside the land of Israel so that these laws will not be forgotten. According to the Mishna in Massekhet Yadayim (4:3), this Rabbinic enactment developed in stages over the generations.Originally, the prophets established this custom in Babylonia, where the majority of Diaspora Jewry lived and worked – but only as a short-term enactment. Later on, after the time of Ezra HaSofer, this custom was extended to other lands that neighbored the land of Israel, including Egypt to the south, as well as Amon and Mo’av to the east.

Given the Rabbinic nature of this custom, were more lenient with regard to many of its laws in comparison to terumot and ma’aserot in Israel itself.