The previous Mishnayot in this perek (chapter) have pointed out differences between teruma (tithes) and kodashim (Temple sacrifices). So far we have learned that stricter measures were imposed on kodashim than on teruma for a variety of reasons. The new Mishna on our daf points out that there are areas of halakha where the rules regarding teruma are more stringent than those dealing with kodashim. One example is whether a simple farmer (referred to as an am ha’aretz) could be trusted to say that the wine or oil that he produced was guarded to be sure that it remained tahor (ritually pure). If an am ha’aretz offered wine or oil to a kohen, telling him that he made it with the intent to offer the wine as a libation on the altar or the wine as part of the grain offering, he could be trusted that they were tahor, since – according to the Rambam – even an am ha’aretz recognized the seriousness of the Temple service. If, however, the am ha’aretz offered a kohen wine or oil as teruma, they could not be trusted, since they were known to take the rules of purity less seriously when it came to tithes.
Aside from this approach offered by the Rambam, we find another suggestion made by the Meiri and others who argue that this leniency shown to the am ha’aretz in the case of kodashim stems less from our certainty that he is trustworthy in this case, and more from the desire of the Sages to limit the possibility of disagreements between factions while in the shadow of the Temple. Since every Jewish person is encouraged to visit the mikdash and bring his produce to present to God, the Sages chose to rely on the word of the am ha’aretz in order to encourage a sense of unity among the people.
The Mishna also teaches that a further exception was made during the period of pressing the grapes and olives, when everyone was careful to first purify the utensils used in preparing wine and oil. At that time, even an am ha’aretz was believed when he attested to the ritual purity of his produce.