Near the end of Parshat Korach, we learn about many of the Mitzvot HaTluyot Ba’Araetz, the agricultural mitzvot that are observed in the Land of Israel. One example is Truma Gedola, the Great Tithe, where the owners of the land have to give a portion of their produce to the Kohen during years 1-6 of the Shmita cycle. Another example is Trumat Ma’aser, where the Levi receives 1/10 of the produce from the owners of the land and he in turn must give 1/10 of what he receives to the Kohen.
The Mitzvot HaTluyot Ba’Araetz were originally Biblical mitzvot. Today they are Rabbinic mitzvot as most of the Jewish people are not living in the Land of Israel. We are only permitted to eat the produce that is grown in Israel if Trumot and Maasrot have been separated and if all of the other Mitzvot HaTluyot Ba’Araetz have been observed.
How does this work considering that the Kohanim are not considered in a state of ritual purity and therefore would not be able to eat the Trumot and Maasrot? Where does all of the separated produce go to?
Rambam in Hilchot Truma 3:1 comments: There is no minimum requirement for Teruma Gedola according to Biblical law as it says in Dvarim 18:4: “The first of your grain, wine and oil, and the first of the shearing of your flock you shall give him” even the slightest amount. Even one kernel of grain fulfills the requirement for an entire grain heap. In our present age when the Truma will be burned because the Kohanim are impure, a person may separate even the smallest amount.
Rambam in Hilchot Truma 2:1 explains that we are obligated to separate Truma from food designated for human consumption, that is guarded and that grows from the earth…Just as grain, wine and oil are agricultural produce that is food designated for humans, grows from the earth and has an owner, so too are we obligated to separate Trumot and Maasrot from any analogous agricultural produce.
In other words, any produce that is grown in Israel that can be eaten by humans must have Trumot and Maasrot removed before it can be eaten.
Following the Rambam, we don’t need to give 1/40, 1/50 or 1/60 (the Rabinically mandated amounts for when the Truma was given to the Kohen) for Truma Gedola today. Rather we give a smaller amount which comes out to a little more than 1% of what is grown in Israel today.
Instead of burning the Truma and letting it go to waste (although the Kohen can use Truma olive oil to light Shabbat and Chanuka candles), the chief rabbinate has a solution to give the Truma that is separated in the fields to the animals in the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem, the Safari in Ramat Gan and other places where animals live in Israel which are at least partially owned by a Kohen.
How is this allowed?
According to the Rambam in Hilchot Truma 9:7, when a Jew rents livestock from a Kohen, he may feed it Teruma.
In other words, if the animal belongs to a Kohen then it can eat Truma.
Maharam Chaviv (Shu”t Kol Gadol 56) taught that today, since the Kohanim can’t eat the Truma, we would be allowed to feed it to the animals because there is no loss. Rabbi Tzvi Pesach Frank and the Chazon Ish agreed with this opinion.
Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Maadanei HaAretz, Trumot 2:15) brought the Ran (Psachim 14a): “Truma which is human food should not be fed to an animal as long as it is in a state where humans would eat it.” From here we learn that Truma which is ruined and can no longer be eaten by humans is considered animal food and can be given to animals. He therefore recommends waiting until the produce starts to rot so that it is not worthy of human consumption before giving it to the animals.
Most of the produce that goes to the major supermarket chains is already separated in the fields. The supermarkets display signs that the Mitzvot HaTluyot Ba’Araetz have been observed and customers do not need to do anything further.
If the store does not have a sign, one can check the pre-packed produce to see if anything about the kashrut status of the product is mentioned. If no information is listed then the buyer will have to take Trumot and Maasort themselves when they get home (instructions for how to do this can be found in Israeli siddurim). As well, if someone grows their own produce, they will have to be responsible for separating Trumot and Maasrot.
We are lucky to be living at a time where we can buy produce that is grown in the Land of Israel as well as observe the agricultural mitzvot. May the day come speedily in our times when the Mitzvot HaTluyot Ba’Araetz can be fulfilled Biblically and where the Kohanim and their families can once again eat the produce in a state of holiness.