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What is Terumah?

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht

  

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A. Terumah means “elevated” offering/gift or donation. It is the produce tithe that Levites and Israelites would submit to the kohens in Temple times.

B. Giving Terumah involved several mitzvahs: Positive Mitzvah #126 (to give terumah), Negative Mitzvah #133 (A non-kohen may not eat terumah), Negative Mitzvah #134 (the kohen’s Jewish servants may not eat terumah), Negative Mitzvah #135 (an uncircumcised kohen may not eat terumah), and Negative Mitzvah #136 (a ritually impure kohen may not eat terumah).

C. According to biblical law, Terumah consisted of several agricultural products: wheat, wine, and oil. The rabbis decreed that terumah be separated from all other fruits and vegetables as well.

How would I give Terumah?

1. A Two Percent Cut

According to Halachah, terumah consisted of approximately one-fiftieth of one’s raw, unreserved produce—or two percent. Setting that amount aside would be your first step.

2. Specially Reserved

Once designated, terumah could not be used for anything else. Accidental consumption by a non-kohen required restitution both physical and spiritual, as terumah provisions were sacred and off-limits to any non-kohen.

3. Hand it Over

Completing the mitzvah of terumah entailed simply transferring the designated terumah to your friendly neighborhood kohen. (If none were available, you could always shlep the stuff up to the Temple, where there were tons of kohens.) When no Temple is standing in Jerusalem, terumah is only separated in Israel. However, terumah requires a ritually pure kohen -- which today, due to the absence of the ashes of the Red Heifer, does not exist. Therefore, today's terumah consists of a minimal part of the crops which is separated and then discarded.

TAGS: Terumah

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RELATED CATEGORIES

Jewish Identity » Kohains and Levites » The Holy Tribe

Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Halachah
Jewish Law. All halachah which is applicable today is found in the Code of Jewish Law.
Jerusalem
Established by King David to be the eternal capital of Israel. Both Temples were built there, and the third Temple will be situated there when the Messiah comes.
Red Heifer
A cow that was completely red. This cow was burned together with several ingredients, and its ash, mixed with water, was sprayed upon certain impure people in order to purify them.
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
Terumah
The tithe given to the priest (descendant of Aaron) from certain crops. The tithe was approximately 2% of the harvest.