Demai, Chapter 4, Mishnah 1

Demai, Chapter Four, Mishnah One



This mishnah is about trusting a person who says that they tithed their produce, even though that person is not a “chaver” a person who is generally trustworthy when it comes to tithes.  As we shall see, the rabbis were lenient if by not trusting the person one could not eat the produce. They were able to be lenient because demai is only prohibited “derabanan”—it is only doubtfully forbidden, and not certainly forbidden.


Mishnah One

1)      One who buys produce from someone who is not trustworthy in respect of tithes, and he forgot to tithe it, and he asked [the seller] on Shabbat [if they were tithed], he may eat based on his word. 

a)      At nightfall of Shabbat, he may not eat of it unless he had first tithed it.

2)      If he could not find the seller, and another person who was not trustworthy in respect of tithes said to him “they are tithed,” he may eat of it at his word. 

a)      At nightfall of Shabbat, he may not eat of it unless he had first tithed it.

3)      Terumat maaser of demai which had become mixed up again [with the produce] from which it had been taken: Rabbi Shimon Shezuri says: even on a week day he may ask the seller and eat based on his word.



Section one:  On Shabbat it is forbidden to tithe produce. There is no option, therefore, to tithe the demai produce and thereby eat it.  Since he can’t tithe it, the rabbis allowed the buyer of the produce to trust the seller who says that he did tithe the produce.  The reason why they were lenient in this case is that the honor and joy accorded to Shabbat trumps the fear that the produce might really be untithed. 

However, after Shabbat, at nightfall, this special permission ends, and before he eats any more of this produce, he must first tithe it. 

Section two:  In this section we learn that the same rules apply if someone besides the original seller informs him that the produce has been properly tithed. We might have thought that the buyer can only trust the seller, who would know best whether the produce had been tithed. Here we learn that if he can’t find the seller and someone else claims to know that it had been tithed, he too may be trusted. 

Section three: Terumat maaser is the terumah taken from the tithe and given to the priest. One must separate terumat maaser from demai.  Usually the laws of terumat maaser are quite strict because terumah can only be eaten by a priest and non-priest who eats it is punished by “death at the hands of heaven”.  If terumah is mixed up with regular produce all of the produce can be eaten only by priests.  However, in the case in this section the law can be lenient. If one separated terumat maaser from demai produce and then the terumat maaser fell back into the demai he may ask the seller if he had tithed the produce, even on a weekday (when there is no concern for the honor of Shabbat).  If the seller says that he had tithed it, the buyer may eat the produce under the assumption that it wasn’t necessary to take out the terumat maaser in the first place.