Introduction to Terumot


Terumah (sometimes translated as “heave offering”—a name I despise, for obvious reasons) is the name of the agricultural gift given to the priest.  In addition, when a Levite receives his tithe he must afterwards give terumah from his tithe to the priest. For ease of reference, below are the biblical verses that are relevant to the issue of terumah:


There are certain rules and principles that we should go over before we begin to learn the mishnayot of the tractate.


1) Terumah cannot be eaten by non-priests and if they do, they are liable for death at the hands of heaven. In other words, this is a serious one—so be careful! This also means that someone who eats produce from which terumah has not been removed is subject to this penalty.

2) The Torah does not prescribe how much terumah a person has to separate from his produce. The recommended amount is 2 per cent, but other percentages are possible.

3) If terumah becomes mixed in with hullin, non-sacred produce, the entire mixture becomes doubtful terumah. This mixture cannot be eaten by a non-priest but it can be sold to the priest. The price should take into account that some of the mixture is actually terumah and does belong to the priest without him having to pay for it. Thus if one seah of terumah wheat falls into fifty seahs of hullin wheat and a seah of terumah sells for one dinar (terumah will be cheaper because it has less of a market) then he can sell it to the priest for fifty dinar, giving him the one seah for free.

4) However, if there are 100 parts of hullin for every part of terumah, then he can just take out the amount of terumah that fell into the mixture and the rest he can treat as hullin, non-sacred produce, which means he can eat it or sell it to anyone he wishes.

5) The Torah calls terumah “kadosh”, holy. Therefore it must be preserved in purity and one cannot cause it to become ruined.

6) The Torah specifies that terumah be taken from grain, wine and oil. However, the sages expanded this to include other produce. Anything that is edible, can be stored and grows from the ground is subject to the laws of tithes and terumah. 


There are other rules that we will learn throughout this tractate. I hope you enjoy learning the tractate. Good luck!