Terumot, Chapter Three, Mishnah Seven
In yesterdays mishnah we learned that one must first separate first-fruits (bikkurim) from ones produce and only afterwards separate terumah, then first tithe and finally second tithe. Todays mishnah provides the scriptural support for this order.
1) From where do we derive that first-fruits must precede terumah, seeing that this one is called terumah and the first and the other is [also] called terumah and the first?
2) Rather first-fruits take precedence since they are the first fruits of all produce.
3) And terumah comes before the first tithe also because it is called first.
4) And first tithe [precedes second tithe,] because it includes that which is called first.
Section one: First fruits are called terumah, at least according to rabbinic interpretation, in Deuteronomy 12:6, which states, And there you are to bring your burnt offerings and other sacrifices, your tithes and contributions (terumah), your votive and freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and flocks. The terumah referred to in this verse is first fruits, according to the rabbis. The rabbis interpreted the verse this way because regular terumah does not need to be taken to the Temple. First fruits are called first in Exodus 23:19, The choice first fruits of your soil you shall bring to the house of the LORD your God.
Terumah is called as terumah in Numbers 18:29 and it is called first in Numbers 18:12.
Since both terumah and first fruits are referred to with the same terms, why does one have to separate first fruits before terumah?
Section two: The answer is that first fruits are designated while the fruit is still attached to the ground, and hence they are separated first.
Section three: Terumah is removed from produce before first tithe because Numbers 18:12 calls terumah first.
Section four: First tithe, the tithe given to the Levites, is removed from produce before second tithe because first tithe includes terumah in it. This refers to the terumah that the Levite takes from his tithe and gives to the priest. We should note that first tithe is not called first tithe by the Torah. The name first tithe is given to it by the rabbis because it is removed first.