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A Kohen Of Choice
‘A Deaf-Mute, A Mentally Challenged Person, A Minor…’
(Yevamos 99b)

 

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The Gemara quotes a baraisa which lists 10 different types of kohanim to whom it is improper to publicly give terumah (it may be sent to their home). Tosafot explain that we fear these kohanim will not properly guard the terumah from ritual defilement. If they are in the care of a responsible guardian, terumah may be sent to their home.

A Minor’s Ability To Acquire

Many commentators question why the baraisa permits giving terumah to a kohen who is a minor since the Gemara (Gittin 59a) states that a minor is not capable of legally acquiring anything. The Torah (Deuteronomy 18:4) commands: “You shall give [a kohen] the first of your grain.” Presumably, one cannot fulfill the mitzvah of giving the terumah in one’s possession to a kohen if one gives it to a kohen who is unable to acquire it.

 
Competency

The PriChadash (Mayyim Chayyim Responsum 4) points out that although a minor lacks the capacity to acquire an item on his own, he is capable of acquiring legal possession of an item which a competent person transfers into his possession (“da’as acheres, makneh lo see Tosafot, Sanhedrin 68b s.v.“Katan ein atah tzarich…”). The PriChadash, citing Gittin 65a, adds, however, that a minor cannot acquire possession of terumah unless he is old enough to perceive the difference between a pebble and a nut, i.e., he is mature enough to reject a pebble and save a nut.

Recovering A Debt Or Wages

The KetzosHaChoshen (243:4) maintains that since an Israelite does not legally own terumah, the argument of da’as acheres is not applicable. He argues that the reason we may give terumah to a minor kohen is because terumah is classified as wages in exchange for services performed in the Beis Hamikdash (as the Torah states, “…for it is a wage in exchange for your service” [Bamidbar 18:31]). He postulates that a minor is capable of acquiring ownership of something owed to him as wages or as repayment of a debt.

Obligations And Privilege

The Nesivos (ad loc. 243:8) points out that kohanim who are minors are not permitted to serve in the Beis Hamikdash. Consequently, he finds difficulty with the KetzosHaChoshen’s explanation. Why, then, may we give terumah to a minor kohen?

The Nesivos explains that the verse command, “You shall give him,” does not teach us that an Israelite must give his terumah to a kohen and ensure that it legally enters his possession. Rather, the terumah collectively belongs to all kohanim (including minors) even before the Israelite gives it to them. The verse “You shall give him” merely teaches that the Israelite has the privilege of selecting which kohen he wishes to give to give his terumah to; a kohen may not seize it.

Consequently, an Israelite is permitted to give his terumah to a kohen who is a minor even if the minor cannot legally gain possession of it. (Note: According to the Ketzos and Nesivos, terumah may be given even to an infant kohen.)

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RABBI YAAKOV KLASS, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com. RABBI GERSHON TANNENBAUM, rav of Congregation Bnai Israel of Linden Heights, Boro Park, Brooklyn, is the Director of Igud HaRabbanim – The Rabbinical Alliance of America.