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



The baraitha lists ten different types of individuals, who are Kohanim, to whom it is improper for an Israelite to publicly give a share of terumah; nevertheless it may be sent to their home. [Tosafot explain that there is a concern that these Kohanim will not properly guard the terumah from contact with ritual defilement. The baraitha permits delivering the terumah to the home of a deaf-mute, a mentally challenged person or a minor, etc. only in the event they are in the care of a responsible guardian (apotropos).


A Minor’s Ability To Acquire

The commentators question why the baraitha permits giving terumah to a Kohen who is a minor since the Gemara (Gittin 59a) says that a minor is not capable of effecting a formal kinyan, a legal acquisition. The Torah (Deuteronomy 18:4) states regarding the Kohen, “You shall give him the first of your grain… [terumah].” Presumably, by giving terumah to a Kohen who is unable to formally acquire it, one does not fulfill the mitzvah of giving terumah.



The Pri Chadash (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 that a competent person transfers into his possession (Da’as acheres, makneh lo – see Tosafot, Sanhedrin 68b s.v. Katan ein atah tzarich…). The Pri Chadash, citing Gittin 65a, adds that the minor cannot acquire possession of the terumah unless he is old enough to perceive the difference between a pebble and a nut, i.e., he understands enough to reject a pebble and save a nut.

The Ketzos HaChoshen (243:sk4) maintains that since the Israelite does not legally own the terumah, the argument of da’as acheres is not applicable.


Recovering A Debt Or Wages

The Ketzos HaChoshen explains that giving terumah to a Kohen is classified as wages in exchange for the service they perform in the Beis HaMikdash [as the verse states (Bamidbar 18:31), “…for it is a wage in exchange for your service…”]. He postulates that a minor is capable of acquiring ownership of something owed to him as wages or as repayment of a debt (even if it is not conveyed to him via a competent person).


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 and consequently he finds difficulty with Ketzos HaChoshen’s premise that terumah is given to them as wages.

The Nesivos explains that the verse (Deuteronomy 18:4, “You shall give him…” does not teach that the Israelite is obligated to give his terumah to the Kohen and ensure that it legally enters the Kohen’s possession. Rather, the terumah collectively belongs to all the Kohanim (including minors) even before the Israelite gives it to them. The verse “You shall give him” teaches that the Israelite has the privilege of selecting a Kohen to whom to give his terumah, but that the Kohen may not seize the terumah.

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, since the verse “You shall give him” is not an obligation to convey the terumah to the Kohen but rather a privilege to give it to a Kohen of his choice. [According to the Ketzos and Nesivos, terumah may be given even to a Kohen who is an infant, even though he is below the minimum age of comprehension and is unable to discern the difference between a pebble and a nut.]


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Rabbi Yaakov Klass is Rav of K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush; Torah Editor of The Jewish Press; and Presidium Chairman, Rabbinical Alliance of America/Igud HaRabbonim.