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Splitting Grains?
“Mixed Untithed Produce”
(Gittin 47b)

 

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Produce grown by a Jewish farmer in Eretz Yisrael is considered “tevel,” from which tithes must be separated. Produce grown by a gentile farmer is “chullin,” which is exempt from tithes. The Gemara cites the opinion of Rebbe, who holds that produce grown jointly by a Jew and a gentile, is considered to be tevel and chullin mixed together. Even after the partners divide the harvest, we do not presume that the tevel half automatically goes to the Jewish farmer, and the chullin half goes to the gentile. Rather, both partners receive a mixture of tevel and chullin.

Rashi and Tosafos debate the exact nature of this mixture. According to Rashi (s.v. Tevel), each grain of wheat is owned by the partnership – and is thus half tevel/half chullin. According to Tosafos, half of the harvest is Jewish-owned tevel, and half of the harvest is gentile-owned chullin. However, it is impossible to differentiate which half belongs to the Jew, and which half belongs to the gentile. The manner in which they then divide the harvest does not act retroactively to prove that the half the Jew claims was his all along, and the half the gentile claims was his all along. Therefore, any sample of the produce contains an indiscernible mixture of tevel and chullin grains.

 

Tithing a Mixture

This debate has practical ramifications regarding what should be done with such a harvest. According to Tosafos, tithes cannot be separated from the harvest itself, since it is unknown which grains are tevel and which are chullin. One might inadvertently separate chullin grains to tithe the tevel grains (whereas tevel tithes must be separated to exempt tevel produce). According to Rashi, since each grain is half tevel and half chullin, any grains separated from the mixture can serve as tithes for the rest.

 

Dissolving a Partnership

According to Torah law, one must separate tithes from the produce grown in his own field. Only by Rabbinic law, must one separate tithes from produce purchased from others (Bava Metzia 88a). The Rambam (Mechira 13:12; Ma’aser 6:10) rules that when partners dissolve their partnership and divide their assets, it is considered as if each had purchased his partner’s shares in the assets he claims, in return for his own shares in the assets that his partner claims.

HaRav Chaim Kanievsky, zt”l, (Derech Emuna, Terumos, Shaar HaTzion s.k. 351) raises an interesting question based on this Rambam. If two Jewish farmers are partners in a harvest and then divide the yield, how can they separate tithes? According to Tosafos, it is impossible to differentiate which grains belonged to one partner, and which grains belonged to the other. Once they trade, each one sells his partner his portion in the other one’s half. As such, it is impossible to differentiate which grains are one’s own (and obligated in tithes by Torah law) and which are purchased (and obligated only by Torah law). One cannot exempt tevel that is obligated by Torah law, by separating as tithes that which is obligated only by Rabbinic law.

According to Rashi, this poses no problem. Each grain is partially one’s own, and partially purchased. Therefore, one grain can be separated as tithes for the other. In order to fulfill Tosafos’ opinion, tithes should be separated before the crop is divided, when they are both considered joint owners of the entire yield, and there is no issue of being a purchaser, who is obligated only by Rabbinic law.

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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.