Should You Buy those Jaffa Oranges in the Supermarket?
BY RABBI YOSEF ZVI RIMON
When buying fruits and vegetables abroad, is it better to buy Israeli produce or to actually avoid buying it, because terumot and ma’asrot may not have not been taken from the fruit?
Rambam writes (Hilchot Terumot 1:22) that fruits exported overseas are exempt from terumot and ma’asrot. The Ra’avad disagrees and says there is a rabbinic obligation to tithe the fruit. Other Rishonim also rule that terumot and ma’asrot must be taken from Israeli exports (e.g. Rosh, Sefer Year’im, Sefer HaChinuch, Rabbeinu Yonah).
Rambam’s position invites deeper analysis. Terumot and ma’asrot must be taken from fruit in Eretz Yisrael after the action that makes them ready for use (e.g., picking them from a tree). It seems from Rambam’s wording that there is no such obligation if the produce is being exported.
However, most Acharonim argue that simple logic dictates that if fruit already have an obligation to be tithed in Eretz Yisrael (because they are ready for use), they should retain that obligation outside of Israel too. According to them, even the Rambam would agree that there is an obligation to tithe such fruit in our generation, because the action that made them ready for use was performed in Eretz Yisrael.
The Maharsham (1:72) writes that even those with a stringent approach to tithing fruits in Eretz Yisrael would exempt the fruit from tithing if the owner originally intended to export them. This theory was also mentioned by Rav Kook (Mishpat Kohen 46), even though he himself was careful to separate terumot and ma’asrot from such fruits without a berachah. Rav Ovadia Yosef was also lenient (Yabia Omer 10:46), while the Chazon Ish (Demai 15:4), the Achiezer (Kovetz Iggrot 309) and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Ma’adanei Aretz, Terumot 1:22) all ruled that the fruits – even if they were always intended for export – must be tithed.
Most Rishonim and Acharonim hold that one should separate terumot and ma’asrot, but without a berachah. Nevertheless, the Aser Te’aser (21), Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer and Rav Ovadia Yosef all suggest that the lenient view has standing. Even those who are stringent can suffice with the Chazon Ish’s abridged wording of the separation, i.e. make a photocopy of the wording, and place a coin next to it, upon which ma’aser sheini and neta reva’i will be mecholel, redeemed (at current exchange rates, a 5 shekel coin will suffice for 50 times). Take a little more than one hundredth of the produce and say, “I hereby declare that these are terumot and ma’asrot according to the terumot and ma’asrot wording in my possession,” and then place this one hundredth in a bag and in the garbage.
The value of eating Israeli fruits
The fruits of Israel possess a unique sanctity, and so there is a special merit in eating fruits from the Land. In the words of the Bach (Orach Chayim 208:8):
“The fruits [of Eretz Yisrael] imbibe the holiness of the shechinah dwelling in the Land… and therefore it is obvious that we insert, ‘and we shall eat from its fruits and be satiated from its goodness,’ in this berachah [of al haMichyah], because by eating its fruits we are nourished by the sanctity and purity of the shechinah.”
This principle was emphasized by Rav Kook (Orot HaKodesh 3, p.295): “The food of Eretz Yisrael is innately holy and is only physical in its external appearance.”
Partaking of the fruit of Eretz Yisrael is particularly important for those who do not yet live in Israel. For when one lives in a place void of the sanctity of Eretz Yisrael, one should at least try to connect to the holiness of the Land as much as possible. Eating fruits from Israel provides some connection to this sanctity and reinforces agriculture in Israel. Observing the mitzvah of separating terumot and ma’asrot also connects a person to Eretz Yisrael. One should make the effort to buy Israeli produce and enjoy the merits of eating the fruits of Eretz Yisrael.
Ideally one should separate terumot and ma’asrot without a berachah, easily and simply as described above. Yet even those who do not take terumot and ma’asrot have a halachic basis for their lenient approach.
Rabbi Yosef Zvi Rimon is Head of Mizrachi’s Educational Advisory Board and Rabbinic Council. He serves as the Rabbi of Gush Etzion, Rosh Yeshiva of the Jerusalem College of Technology and is the Founder and Chairman of Sulamot and La’Ofek.