Tuesday, August 05, 2008


The Gemora (Daf Yomi: Gittin 25a) cites a braisa: If someone buys wine from amongst the Cutheans (converts to Judaism after an outbreak of wild animals in Eretz Yisroel and their conversion was debated as to its validity; they observed some commandments, but not others), he should say the following: “The two lugin (a measurement) that I will eventually separate (from the one hundred lugin in total) are terumah (tithe for the kohen), ten are ma’aser rishon (tithe for the Levite), nine are for ma’aser sheini (to be eaten in Yerushalyim),” and after redeeming the ma’aser sheini (with coins), he can drink right away. These are the words of Rabbi Meir. Rabbi Yehudah, Rabbi Yosi, and Rabbi Shimon forbid this leniency.

Tosfos explains that although the Cutheans observed the mitzvos that are expressly written in the Torah, and therefore, it would be safe to assume that they already separated terumah and ma’aser, nevertheless, they are only trusted with respect to the food which they eat. However, the produce which they sell to others, they are not trusted, for the Cutheans were not particular about the transgression of lifnei iver (placing a stumbling block in front of a blind man). Tosfos in Sukkah (23b) explains further that understood that verse only in its literal sense. They maintained that it is forbidden to place a stumbling block in front of a blind man, but there is no prohibition against causing someone else to sin.

However, Tosfos asks: Would selling the produce without separating terumah and ma’aser not be regarded as stealing from the Kohanim? Stealing is a prohibition that they seemingly did observe!

Tosfos answers that since terumah and ma’aser is considered money that has no claimants (for which Kohen is regarded as its owner), it was not considered stealing in their eyes.

Other Rishonim add that, in truth, it is not regarded as stealing. Stealing is only when one takes something away from an owner who can make a claim to it. Since the Kohanim cannot forcibly take the produce from him, it is not considered stealing.