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Purchase Israeli Produce

Reprinted with permission of the Orthodox Union. Originally published at OU.org

Edited by Kashrut.com to reflect this year's situation on Feb. 2, 2004.

Halacha requires the tithing (separation of teruma and ma'aser) of produce grown in Israel, and untithed produce may not be consumed. In the State of Israel, various Kashrus organizations arrange for this tithing to occur. However, until recently there were no arrangements made for the tithing of produce that was exported to the United States.

A few months ago, the OU initiated discussions with Agrexco, the primary exporter of Israeli produce, to establish a system of separating terumah and ma'aser for the American marketplace. The Arab terrorists have attempted to weaken Israel by destroying its economy. The European market, Israel's main trade partner, is not as reliable as it was in the past, and opening the American market to Israeli products is especially crucial. It is of the utmost importance that the Jews of the Diaspora support the Israeli economy and purchase Israeli grown produce whenever available. It was recognized that some people might be hesitant to purchase these products because they are unfamiliar with the laws and procedures of tithing. It was agreed that over the course of the next few months, the OU would work with Agrexco to establish a system to tithe all exported produce.

In spite of these efforts, the OU has been unsuccessful in arranging for the tithing of peppers, which will now be arriving in the United States during the month of November. There are 30 warehouses where peppers are stored, and the logistics of coordinating a system of separation in these multiple locations proved too difficult for Agrexco. It is hoped that once Agrexco tests the market with respect to other produce, they will consent to a program for peppers as well.

Given the importance of supporting the Israeli economy, we encourage the public to purchase peppers and tithe the product at home. There is some concern about how this should be done, for the following reason. Some peppers may be grown in areas where tithing is not required. Such produce does not require tithing, nor can such produce be designated as the tithed portion for Israeli fruits and vegetables. The question arises, can one purchase a number of peppers in a supermarket and designate a portion of one pepper as terumah and ma'aser for the entire batch, when the possibility exists that the designated pepper may come from an area where tithing is not required, while the remaining peppers may require tithing? This is a matter of halachic dispute. Some Rabbis require that each pepper be tithed separately. On the other hand, Horav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, z"tl, and others, are of the opinion that the possibility of a mixture in the same batch is unlikely, and therefore one can tithe the entire batch without a separation from each individual pepper. In any event, when tithing peppers, one should not recite a brocha, since the possibility exists that the produce was grown outside of Israel.

How to Tithe

Following is a brief outline of the method to be followed when tithing produce:
  1. Place all of the produce in front of you.
  2. Remove slightly more than 1% of the produce. For example, if there are 100 peppers, separate one whole pepper and a small part of a second pepper.
  3. A coin, which is valid currency in the country in which the redemption is performed, is designated for redemption. At the time of this writing, one penny is sufficient. (Note: in the unusual event that the produce is worth less than 17 cents , there are special requirements for the redemption coin, known as perutah chamurah, which are beyond the scope of this article.)
  4. Teruma and ma'aser may not be separated on Shabbos and Yom Tov.
  5. It should be noted that while reciting this formula, neither the produce nor the separated portion should be moved, since the formula refers to designated locations.
  6. The following text is recited:

    Alternatively, if one has difficulty with the full text or it is not available, this simplified text may be recited:
    “All separations of Terumah and Ma'aser and redemptions of Ma''aser Sheni and Neta Revai shall be effected in accordance with the text of the Chazon Ish.”

  7. The separated produce (the part which was more than 1%), and the designated coin are wrapped and discarded.

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