How to Take Teruma and Maaser From Israeli Produce

In the Diaspora, fresh produce doesn’t usually require a kosher certification (a hechsher) and may be bought from any store. The exception to this rule is produce grown in the land of Israel.

Due to the sanctity of the Land of Israel, there are many mitzvahs that apply specifically to produce grown there. Therefore, before consuming any produce from the Land of Israel, one must make sure that these mitzvahs were adhered to. This includes sheviit (Shemitah), terumot, maaserot and bikurim.

In Israel itself, it is common for produce to bear a kosher certification (many times the certification is given for the grocery store as a whole), and when purchasing certified produce, or produce from a certified establishment, nothing needs be done. Outside of Israel, however, most Israeli produce doesn’t usually bear a kosher certification. For this reason, many who would ordinarily purchase kosher items are careful not to buy any produce from Israel unless they bear a reliable kosher certification.

Nevertheless, in the event that one purchased produce grown in Israel without kosher certification, there are ways that one can fulfill these mitzvahs and render the food acceptable to eat (at least for some produce).

Note that at times we may not be able to rectify the produce (as explained below). In that case, we should avoid purchasing it (and if we did buy it, we may need to discard it).

Is it Orlah?

It is forbidden to eat the fruit of a tree for the first three years after it is planted. This is known as the prohibition of orlah (see below regarding the fourth year). This law applies to trees grown in and out of Israel.

Outside of Israel, we are only forbidden to eat fruit that we are certain is orlah. Thus, we may buy Diaspora-grown fruit in the grocery without worrying that it may have grown during the orlah period.

However, in the case of fruit from Israel, even if there is a possibility that something is orlah, it is forbidden to be eaten (there is no way to rectify the produce and it would need to be discarded).

Orlah, however, only applies to fruits, not vegetables (for the halachic definition of fruit, see On the Halachic Definition of a Tree).

Additionally, due to the way different types of fruits grow and/or are brought to the market, some fruits do not generally have an issue of orlah. For example, oranges and tangerines do not usually have an issue, while grapes, plums, blueberries and star fruits do.1

(It is difficult to provide a working list, since growing methods and market practices often change. If you have a question whether a particular type of fruit has an issue of orlah, consult a knowledgeable rabbi.)

Is it Shemitah?

The Torah mandates that every seventh year is observed as a Sabbatical, when the fields in the Land of Israel are to be left fallow and all interpersonal loans are forgiven. (5782, which began in the fall of 2021, is a Shemitah year).

On the one hand, the laws of terumah and maaser (tithes) don’t apply to produce from a Shemitah year. On the other hand, produce from a Shemitah year raises its own set of potential issues, and it is generally advisable not to purchase produce grown in Israel during Shemitah.

For more about observing Shemitah, see How Is Shemitah Observed in the Diaspora?

In the event that your produce is not orlah and was not grown during Shemitah, we can then use the following procedure to remove the issue of terumah and maaser (tithes):

Separating Terumah and Maaser

Israeli produce that has not been tithed is known as tevel and may not be consumed. In Temple times, these tithes were given to the Kohanim, Levites and the poor, or eaten by the owner (depending on the tithe). Nowadays, although these tithes aren’t given to them, the halachah of separating the tithes before consuming the produce is still in effect.

Ordinarily, one would recite a blessing before separating these tithes. However, when purchasing Israeli produce from a store, there is a remote possibility that someone along the supply chain already separated these tithes, so we separate without a blessing.

Before we enumerate the steps of separating the terumah and maaser, let’s define some key terms:

Terumah Gedolah: In Temple times, this separation was given to the Kohen. Nowadays, all are considered to be ritually impure and the Kohen may not consume terumah. Therefore, we only designate a very minimal amount as terumah.2

Maaser Rishon: The word maaser means “tenth.” A tenth of the remaining produce is designated as maaser rishon (“first tithe”). In Temple times, this tithe was given to a Levite but could then be consumed by anyone. Nowadays, although we still need to verbally designate it as maaser, all can eat it once this is done.

Terumat Maaser: A tenth of the maaser rishon (1% of the total produce) is separated as terumat maaser. It has the same status as terumah gedolah, and it belongs to the Kohen.

Maaser Sheni or Maaser Ani: 10% of the remaining produce (which is 9% of the total produce) is designated, depending on the year,3 as either maaser sheni or maaser ani.

Maaser Sheni: In Temple times, maaser sheni (“second tithe”) had to either be eaten in Jerusalem or redeemed with money, which would be used to purchase food that would then be consumed in Jerusalem.

Nowadays, it needs to be redeemed through a coin worth at least a perutah (see definition below) that is valid currency in the country where the redemption is taking place.

Maaser Ani: This is the poor man's tithe, which was given to the poor but could be consumed by anyone. Although we still need to verbally designate the maaser ani nowadays, all can eat it once this is done.

Neta Revai: In connection to the laws of orlah mentioned above, neta revai refers to the fruit of a tree’s fourth year. These fruits could only be eaten in Jerusalem. Nowadays, neta revai is redeemed before being consumed, similar to the maaser sheni.

We can now turn to the actual procedure.

Procedure for Separating Terumah and Maaser

1. Ascertain the wholesale4 value of the produce. A coin cannot initially be designated as maaser sheni unless a perutah5 (or according to some, four perutot’s worth) of holiness is redeemed onto the coin. One should consult a rabbi if the total produce is valued at less than 44.46 times the worth of a perutah (following the stricter opinion; according to the more lenient opinion, it would be the value of 11 perutot7). Practically, the value of a perutah fluctuates, so if the total value is close to a dollar or less (see footnote for calculation8), one should consult a rabbi.

2. Take all produce of the same species and same batch (e.g., same store) and place it in front of you (each species and batch needs to be done separately).

3. Slightly dampen and then touch the fruit so that it becomes ritually impure, making it permissible to discard the terumah and maaser later.9

4. In the unlikely scenario that you are 100% sure that no tithes were separated, recite the following blessing:10

ברוך אתה ה’ אלקינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו להפריש תרומות ומעשרות

Bah-rookh ah-tah ah-doh-noi eh-loh-hay-noo meh-lekh hah-oh-lahm ah-sher ki-deh-shah-noo beh-mitz-voh-tahv veh-tzee-vah-noo leh-hahf-reesh teh-roo-moht oo-mah-ah-seh-roht

5. Separate a bit more than 1% of the total produce (this will represent the separation of both terumah gedolah and terumat maaser).

6. Designate a coin worth at least a perutah11 for the maaser sheni. A dime should suffice (the coin must be usable as currency in the location where the redemption is taking place).

7. Recite the following text (Note: following the longer version, there is a shorter version that one may recite if it is too difficult or complicated to say the longer version. When reciting the shorter version, it is best if one has at least a general idea of what is taking place):

Full version:

The part of this separated portion on its northernmost12 side, which is in excess of 1% of all the produce, should be terumah gedolah.

The remaining part of the separated portion, which is 1% of all the produce, plus an additional 9% of the total amount of produce on the northern side of the remaining produce,13 shall be maaser rishon.

The separated portion, which is 1% of all the food that I have previously made maaser rishon, should now become terumat maaser.”

If it is necessary to separate maaser sheni, then let 10% of the remaining produce on the southernmost side become maaser sheni. And if it is necessary to separate maaser ani, then let the 10% of the remaining produce on the southernmost side be maaser ani.”

If the 10% on the southernmost side is maaser sheni, then it should be redeemed by transferring its holiness, calculated at its value plus an additional 25%,14 to a perutah of this coin that I have in front of me.

If the produce is neta revai, it should be redeemed by transferring its holiness, calculated at its value plus 25%, to a perutah of this coin that I have in front of me.15

Short Version:

Short version for one who has difficulty reciting (or does not have) the full version:16

I want all separations of terumah and maaser and redemptions of maaser sheni and neta revai to be effected in accordance with the text as it appears on

8. The separated portion is double-wrapped and disposed of.

9. The coin must be defaced17 and disposed of (e.g., thrown into a lake, river or sewer) so that no one will accidentally find it and use it.18

10. Eat and enjoy! You just did a rare mitzvah outside the land of Israel!