By: Emil G. Hirsch
Present made to the Tabernacle or Temple for the use of the priests. (from , "to lift," that is, to set apart for a special purpose from a larger quantity, either voluntarily or under compulsion) originally connoted any tax paid or gift made to a superior officer. This meaning is still apparent in the phrase (Prov. xxxiv. 4); but as the taxes levied and the contributions expected in Israel were mostly for the maintenance of the Temple and the priesthood, the word acquired technically the meaning of an obligatory or voluntary contribution for the uses of the sanctuary or of the sacred persons therewith connected. The transition from the general to the specific sense is noticeable in the use of the term in Ezek. xlv. 13 (comp. xx. 40, xlviii. 12; Mal. iii. 8). Where voluntary contributions are intended, the English versions prefer the rendering "offering," "oblation," or "tribute." Of such "offerings" made by the people those of precious metals and of material for the Tabernacle (Ex. xxv. 2-3; xxxv. 5; xxxvi. 3, 6) are mentioned. The gifts of the Persian court carried by Ezra to Jerusalem are also designated by "[heave-] offering" (Ezra viii. 25), as are the fine bullocks and other sacrificial animals given for special occasions by the king and the princes (II Chron. xxx. 24, xxxv. 7-9). Even that part of the "devoted" prey taken from the Midianites which was distributed among the priests and Levites is called a "[heave-] offering" (Num. xxxi.).Various Classes.
The following comprise the prescribed heave-offerings: (1) The tribute of half a shekel (Ex. xxx. 13, xxxviii. 26). This was levied from all male Israelites that were of age (comp. Matt. xvii. 24). Neh. x. 32-33 fixes the amount at one-third of a shekel. This discrepancy has given rise to the theory that Ex. xxx. 13 is a later addition to P (see Schürer, "Gesch." ii. 258, Leipsic, 1898). (2) Ḥallah (see Num. xv. 19-21; Neh. x. 38). (3) "Ḥallot," the cakes prepared for the sacrifice of peace-offerings. Of these one shall be a "heave-offering," and shall belong to the priest that sprinkles the blood of the peace-offerings (Lev. vii. 14). A similar share of the cakes and the wafers forming part of the Nazarite's offering appertained to the priest (Num. vi. 19, 20). (4) The heave-offering of the tithe ("terumat ha-ma'aser"): the tithe of their tithe which the Levites surrendered to the priests (Num. xviii. 26). There is no mention of this in Deuteronomy. The critical school accounts for this silence by the fact that in Deuteronomy priests and Levites are not distinguished. (5) The heave-offering for the priests ("terumat ha-kohanim"): taxes paid to the priests from the yield of the fields, olive-groves, and vine-yards (Neh. xiii. 5; Num. xviii. 11-13; Deut. xviii. 4 [from wool also]).
Tithe and heave-offering are occasionally mentioned together (II Chron. xxxi. 10-14; Neh. x. 39; Mal. iii. 5). In such cases that portion of the agricultural produce reserved for the priest is so designated, and this was permitted to be eaten only by priests in a state of Levitical purity, or by members of their family (see Lev. xxii. 12; Maimonides, "Yad," Terumot, vii.).Rabbinic Distinctions.
The Mishnah (Seder Berakot) includes a tract entitled "Terumot," dealing with the laws regulating the heave-offerings. On the same subject there are the corresponding Tosefta and the Gemara of the Jerusalem Talmud. According to these, only the proprietor was empowered to "set apart" the "terumah." This excluded minors, deafmutes, those not in full possession of their mental faculties, and non-Jews, the last-named even if deputed to act for the proprietor (i. 1). Olives could not be "set apart" for oil, nor grapes for wine. The "corners of the field" ("pe'ah"), that which had been "forgotten" ("shikḥah"), and the "gleanings" ("leḳeṭ"), as well as that which had no owner ("hefḳer"), were exempt (i. 5). The same exemption applied to the first tithe ("ma'aser rishon"), from which the heave-offering had already been "lifted" (therefore not "terumah gedolah"; see below), and to the second tithe, the holy part that had been redeemed ("heḳdesh she-nifdah"). Nor was it lawful to substitute "free" for "bound" fruit (i.e., fruit subject to the tithe); nor "fixed" for "movable" produce, nor new for old or old for new; nor fruits grown in Palestine for those grown outside (i. 5). Regulations are given to prevent the act of setting apart by persons not conducting themselves decently, or by persons in improper condition (i. 6).
The heave-offering must not be counted by measure, nor by weight, nor by number, but must be set apart by estimate from a given quantity. The different kinds of cereals and fruit must be kept distinct; one can not serve in lieu of another (ii. 4). In places where a priest resided the heave-offering was to be taken from the best; where no priest was at hand, such produce as would not perish was assigned (ii. 4). Whole small onions should be taken, and not the halves of big onions (ii. 5). "Kil'ayim" (incompatible kinds of plants) could not be substituted, even where one was better than the other. Where the mixing of plants was not to be apprehended the better could be used for the worse, but never the reverse (ii. 6). Mistakes of assignment (for instance, wine for vinegar) were to be rectified (iii. 1). The proportion fixed is, for a generous man ("a man with a good eye"), 1/40 (1/30 according to Bet Shammai); for a fair man, 1/50; for a stingy man, 1/50. Whoever, without right, inadvertently partook of the terumah was required to pay the full value and one-fifth more (vi. 1-3). Intentional violation was one of the great crimes (Ker. i. 1).The "terumah gedolah" (the great heave-offering; see "Yad," Terumah, iii. 1), by which name the taxes based on Deut. xviii. 15 et seq. are known (Ḥul. 137a), had precedence of any other tax, the "bikkurim" (First-Fruits) alone excepted (iii. 6). For the terumah not only were the seven "minim" (plants of Palestine) chosen, but also onions, cucumbers, melons (ii. 5, iii. 1), "tiltan" (, Trigonella Fœnum-grœcum, fenugreek [curly plant]; x. 5), and various other vegetables. Extensive rules are given which specify the conditions under which cereals and plants that had been set apart retain or lose their sacred character, including cases of possible admixture with non-sanctified fruit. These rules also indicate the disposition to be made of terumah so profaned.
- Maimonides, Yad, Terumot; the various commentaries to the Mishnah.