For the owners of the award-winning Psagot Winery north of Yerushalayim, terumot and masrot mean that more than 2,000 liters of this year’s production will not be for sale. In fact, this quantity will be thrown out.
Terumot and masrot are tithes that apply to produce grown in biblical Eretz Yisrael. They are discussed in the OU Kosher Israel Guide (page 12). Download the Guide.
These tithes are described in detail in Parshat Korah (BaMidbar 18):
. . . When you take of the children of Yisrael the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall offer up from it a gift for the Lord, even a tenth part of the tithe. And this your gift shall be reckoned to you, as though it were the corn of the threshing floor and as the fullness of the winepress. Thus you also shall offer a gift to the Lord of all your tithes which you receive of the children of Israel and you shall give of it the Lord’s gift to Aharon the priest. Out of all that is given to you, you shall set aside all that is due as a gift to the Lord of all the best thereof, even the hallowed part of it.
During the time of the Beit HaMikdash, Teruma Gedola and Terumat Ma’aser on all produce were given to the Cohanim (high priests). Now that there is no Temple and there is no taharah (ritual purity), the process is complicated because the Bible states clearly what should be done.
The problem is partially solved because fruits and vegetables that are not ritually pure can be given to animals belonging to Cohanim.
Maser Rishon is for the Levi – and is still given to a Levi. Maser Rishon is 10 percent of the total wine production. Terumat Maser is 10 percent of the Levi’s 10 percent, or 1 percent of the winery’s total production. For Psagot Winery this year, this total is 2,200 liters.
Since terumot and masrot are only taken on wine once a year, not every mashgiach or rabbi is necessarily familiar with the relevant halachot. “As a result it is our responsibility to be sure terumot and masrot on wine are taken properly,” says Rabbi Y. Dov Krakowski, Rav Hamachshir for OU Kashrut Israel.
“We are sensitive to the fact that wine producers are forfeiting more than 1 percent of their total production so we give them the respect they deserve for actually doing this,” Rabbi Krakowski says.
He recently visited the Psagot Winery to certify that terumot and masrot were taken in accordance with OU policy.
Before Rabbi Krakowski’s arrival two vats of wine were prepared. They contained more than 2,200 liters of Psagot’s total production of about 200,000 liters.
Left: Upon arrival Rabbi Krakowski checks with a stick to make sure the entire content of the vat is liquid. In other words, that there is no grape residue.
Right: Ya’acov Berg, CEO of Psagot Winery (left) with Rabbi Krakowski. Rabbi Krakowski has checked that 1 glass of wine has been removed from every stack of 12 barrels. This represents Termua Gedola. In the time of the Beit HaMikdash, Teruma Gedola was given to Cohanim.
Left: : Two large vats contain the 2,200 liters of wine that will be disposed of. In order to facilitate pumping out the wine, he tilts the smaller vat.
Right: Berg then makes certain that the wine is actually disposed of.
Once all the wine has been disposed of, Rabbi Krakowski makes Pidyon (Redemption of) Maser Sheni. This is done with a coin such as the one he is holding. It is done in the first, third, fourth and fifth years of the seven-year shmitta cycle. In the second and sixth years, Maser Ani (for the poor) is taken instead.