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Separating terumot and ma'aserot from heter mechirah produce

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We went on a trip to Kadesh Barnea (in the Aravah, near the Egyptian border) and bought cherry tomatoes. I know the area is considered olei Mitzrayim. The tomatoes were certified by the rabbinate and heter mechirah was performed. The tour guide said that terumot and ma'aserot were taken from the produce. Is it necessary to separate terumot and ma'aserot from produce that grew during the shemitah year under heter mechirah?


Rabbi Moshe Bloom

In short: Heter mechirah produce harvested by Jews does require separating terumot and ma'aserot (without a blessing), even in olei Mitzrayim territory.

Detailed answer:

Shemitah prohibitions do not apply to land sold to a non-Jew. As for terumot and ma'aserot all (non-shemitah) years, in principle there is no obligation to separate terumot and ma'aserot from produce growing on a non-Jew's land. However, if Jews are the ones harvesting the produce, it is necessary to separate terumot and ma'aserot.  This is the halachic concept of גמר מלאכה ע"י יהודי, that final act was performed by a Jew. For this reason, for fields sold through heter mechirah, if Jews perform the harvest, terumot and ma'aserot need to be separated. However, if Thai (or other non-Jewish) workers are the ones harvesting (which is the case in most fields), terumot and ma'aserot need not be taken. See chapter 10 of The Consumer's Guide for Shemitah, pp. 64–66.
In practice, all years the Chief Rabbinate requires separating terumot and ma'aserot in olei Mitzrayim areas. To the best of my knowledge, the Rabbinate requires it also during the shemitah year when harvest is performed by Jews.

Note that this discussion is relevant to places sold through heter mechirah where there is tourist harvesting (each person picks their own produce). In this case, make sure you separate terumot and ma'aserot also during the shemitah year.