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Is it OK to snack on fruits or vegetables growing in a hothouse without taking teruma and ma’aser?

Question

 My question is as follows: Does the rule of “seeing the inside of the house,” apply to crops grown in a hothouse, meaning that it would it be forbidden to snack on fruit or vegetables in the hothouse without first taking teruma and ma’aser?

During the shemita year, we heard that many poskim view hothouses as a house for halachic purposes.

Answer

Rabbi Dov Landau

The Mishna states (Ma’aserot 3:7):

Cone-shaped huts and watchtowers … exempt [produce from tithing when eating individual fruits and vegetables, and are not considered a “house” in which such would be prohibited]. A Ginnosar hut … exempts. The potter’s hut … the outer part exempts. Rabbi Yossi says: anything that is not both a sunny season dwelling and a rainy season dwelling exempts. As for a sukkah used on the Sukkot holiday: Rabbi Yehudah requires [tithing], but the Sages exempt.

In light of this Mishna, the Rambam rules (Ma’aser 4:4):

Huts set up among vineyards and gardens in the summer, even if they are inhabited throughout the summer, do not determine tithes. So too, the external part of the potter’s hut and a sukkah during the Sukkot holiday do not determine [tithes], since they are not permanent dwellings.

We see from here that only a permanent structure is considered a house for determining ma’aser.

The Gemara (Bava Metzia 87b-88a) states:

Rabi Yannai states: The owner of untithed produce is not obligated in the precept of tithing until it sees the front of the house … “ (“and not through a rooftop or gated enclosure,” Rashi) And Rabbi Yoḥanan says: Even [bringing produce into the]  courtyard determines [that the production process of the produce has been completed and that the produce is therefore subject to tithes], as it is stated [in the confession of the tithes]: “and they shall eat in your gates and be satisfied” (Deut. 26:12). … And [according to] Rabbi Yannai also, isn’t it written: “In your gates”?  That is necessary [to teach] that [the production process is considered complete only] when one brings [the produce into his house] through the gate, but not through rooftops and enclosures, in which [case the produce is] not [subject to tithes].

The Rambam rules in this manner (Ma’aser 4:7):

Just like [bringing produce into] the house determines tithes, the yard determines tithes. And when [produce] is brought into the yard through the gate, this determines [that it is subject to tithes], even if it was not brought into the house.

From here we see that in order for produce to be subject to ma’aser, the produce must be brought through the entrance of the house or yard. In the case at hand, the produce is situated in the hothouse from the beginning of its growth, and has not gone through a gate or entrance, so it would be permissible to snack on individual fruits or vegetables without first taking ma’aser.

And in practice, since hothouses are not fit to dwell in whatsoever (not even temporarily); and as long as the crop production process has not been completed, it seems clear that it is permissible to snack on individual crops until they are subject to ma’aser.