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Kislev 5780 Issue no. 14

Clip: Olive Press in Benei Darom

Olive oil production at the olive press in Benei Darom.

Article: Olives and Olive Oil

Rabbi Moshe Bloom

Many Rishonim maintain that the obligation to separate terumot and ma'aserot from olives today is rabbinic, as is the general rule for terumot and ma'aserot today. Others hold that their obligation is biblical, as the verse states: "You shall also give him the first fruits of your new grain and wine and oil …" (Duet. 18:4).

Olive trees growing in Israel owned by  Jew, are obligated in terumot and ma'aserot. This obligation begins at the stage of gemar melachah—the end of the production process. When cultivated for oil, gemar melachah is oil production, and terumot and ma'aserot should be given after this stage ; when the olives are meant to be eaten, gemar melachah is pickling. If the trees are owned by a non-Jew, but the oil was processed by Jews  terumot and ma'aserot should be taken.

Olives growing in areas that are definitely ownerless, or in public property where anyone is permitted to pick the olives, are not subject to terumot and ma'aserot (hefker—ownerless produce—is not subject to terumot and ma'aserot). When there is a doubt whether the olives are ownerless, terumot and ma'aserot should be separated without a blessing.

Often at oil presses there is a mixture of oil from earlier batches (most presses do not clean out their machinery between clients). In such cases, it is best to verify that the level of obligation for the various batches of olives is the same. This is to avoid the case of separating olive oil from batches that are exempt from terumot and ma'aserot to cover those obligated in terumot and ma'aserot (in such cases, the separation would be void).

Kohanim and impure terumah oil

Before separating the terumot and ma'aserot, one should touch the oil to render it impure. This allows Kohanim to derive benefit from the oil thereafter, since today Kohanim may not benefit form pure terumah whatsoever.

Many Kohanim use terumah olive oil for candle lighting on Shabbat, since even today it is permitted to benefit from burning impure terumah oil. The terumah gedolah and terumat ma'aser oil (a little more than 1% of the total yield) should be given to a Kohen; the Kohen need not be pedigreed (that is, have a sefer yuchsin attesting to his status as a Kohen).

When separating terumah oil, several steps should be taken: the bottle should be marked as terumah and the label should state that the oil can be used as lamp oil only and not for food. Therefore, it is also recommended to store it separately from bottles of edible oil.

An Israelite woman married to a Kohen may use terumah oil. However, the daughter of a Kohen married to an Israelite, who is not dependent on her father, may not use such oil for lighting Shabbat candles.


Impure terumah oil and Hanukkah

Regarding Hanukkah, the poskim disagree whether impure terumah oil may be used to light the menorah. This is because the Kohen is supposed to derive benefit from the burning of impure terumah oil, but one may not benefit from Hanukkah oil or candles. Those who are stringent only permit this if there is no other oil available, and this is the main psak of our institute. The mekeilim allow it even if the kohen has other oil.


For pickled olives, the gemar melachah is only at the end of the pickling process, when the olives are worthy of consumption. Therefore, optimally, terumot and ma'aserot should be separated from them only at this point.

Note that olives from trees growing in one's yard or in untended groves are often infested. The most tell-tale mark of infestation is a black or brown mark on the olive. Often, worms can be seen floating in the pickling solution.


The orlah prohibition applies to produce owned by Jews and non-Jews alike. One needs to ascertain that the olive tree is not orlah. Bottled olive oil without kashrut certification may very well be orlah (orlah is a biblical prohibition in the Land of Israel, so we are stringent when produce might be orlah).

QA: Lighting Hanukkah candles with edible oil


Some hold that olive oil used for Hanukkah needs to be worthy of human consumption. What is the source of this opinion? Who rules this way? Should we be stringent about this matter?


Rabbi Yehuda Amichay

There is no clear source for this. However, this stems from applying the laws governing lighting the Hanukkah menorah to the menorah in the Beit Hamikdash. In the Beit Hamikdash, it was only permitted to light edible oil. For this reason, anyone who lights the Hanukkah menorah following the regulations that governed candle lighting in the Beit Hamikdash should ensure that their oil is edible. However, this is not mandatory to fulfill the obligation of lighting Hanukkah candles. It is known that Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu was very meticulous about this issue.

Tour: Mizrachi World Movement

A tour was conducted for kollel fellows preparing to go on shlichut in Jewish communities around the world. These fellows are studying for their rabbinical ordination through the Mizrachi Musmachim Program, headed by Rabbi Binyamin Zimmerman. The group arrived for a tour, given by Rabbi Moshe Bloom, on the topic of insect-free vegetables. The fellows toured the hothouses and a factory that produces mehadrin insect-free vegetables and learned about the unique cultivation process. The group was especially interested in how to handle leafy vegetables in communities throughout the world where there are no special insect-free vegetables available.