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Produce grown in the Land of Israel has to have Teruma, two of three different kinds of Ma'aser, and Terumat Ma'aser removed, as described in this OU Kosher article. Of these five separations, three - Teruma, Ma'aser Sheini, and Terumat Ma'aser - can only be eaten in a state of purity which is unavailable today, so it makes sense to do what we can to minimize or redeem them.

The other two - Ma'aser Rishon and Ma'aser 'Ani - are meant to be given to Levites and poor people, respectively. However, according to Footnote 7 of the article linked above, the original owner of the food may keep it, because these separations have no inherent sanctity, these gifts only constitute monetary obligations to the potential recipients, and there's enough of a doubt about the obligation that they couldn't successfully demand their due in court ("hamotzi meichaveiro - 'alav hara'aya").

It seems to me that what this doubt establishes is that it's possible to evade having to give these gifts to their intended recipients. However, why is this (as I understand it is) standard practice? Isn't it avoiding a chance to do Mitzvot and also undermining the clear intent of these Mitzvot - to provide for Levites and poor people?

I understand that if I buy a Jaffa orange in the US, it's impractical and undesirable for me to try to bestow one of the segments on a local Levite or poor person. But wouldn't it make sense for food producers or even home gardeners in Israel who want to live in accordance with the Torah as much as possible to follow through with these Mitzvot as originally commanded and practiced? (Or do some actually do this?)

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I've given Maaser Rishon to a Levi a number of times. (Once, actually, to a Bat Levi. [EDIT: now more than once]) Though I wouldn't bother to do so if I was only separating misafek (ie only in instances where I said a bracha). –  Double AA Jan 29 '13 at 17:52
@DoubleAA, so maybe I'm off-base. This isn't done by frum farms in Israel, though, is it? –  Isaac Moses Jan 29 '13 at 17:52
I don't know; I've never owned one :) –  Double AA Jan 29 '13 at 17:53
See Rabbi Yehoshua Noivert's additions to the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (printed at the end of Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu's edition of the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch), paragraphs 2 and 11, in which he says that one only has to give Ma'aser separated from tevel (produce certainly not separated), and not from what possibly was separated from before, to the proper recipient (this is referring to Ma'aser other than Ma'aser Ri'shon); and with Ma'aser Ri'shon he doesn't even have to give from tevel to the levi. –  b a Jan 29 '13 at 18:59
@ba I think you misrepresent him. He says in 2 that for real Tevel it is a mitzva to give Ma'aser Rishon to Leviyim and Ma'aser Ani to Aniyim. In 11 he says that nowadays many are lenient about giving the Ma'aser Rishon to the Leviyim, but some are careful to do so lest they end up stealing from the Leviyim. –  Double AA Jan 29 '13 at 22:40

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