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I have a foundational question about tevel. It says in Bava Metzia 88b that consumption of purchased tevel is not forbidden Bibically, but rather only Rabbinically. It seems all the major rishonim agree. For instance, Rambam writes in Hilchos Maaser 2:2 that as long as bought after the gmar melacha it is only D'Rabbanan (based on the pasuk that says "tevuas zarecha" meaning "the produce of YOUR crops" that YOU GREW (not bought). Others like the Ravad and Kesef Mishnah concur and go further and say that it is only D'Rabbanan whenever purchased. I am not aware of ANY dissenting view that holds eating bought tevel is an issur d'orysa.

We know the punishment for willfully eating tevel is misa b'dei shamayim. But if eating bought tevel is only an issur d'rabbanan, then would the punishment for eating bought tevel still be misa b'dei shamayim? Can there be a punishment of misa b'dei shamayim for an issur d'rabbanan? And more fundamentally, so much of seder zeraim is focused on the seriousness of eating tevel or buying tevel. The whole masechta of demai is based on the concern that there is a small chance that produce sold to you by an am ha'aretz might not have been tithed. But if eating bought tevel even intentionally is only a d'rabbanan, why the great concern? And when we assume that amei ha'aretz always at least take terumah gedolah because they respect the gravity of selling produce that contains terumah gedolah which carries the penalty of misa b'dei shamayim - well...not quite if eating bought tevel is not even an issur d'orysa?

This question cuts to many foundational elements of seder zeraim and I am hopeful that someone might be able to shed some light on this? Thank you!

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    This is an astute observation. I've always assumed the answer lies in the difference between how many people grow their own food then (probably most) and now (less than 0.1%). It seems much more ridiculous to us since basically none of us grown our own food
    – Double AA
    Jun 24 '21 at 11:24
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Rivam (quoted in Tosafot Bava Metzi'a 88b) was bothered by your questions, particularly how demai works if this is only a derabbanan issue.

He therefore ruled in completely the opposite direction to Rabbeinu Tam (and Rambam). He holds that produce purchased after mirua'ch is obligated mideoraita, whereas produce purchased before miru'ach is obligated only miderabbanan. (Rash to Peah 1:6 makes much the same point.)

Of course, this only goes a little way towards answering your questions. Tur Yoreh De'ah 331 rules like Rabbeinu Tam and Rambam, that produce purchased after miruach is only obligated rabinically.

In order to answer Rivam's question on this from demai, Tosafot (ibid.) essentially say en hachi nami - we must take ma'aser vadai from produce purchased from an individual who we know did not take ma'aserot, but this is only a rabbinic obligation, since the food was purchased after miru'ach.

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