I know that the mishna says that maaser sheini* can only be redeemed on coins and not something else. (See this answer.) However, this was written around 2000 years ago, and the way money works has changed drastically since then.

[Update: As @DoubleAA pointed out in a comment, the concept is actually from Devarim 14:25, where it says "וְנָתַתָּה בַּכָּסֶף". However, because the mishna (Maaser Sheini 2:6) talks about redeeming onto copper, albeit b'dieved, we see that the pasuk is lav davka silver, but referring to money. Silver coins are still preferred though.]

Back then, a coin had intrinsic value. They were made of precious metals. They were also the only real form of currency (no dollar bills, checks, bitcoins; trade was also used, but it wasn't a currency).
Nowadays, most coins do not have intrinsic value. What makes a quarter worth 25 cents? The US government says so. Really, it's just a small copper circle with a coating.

Now, let's say you have a wheat field in Israel. For the sake of argument, i'll say it grows wheat valued at 1000 shekels per year. (I have absolutely no idea how much a field grows.) Maaser sheini is around 9%**, or 90 shekels. Granted, with the current situation of the highest coin denomination being 10NIS, it's not that much trouble to bring 112.5NIS (90 + 22.5 -- the chomesh [fifth] added when redeeming maaser sheini) in coins (11 * 10NIS + 2NIS + .5NIS = 14 coins). But what if you have 10 of these fields? Are you expected to take along over 1000NIS in coins? It would be a lot more practical to redeem it onto paper money.

So is the mishna's ruling (and all who copied it) obsolete in light of current situations?

*Ma'aser Sheini -- the second tithe taken from fruit/grain/etc. that must be taken to Yerushalayim or redeemed on coins, which are then used to buy food in Yerushalayim.

**around 9% -- approximately 2% for trumah gedolah (98% left); then 9.8% of the total for maaser rishon (88.2% left); then 8.82% for maaser sheini. You're left with ~79% of what you bring in.


1 Answer 1


See Chazon Ish (D’mai 3:12) proves that modern coins may be used even though they have no intrinsic value, and offers a possible explanation as to why that logic does not apply to paper money which traditionally has not been used for these purposes. (footnote 16 on article "THE HUNT FOR THE PERUTAH CHAMURAH" by Rabbi Dovid Cohen http://www.crcweb.org/Sappirim/Sappirim%2025%20(Jul%202012).pdf which is a great resource)

See also Yoreh Death 305 Gra 4 which is the source of the Chazon Ish that with coins we consider the commetcial value and don't consider the intrinsic metalic value of the coin. See also Pischei Teshuvah 7 who discusses legal tender bank notes and suggests to differentiate between using them for hekdesh redemption which is commerce and therefore acceptable vs pidyon haben which is a transaction from Hashem.

Also, since nowadays there is no Bais HaMikdash, Maaser Sheni is not eaten in Jerusalem, the Geonim ruled that one may redeem many perutos worth of Maaser Sheni on a single perutah (Rambam Demai 2:2)

  • When you say Pischei Teshuvah, are you referring to this sefer? That edition is only on Orach Chaim. I'll have to wait until tomorrow to look at that Yoreh De'ah (death? :P) source, as it is not in my library, or online.
    – Scimonster
    Commented Apr 28, 2014 at 17:55
  • Pischei teshuva found in big standard shulchan aruch with shach and taz
    – Yoni
    Commented Apr 29, 2014 at 0:26

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