I understand that if a crop in the Land of Israel does not have the trumot and maaserot properly separated, then the produce is tevel and cannot be eaten (until it is done).

But that made me think of the mitzvot of peah, leket, shikchah, etc., since they also involve designating a portion of a crop for specific purposes. If those mitzvot are not observed, then couldn't we say that those designated portions are intermingled with the rest of the produce, making the whole thing off limits?

I suspect the answer is "no," but I am curious about why.

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    Aaron, Welcome to Judaism.SE, and thanks very much for your excellent question! Please consider registering your account, to help the site keep track of your contributions no matter where you log in from, and to maximize your access to the site's features. – Isaac Moses Jul 18 '11 at 16:17
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    Wouldn't it depend heavily on the proportions of intermingled materials, as in masechtos T'rumos and Ma's'ros? – WAF Jul 18 '11 at 16:56
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    @WAF, that's a good point. Does it qualify for bitul berov, or is there another principle that makes it permissible? – Cislunar Jul 18 '11 at 17:14
  • @WAF if the pea was not designated, how much of the field is pea and thus mingled? There is, after all, no minimum for pea (as we recite every morning). – msh210 Jul 18 '11 at 17:50

Aaron, your guess is correct: the produce remains kosher whether it was shared with the poor or not.

The only portions of the produce that have restrictions on its edibility are:

  • terumah, which must be eaten by a Kohen while ritually pure
  • terumat maaser, which is the terumah given by the Levi.
  • Ma'aser sheni, should be kept ritually pure (tahor) and eaten in Jerusalem.

Hence, the way Israeli produce is tithed today is as follows:

Okay here's 100 lbs of wheat. I take this one kernel and declare it terumah, I can't eat it as I'm not a kohen, but a kohen can't eat it as we're likely all tamei, so I'll just let it decompose. Now I designate the northern 10 lb of this wheat as maaser, which should be given to the Levi. Okay the Levi should give a tenth of that to the kohen, so the north-eastern 1 lb of this wheat (remove it) is hereby terumat maaser, again I just have to let it decompose. The other 9 lbs on the north are ordinary maaser, they're kosher for me to eat; if anyone can prove they're a Levi, come and get them. What, nobody here? Oh well. I'll just eat them myself then.

The southern 10 lbs (well slightly less) are ma'aser sheni, I should take that wheat up to Jerusalem and eat it there, but it's tamei already, so I hereby transfer its sanctity onto this handy coin (which, as I can't use to buy non-tamei food in Jerusalem, I have to throw out). Okay, now I can eat the southern 10 lbs.

The shares given to the Levi and poor are all about monetary ownership, not ritual status of the food. If gifts to the poor affected ritual status, we'd have to get into a complicated question of who's called sufficiently "poor" as to have a ritual effect. Yes the Talmud defines poverty with regards to who's entitled/allowed to receive these forms of charity, but how much money you have in the bank, to the best of my knowledge, does not affect ritual status in halacha. It's not something directly tied to who we are, no matter what advertisers would like you think otherwise.

(Yes okay nitpickers, what if someone makes an oath or marries a woman "on the condition that I'm rich" ... yes halachic actions can be conditioned on anything.)

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    Ma'aser Ani, I believe they transfer to money and give it to the poor. The reason we're "separating" ma'aser rishon isn't the 9 lbs owed to the Levi, it's the 1 lb with kohen-only ritual properties. You can't have terumat maaser if you don't first have maaser. – Shalom Jul 18 '11 at 20:00
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    So, if I understand this right, there is no halachic definition of who is poor enough to be able to claim ownership of the matanot aniyim. While they are intended for the poor, they are permitted for anyone. Thus, eating the peah, leket, or shikchah is not misappropriating something that legally belongs to someone else. Right? – Cislunar Jul 18 '11 at 20:09
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    @Aaron, it legally belongs to the poor (and the Talmud defines poverty), subject to the normal monetary considerations. In Talmudic times, a non-poor person eating peah would be theft (but not any food-specific prohibition). My understanding is that today, the poor generally are assumed to have waived their right to peah; and when dealing with monetary ownership, we work with reasonable assumptions, and the burden of proof is on the one seeking to extract property from its current holder. – Shalom Jul 18 '11 at 20:12
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    This seems to make sense, but on what basis do we assume that the poor have waived their right to peah? – Cislunar Jul 18 '11 at 20:19
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    @Aaron, I'm not an expert on the contemporary discussion on that subject. But I can answer your original question by saying it's a question of ownership, not ritual status; hence we can approach it in a very different way. – Shalom Jul 18 '11 at 20:21

According to the Rama (Yorah Deah 332), Leket, Shikcha, and Peah are Mitzvos that we do not keep currently. There are those who wanted to reinstate it in Eretz Yisroel, however the Chazon Ish was against it (will add in source when I find it).

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    In today's world meaning "in absence of the Temple" or is it due to cultural changes? – Cislunar Jul 18 '11 at 17:50
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    Also, in whatever world where they would apply, then what would the answer have been? – Cislunar Jul 18 '11 at 17:52
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    There seems to be a dispute among the later commentaries as to whether the Rama's point or the Mechaber's point it's responding to apply only in the Diaspora, where these are mitzvot derabanan, or also in Eretz Yisrael, where they are de-oraita. According to those who hold the latter, the present question stands. (And I don't get, according to the former, how the stated concern, that not enough of the local indigent are Jewish, could come to uproot a de-oraita.) – Isaac Moses Jul 18 '11 at 18:25

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