A terumah (Hebrew: תְּרוּמָה), the priestly dues, or more typically, heave offering, is a type of offering in Judaism. The word is generally used for an offering to God, although it is also sometimes used as in ish teramot, a "judge who loves gifts".[1]

The word terumah refers to various types of offerings, but most commonly to terumah gedolah (תרומה גדולה, "great offering"), which must be separated from agricultural produce and given to a kohen (a priest of Aaron's lineage), who must eat it in a state of ritual purity. Those separating the terumah unto the priests must, as a rule, do so also in a state of ritual purity.


The word terumah ("lifting up") comes from the verb stem, rum (רוּם, "high" or "to lift up").[2] The formation of terumah is parallel to the formation of tenufah ('תְּנוּפָה, wave offering) from the verb stem nuf, "to wave," and both are found in the Hebrew Bible.[2] English Bible versions such as the King James Version have in a few verses translated "heave offering," by analogy with "wave offering":

And thou shalt sanctify the breast of the wave offering, and the shoulder of the heave offering, which is waved, and which is heaved up, of the ram of the consecration, even of that which is for Aaron, and of that which is for his sons:[3]

Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When you come into the land to which I bring you, 'then it will be, when you eat of the bread of the land, that you shall offer up a heave offering to the Lord.[4]

Hebrew Bible

The term occurs seventy-six times in the Biblical Hebrew Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible; in the Greek Septuagint it was rendered afieroma (ἀφiαίρoμα), in the 1917 JPS Tanakh it is generally translated "offering";[5][unreliable source?] while in the King James Version (1611) it is also generally translated "offering" but also sometimes "oblation" and four times "heave offering".[6]

The word is used in various contexts throughout the Hebrew Bible, including one use in Proverbs which may denote haughtiness or graft.[7] In most contexts it refers to designating something for a higher purpose, or lifting apart of a quantity from a larger quantity), as in the gifts offered by the Israelites for the inauguration of the Tabernacle (Mishkan) in the Book of Exodus. In the Bible, there are numerous different varieties of gifts for which the term terumah was applied.[citation needed] In halakah (Jewish law), the word terumah by itself was associated with "great offering" (terumah gedolah),[citation needed] the first portion of produce that was required to be separated for consumption by a kohen (priest).

There were two groups of terumot:[citation needed]

Terumah gedolah

Terumah gedolah must be given to the Jewish priest, and is considered one of the twenty-four kohanic gifts. The consumption of terumah (both terumah gedolah and terumat hamaaser) is restricted by numerous Torah-based commandments, and could be eaten by priests, their families, and their servants. The terumah may be consumed only in a state of ritual purity.

According to Hezekiah ben Manoah, this terumah is called "great" (Hebrew gedolah) because it is the first of all tithes given on produce, and thus is given from the "greatest quantity of produce" before any other gift is given.[8]

The Mishnah, Tosefta, and Gemara include a tract entitled Terumot which deals with the laws regulating terumah.[9][10] The rabbis of the late Second Temple period added certain strictures to its consumption, requiring that the terumah be burnt (and not consumed) if a priest or Israelite who touched the terumah suspected that he had passed in close proximity to a grave (Hebrew language: Beit ha-Peras), and was uncertain if he had contracted corpse uncleanness.[11]

According to Jewish law, the terumah gedolah could only be separated from the non-tithed produce (tevel), and terumat maaser only be separated from maaser rishon by its owner, or an authorized, legally permissible agent; minors, deaf-mutes, the mentally ill and non-Jews were not obligated to perform such separation (Terumot 1:1). However, while non-Jews could not act as agents for Jews to separate terumah, the terumah owned by and separated by non-Jews was considered valid and had the status and sanctity of terumah (Terumot 3:9).[12] Based in part on the measures described by Ezekiel, Jewish law set the minimum amounts of the great offering at 1/60 of the finished produce for a poor person, 1/50 for the average person, and 1/40 for the generous. The terumat maaser was always 10% of the maaser rishon.[citation needed]

The Talmud opens with a discussion of when the Shema Yisrael ("Hear O Israel") prayer should be recited. The Mishnah states that it should be recited when priests who were tamei (טָמֵא ritually impure) are able to enter the Temple to eat their terumah.[13]


As a rule, terumah that is designated for the priests must be separated in a state of ritual purity. In addition, it is forbidden to intentionally cause terumah to become impure. This means that one is forbidden to touch terumah unless one of two criteria are met (see Makhshirin): a) the food is dry and was never wetted with water or another of the seven liquids (water, wine, oil, dew, milk, blood, or honey), or b) the food had previously been wetted and touched by an impure Jew before or after it was imbued with the holiness of terumah. Regardless, it is regarded as forbidden today for any person to eat trumah, in part as a consequence of the widespread prevalence of Tumat HaMet.

Olive oil separated as priestly dues and which had become impure can still be given to a priest of Aaron's lineage and used by him to light therewith the lamps, known as shemen s'reifah (Hebrew: שמן שריפה).[14][15] All people nowadays are presumed to be impure due to Corpse uncleanness, so terumah cannot currently be eaten by priests. Nevertheless, it is permitted to designate fruit and vegetable produce as terumah and to give it to the livestock belonging to a priest.

See also


  1. ^ Brown Driver Briggs Hebrew Lexicon entry for terumah, citing Proverbs 29:4 "The king by judgment establisheth the land, but he that receiveth gifts overthroweth it."
  2. ^ a b Jewish antiquities: or, A course of lectures on the three first books, p198. David Jennings, Philip Furneaux, Thomas Godwin - 1825 "This waving was of two kinds; one called terumah, from rum, elevatus est, which, they say, was performed by waving it perpendicularly upward and downward; the other, tenuphah, from nuph, agitare, movere"
  3. ^ Exodus 29:27
  4. ^ Numbers 15:18–19
  5. ^ "JPS Bible 1917". Archived from the original on 2012-03-14. Retrieved 2011-05-30.
  6. ^ entry in Strong's Concordance
  7. ^ Proverbs 29:4
  8. ^ Chizkuni, Devarim 18
  9. ^ Joel Gereboff Rabbi Tarfon, the tradition, the man, and early Rabbinic Judaism 1979 "K. This [the opinion that an Israelite betrothed to a kohen may eat heave-offering prior to her nissu'in, is the] first mishnah. "
  10. ^ Jacob Neusner The modern study of the Mishnah p240 - 1973 "one may assume that in the case of one who gives heave-offering for oil instead of for crushed "
  11. ^ Mishnah (Taharot 4:5); Nathan ben Abraham's Mishnah commentary (ibid.).
  12. ^ Simcha Fishbane Deviancy in early rabbinic literature p153 - 2007 "above laws that are intrinsic to the Land of Israel.34 Yet we find a Mishnah in Tractate Terumot (3:9) that states: "A gentile and a Samaritan, that which they separate is [valid] raised offering and that which they take as tithes is "
  13. ^ Brachot 2a
  14. ^ Mishnah (Hallah 4:9; Terumah 11:10)
  15. ^ Babylonian Talmud (Shabbat 23b), commentaries