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Herbs grown indoors

Rabbi David SperlingIyyar 7, 5773
402
Question
We are starting to grow herbs in our kitchen (in Israel). They are in pots with no holes in the bottom, growing indoors. We use them in relatively small quantities, clipping a few leaves or branches each time. 1) Do we need to take trumot u’maaserot? 2) With a bracha? 3) If so, what is the procedure for such small amounts?
Answer
Shalom, How wonderful it is to be able to use the laws of the Land of Israel, which we did not merit to apply in Chutz La'Aretz, in a real way today. May your garden grow with the blessings of the holiness of the Land of Israel. Firstly, let me suggest that you join up with the Machon L'Torah VeHa'Aretz (www.toraland.org.il) to be able to use their coins to redeem the Ma'aser Sheni. This is a good idea for anyone living in Israel, as it allows you to be able to take Trumah and Ma'aser in an easy fashion in any situation. They also send you a very nice summary of the laws of Trumah and Ma'aser as part of the joining fee. Once you have joined, you will be able to take Trumah and Ma'aser easily whenever you are confronted with a doubt, by simply removing a little more than 1% of each type of food and reciting the declaration for Trumah and Ma'aser, which they send you on a nice card (- or in a case of need, some people rely on the opinion that allows one to remove the little more than 1% and merely say "all the tithes and redemptions should take effect as it is written in the siddur"). In any event, it is worthwhile to sit with your Rabbi or other learned person, and learn one time what the declaration means and how it works, so as to understand it before you need to say it. In relation to your plants - the obligation to take Trumah and Ma'aser from plants that grow without any holes in the pots is Rabbinic. If such plants grow inside the house, we take the Truamh and Ma'aser, but without a blessing. So, it would seem that you should take the Trumah and Ma'aser without a blessing. But this only applies to herbs that are eaten - those that are used only to add taste and then they are thrown away (such as tea leaves) are not obligated at all. As there is much discussion as to which herbs are in which category, my advice is to take from all the herbs without a blessing until you can speak to a Rabbi personally and get a ruling for yourself about your particular herbs, and how you use them. As I said, after joining up with the Machon, you will be able to simply remove a little bit more than 1% from every different group of leaves you clip off, and then make the declaration. The small amount of leaves should then be wrapped up and put in the bin. Let me point out two things – one, that it is possible to take Trumah and Ma'aser without joining up for the Ma'aser coin. However, that involves taking care of a coin for this purpose yourself, which can be quite tricky and technical, especially with very small amounts of Ma'aser as you have. Therefore I suggest that you join up. Secondly, if one is taking Trumah and Ma'aser from things that certainly need a blessing, such as produce from a garden etc, one needs to both say the blessing(s) and sometimes one is obligated to give 10% to the poor – depending on the year of the produce. In your case, as you are taking out of doubt, this tithe of the poor does not have to be given away. Blessings.
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