By Rabbi Yair Hoffman
An exclusive airport lounge is an area similar to first class—but in the airport itself, not on the airplane. The cost is some $450 per year or so, which is considerably less than flying first class or even business class. There are all sorts of amenities. Almost all of the lounges have free drinks and food, many of which have hechsherim. The lounge member can bring in unlimited guests. Some of the airport lounges, such as the ones in Poland and Toronto, even have showers.
But this article is dedicated to the halachic aspects of lounges, not a general description of them.
No Berachah On Food Taken Out Of The Lounge
The first halachah is that if one does take food out of a lounge for future use, it is forbidden to recite a blessing over it later on. This is because the food would be considered stolen and the halachah is that a blessing is not recited on stolen food.
The Gemara in Bava Kamma 94a states that reciting a blessing on stolen food is no mitzvah—rather it is like cursing G-d, Heaven forbid. The Gemara cites the verse in Tehillim (10:3), “For the wicked man boasts about the desire of his soul, and the robber congratulates himself for having blasphemed the L-rd.” The Gemara interprets this as “the robber who blesses has blasphemed Hashem.” The Mishnah Berurah discusses this halachah in Orech Chaim 196:4.
Are All Wrong
Some people will attempt to rationalize taking bottled juice outside of the lounge with the thought that it is only one, so the lounge won’t care. In this author’s opinion, that is incorrect. Lounges are there to make money. Period. Every bottle of juice taken out of the lounge will affect the company’s bottom line. That is why they have a strict policy not to allow people to stock up on food for their trip. Taking drinks out is no different than shoplifting. In Ben Gu-rion Airport, a number of signs are posted to that effect.
Another rationalization that people have is that they will start off the bottle in the lounge and keep the rest for later. When one woman questioned whether she can take an open bottle outside of the lounge, the response was that it may be taken out in a cup but not in the bottle. It could be that this policy is strictly for the Dan Lounge in Tel Aviv, but the Talmud in Eiruvin (62a) seems to indicate that it may be a bit more universal.
Terumos And Ma’asros
And speaking of the lounge in Tel Aviv, there is another issue of taking off terumos and ma’asros. In these lounges, various fruits and vegetables are made available and there is no supervision ensuring that the fruits and vegetables are not tevel. One aspect of foods grown in Eretz Yisrael is that there are certain gifts, commonly called terumos and ma’asros, that must be taken off before the food can be consumed. There were many important purposes for these gifts. The Sefer HaChinuch explains that the gifts to the kohanim were so that they could learn Torah while others worked in order to further develop our spiritual and ethical nature as a people.
We will begin with a quick and easy workaround to enable people to eat of these fruits.
Join a group such as Keren HaMaasrot—the Beit Midrash for Halachah in Agriculture; telephone: 02.648.8888, e-mail: mail@firstname.lastname@example.org. The cost is less than 100 shekels a year. These organizations hold onto coins called Perutot Chamurot which we must use to redeem smaller amounts of untithed produce. Take off a bit more than one percent and state: “I am designating and separating the gifts of terumos and ma’asros in accordance with the rules of the Keren HaMaasrot.” This workaround is not the ideal method, but it does work. There is a longer method that is ideal and is available in their literature. The longer method involves enumerating where each gift is separated (i.e. to the north, south, east, west).
We will now explain these gifts briefly.
Terumah. In the time of the Beis HaMikdash, terumah was a gift to the kohen. It had to be between 1/40th and 1/60th of the fruit. So if the farmer had 120 oranges, the gift was either two or three oranges. Nowadays, terumah is kol shehu—any amount. It cannot be eaten by kohanim nowadays because all of them are considered impure—tamei meis.
Ma’aser. Ma’aser during the time of the Beis HaMikdash was ten percent of the fruit that must be given to a Levi. Thus a farmer with 120 oranges must give 12 to the Levi. Nowadays the Ma’aser must still be separated from the fruit, but it can be eaten after the terumas ma’aser is removed.
Terumas Ma’aser. Terumas Ma’aser is one-tenth of the Levi’s ma’aser that must be given to the kohen. Nowadays we remove this. It is 1% of the total fruit and is wrapped and disposed of.
Ma’aser Sheini. Ma’aser Sheini is another ten percent of what is left. This must be eaten in the “makom asher yivchar”—the place that Hashem chooses—Yerushalayim. In the time of the Beis HaMikdash, if one could not schlep the ma’aser sheini to Yerushalayim, he could sell it and add 25% (also known as a Chomesh 20% after the fact) to it. This money must be spent on food and drink in Yerushalayim. The money cannot be spent on forks and knives, only food and drink. This is done in the years 1, 2, 4, and 5 in the 7-year cycle.
Nowadays, we redeem smaller amounts of the ma’aser sheini on a coin called a perutah chamurah. We redeem it all on one perutah of a coin. A perutah is worth between a penny and a nickel. After the perutah chamurah coin is filled up, it is destroyed. In recent years, there are clubs that hold on to the perutah chamurah coin for you. The coin that must be used has to be of a currency that is usable in the country.
Ma’aser Ani. In the years 3 and 6 of the 7-year cycle, ma’aser sheini is replaced with ma’aser ani. It is given to the poor. Nowadays, we can eat it ourselves, but it must be separated properly.
The author can be reached at Yairhoffman2@gmail.com.