If one eats the priest's portion (terumah) on Passover, and it was chametz, then if he did it by mistake, he needs to repay the amount he ate plus one fifth, whereas if he did it on purpose, he needs to repay nothing at all.

This seems counterintuitive! However, let's look deeper. If he eats terumah (2% of the crop, Kohen's portion) by mistake, the Torah says that he needs to return the grain itself. The grain becomes terumah again, and he even adds one-fifth to be forgiven for his error.

By contrast, if he eats it knowingly, he is treated like a regular thief, who repays only what he has stolen, in cash or other goods. Since chametz on Passover is worth nothing, it turns out that he stole zero value and has to repay zero.

Art: Peasants eating in a farmyard by Antonio Diziani

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