Can I buy tongue, cheek meat and cholent bones?

Can the kosher consumer purchase tongue, cheek meat and cholent bones at their local kosher butcher?

This a important question to be asking;  If the shochet is required to give the foreleg cheeks and abomasum of all kosher slaughtered animals but dosn’t -what is the consumer to do?  should he refrain from buying cattle meat altogether? should he assume there is an agreement between beit din and the kohanim (see heskem makirei kehuna)? or perhaps just avoid buying the actual foreleg cheeks and abomasum?

The shochet is required to give the zroa - the right foreleg - to the kohen

The shochet is required to give the zroa – the right foreleg – to the kohen

The kosher consumer

Tosefta (Chullin 10;1) sets up for us a difference between the gift of reishit hagez and that of the foreleg cheeks and abomasum;

One who buys the wool shearing from his friend who did not separate from it reishit hagez -the consumer is exempt. Stricter is the giving of the forleleg cheeks and abomasum (than reishit hagez in terms of consumer liability)

The מנחת ביכורים commentary to tosefta explains that we are stricter on the consumer who purchases beef from the owner who didn’t give the foreleg cheeks and abomasum since the actual gifts are right there before him -we thus hold the consumer liable to present those actual parts to the kohen.

The shulchan aruch (yoreh deah 61:31) rules that the consumer/eater of the actual gifts (without the kohen’s permission) transgresses an איסור. The nuances of the issur is discussed in our published sefer.

The watchful eye of בית דין

Now, in addition to the scrupulousness of the שומר תורה ומצוות consumer, the community bet- din likewise keeps a watchful eye on the implementation of this mitzvah, both by keeping tabs on the shochtim, and the kosher meat retailers.  Historically, Bet-din has sanctioned those meat retailers who sidestepped the mitzvah and would sell the foreleg cheeks and abomasum to the kosher consumer, but mainly advcated that the kosher consumer refrain from buying the actual tongue, cheek meat and bones that essentially should have been handed to the kohen.

The bottom line

Although many שומרי תורה ומצוות למהדרין are totally unaware of it, many poskim throughout the generations have urged the kosher community to refrain from eating or purchasing the actual foreleg, cheeks (tongue included) and abomasum from a meat retailer as they are the property of the kohen.

A partial list of these poskim and where they spoke about the consumption/sale of these meat parts are as follows;

  • Mishna torah of the Rambam, hilchot bikkurim 9;14
  • Pirush Hamishna lehaRambam, chullin, 10:4
  • Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah, 61:31
  • Printed in the Frenkel edition of Mishna Torah: מהר”י קורקוס למשנה תורה להרמב”ם, הלכות ביכורים ומתנות כהונה, ט יד
  • Mabi”t responsa, vol. 2, ch. 115

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In Israel there is a similar issue with maaser, where 10% of produce should be given to a levi, but pretty much nobody does this. I believe the reason given is that we are not absolutely sure today who is a levi, and “hamotzi mechavero alav haraayah”. Presumably the same applies to cow tongue, and one is permitted to eat it because nobody can prove to you that they are a kohen.


The logic of “hamotzi mechavero alav haraayah” is questionably applicable, as in the torah it is written ונתן לכהן הזרוע הלחיים והקבה and not והוציא הכהן את הזרוע הלחיים והקיבה.

BTW why not state it from another angle: the torah writes regarding the kohanic gifts מאת בני ישראל, why not then claim “we are not absolutely sure today who is a yisroel”


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