One of the important talmudic narratives relevant to the mitzvah requiring the shochet to give the foreleg, cheeks and abomasum to the kohen is Rav Nachman’s relation of Takanat Ziknei Darom (“The Edict of the Elders of the South“).
The said edict preempts inference from the mishnaic text השוחט לכהן ולנכרי פטור מן המתנות (“He who slaughters for a kohen or Non-Jew is exempt from the gifts”) from being applied to one slaughtering for commercial purposes;
The host of Rabbi Tavla was a kohen undergoing financial stress. He came before Rabbi Tavla who said to him “Go and partner with Israelite shochtim, as since you exempt them from the gifts they will partner with you”
Rav Nachman obligated him. He said to Rav Nachman “But Rabbi Tavla exempted” Rav Nachman replied “Go and release the gifts, and if you refuse I will pull Rabbi Tavla from you ear”
Rabbi Tavla then came before Rav Nachman and said to him; “Why did you do so? Rav Nachman replied; “When Rabbi Acha ben Chanina came from the south, said Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi ‘The elders of the south stated; a kohen-shochet is exempt for two-three weeks, from there-forth he is liable to give the gits”.
Rabbi Tavla said; “Let my master do as Rabbi Acha ben Chanina”! (I.e. give a two-three week grace-period). Rav Nachman replied “That applies where he not to have set up his scale, whereas here, he already set his scale (for commercial purposes)”.
Rabbi Tavla’s intent
Rashi explains Rabbi Tavla’s idea as being based on the Mishna’s words “He who partners with them is exempt (this needs further analysis as the Mishna states “He who partners with them must mark (the animal)”), meaning that through the Yisroel shochet recognizing the financial benefit of having Rabbi Tavla’s host as a partner, he will commensurate accordingly. Rav Nachman however interjected by invoking Takanat Ziknei Darom as being applicable and instructed the kohen to remove these gifts from the possession of the shochtim and give them to the kohanim.
Who are Ziknei Darom?
Clues in pinpointing who the Sages of the South are can be gleaned from multiple areas of the Talmud. Apparently, the Sages of the South are called such in comparison to those of Northern Israel (The upper and lower Gallil), as is brought in Tosefta (Sanhedrin 2;6) “Chanina of Ono testified before Rabbn Gamliel that we do not add a month to the Hebrew Calendar in the Gallil, whereas if they had done so it is valid” – this attests to the preferred status of the sages of the south when compared to those of the north.
Namely, the talmud yerushalmi (Sotah 22a) quotes Yoshua Daromaya (Yoshua the Southerner). Also, a story is relayed (Yerushalm, Eiruvin p. 40b) regarding Rabbi Chinina and Rabbi Yonatan who visited the springs of Gadara and said “Let’s wait for Ziknei Darom”, when Rabbi Natan the Southerner arrived they asked him their halachic question. The Gemara (Eiruvin 65b) quotes Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish who – regarding the laws of Eiruvin – stated “Let’s rent, and when we meet our Rabbi’s in the south we will ask them”, upon arriving and asking Rabbi Affas, he stated “You did correctly by renting”.
A few instances of important halachot being relayed by Ziknei Darom; “The southerns say; the sacrificial parts that go lost, he (the kohen) considers them as if they are present” (Yerushalmi, Pesachim 34a). They are also mentioned regarding the halachic status of a child whose mother is Jewish while his father is not; “Bar Kappara went up to Ziknei Darom who say that the offspring of a non-Jew and servant who cohabit with a Jewess is kosher” Whereas Rav Yosef said “It is Rebbi, as when Rav Dimi arrived he stated; ‘Rabbi Yitzhock ben Avudmi in the name of Rabbenu stated that the offspring of a non-Jew and servant who cohabit with a Jewess is a mamzer”. Masechet Zevachim (22b) cites Ziknei Darom who hold that a טמא מת may submit his Korban offering.
Specifics of the Edict
Details of the edict are understood based upon the Gemara’s understanding of the Mishna’s words “He who slaughters for a kohen or non-Jew is exempt”, the face-value of this phrase implies that the Mishna approves the kohen or non-Jew to market their kosher-slaughtered cattle to the masses of Israel and be exempt of giving the gifts from their goods.
Preemting this notion begins with the query of the Gemara; It would have been more concise had the mishna stated “Kohanim and non-Jew’s are exempt from the gifts“. Rava explains that since the mishna’s choice of words emphasize the actual shochet, she comes to teach us that it is the actual shochet who is liable to perform the mitzvah – and not the cattle-owner.
Rava continues by basing this logic on the wording of the Torah מאת זבח הזבח – meaning the shochet (זובח) is the personality responsible for carrying out this commandment. Rashi there explains “Whomever, even a kohen” – while the kohen who slaughters for his own personal use is exempt.
Tosefot understands Rashi as saying that the shochet-kohen’s responsibility when slaughtering for commercial use is Midioraita. Toesefot then argues then the responsibility is merely midirabbanan (essentially Takant Ziknei Darom) who’s reason is “So that Yisroel shochtim refrain from partnering with Kohanim to exempt themselves of giving the gifts”.
With the mishna’s choice of words “He who slaughters for a kohen or non-Jew is exempt”, it is understood from the gemara that both the kohen and non-Jew are viewed as parallel in terms of the shochet being exempt when slaughtering their animal for their private use. It is then evident that the shochet who slaughters their animal for commercial use is liable to give the gifts. If this is accurate, there is room to expand the tosefot view as essentially stating “So that Israelite butchers not become accustomed to partnering with non-Jews to make themselves exempt”. This can similarly be understood by the rhetorical question מה הועילו חכמים בתקנתם (what did the sages gain with their enactment)? if the shochet can easily circumvent the enactment by involving a non-Jew then the concern of Ziknei Darom is lowered to ridicule cha”v.
This logic facilitates and understanding as to why the mishna felt a need to inform us that ‘he who slaughters for a non-Jew is exempt’, Are we not aware that non-Jews are exempt from mitzvot? We are thus forced to see that there are instances where a Jew slaughter’s for a non-Jew and is liable, as per the edict of Ziknei Darom who preempted taking advantage of partnering with exempt parties for commercial marketing of kosher meat.
The Shochet and not the owner
How then can we obligate a non-Jew to give the gifts to kohanim? The answer lies in Rava’s words “The obligation is on the Shochet”. This means that we are not concerned with who the owner as much as we are with the Shochet. An exploratory parable is as follows; A kohen arrives with a thousand head of cattle and requests the Shochet slaughters them all for commercial use – Rashi opines the shochet is obligated to give the gifts midioraita and Tosefot midirabbanan – and there is little room to claim “But the mishna, Rambam and Shulchan Aruch state he who slaughters for a kohen is exempt“! – as this angle was clearly not the intent of our sages.