Half a Kosher Cow?


Why is only half the cow kosher? Is it because of the Temple sacrifice?



  1. Good question. But it’s not exactly half and has nothing to do with Temple sacrifices.

    The reason actually dates back to the dramatic struggle between Jacob and the guardian angel of Esau who was sent to test Jacob’s commitment to God. Happily, Jacob won the battle. But to remember this ongoing “inner-conflict” to always stay on the path of righteousness, there is a special commandment to not eat part of certain animals. (Jacob is called Yaakov or Yisrael in Hebrew and his children are often referred to as “the Children of Israel” in the Torah and Jewish writings.)

    The verse states, “Therefore, the Jewish People do not eat the displaced nerve (gid ha’nasheh) on the hip joint to this very day.” (Genesis 32:33) Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, former Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel, explained that the prohibition against eating this sciatic nerve shows that although we may need to slaughter animals for our physical needs, we do not desire to subjugate others — whether man or animal. Rabbi Kook explains that for this reason we do not eat the sciatic nerve, a nerve that enables the body to stand up.

    In theory, aside from this specific nerve and certain forbidden fats called cheilev, the entire cow is considered to be kosher. However, Jews of Ashkenazic descent do not eat the back end of the animal because the porging of the veins and the sinews is considered to be too complex and expensive to do properly. Jews of Sefardic origin, in general, do in fact eat the rear end of the animal, but the person who does the porging must be a great expert.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team