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Flank steak.jpg
Two pieces of flank steak. The left one is covered with a sheet of real chelev, the right one has only some non-kosher tendons (Krumim).
Halakhic texts relating to this article
Torah: Leviticus 7:23-25
Mishneh Torah: Maachalot Assurot 7:5
Other rabbinic codes: Sefer ha-Chinuch mitzvah 147

Chelev (Hebrew: חֵלֶב‎, kheylev or ẖelev) is the term given to some kinds of animal fats in Judaism.

There is a prohibition in the Torah for Jews and Israelites against eating chelev, a form of animal fat (Leviticus 7:23). Only the chelev of animals that are of the sort from which offerings can be brought in the Tabernacle or Temple are prohibited (Leviticus 7:25). The prohibition of eating chelev is also, in addition to the Torah, one of the 613 commandments that, according to the Talmud,[1] were given to Moses on Mount Sinai.[2]

Hebrew Bible

Speak to the Children of Israel, saying: You shall not eat any fat of an ox, sheep, or goat. The fat of carrion and the fat of an animal with a fatal disease or injury, may be used for any work, but you shall not eat it.

Hebrew language

In the Hebrew language the word for fat is (Hebrew: חֵלֶבkheylev or ẖelev, often transliterated khelev or chelev) and it is first used for the "fats" of Abel's offering, and most often used for fats of animal sacrifices on the altar of the Tabernacle or Temple. The same word is also used in the phrase "the fat of the land."

Rabbinical interpretation

The punishment for eating chelev bemeizid (on purpose) is kareth. The atonement for eating it by mistake is to bring a korban hattath (atonement sacrifice).

The prohibition on chelev is only regarding those animal types which were used as a korban: cattle, lamb and goat, which are the only kosher domestic livestock. Fats from avians and deer may be eaten, and different types of bovinae are in state of doubt.

In order that fat should be considered chelev it must look like a sheet of fats, like a thick fibrous skin that can be removed (see picture). Some tendons and muscles are also removed due to the rabbinic law, since they are neighboring and resolving[clarification needed] some chelev.

The chelev must be removed by a qualified menaker in a process called nikkur (purging).

Kidney fats

The fats surrounding the kidneys are called chelev hakloyoth, and are considered non-kosher.

Abdominal fats

The sheet of fat which is covering the interior of the abdominopelvic cavity is real chelev, except at some regions where it is covered with steak, not with skin or tendon. However even where it is covered with meat, there is some fat which is still forbidden, since could occasionally get uncovered while the animals walks[clarification needed]. Therefore one must be well trained in order to identify kosher fat.

Digestive system fats

There are many fats around the digestive organs such as the stomach and intestines, and one must be highly educated and trained in order to identify them.

Tail fat

The tail fat of the fat-tailed sheep, called "alyah" in Hebrew, is a large fatty membrane located on the hindquarters of certain breeds of sheep. The written Torah uses the term "cheilev" of this fat, but only in the sense of "the good part"; its consumption is permitted.[3]

Karaite Jews maintain that the alyah, too, is prohibited.[citation needed]


  1. Talmud, Makkot 22b
  2. Maimonides, Sefer Hamitzvot, Negative Commandments (lo sa'aseh) number 185
  3. Rambam, Maachalot Assurot 7:5

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