Avraham served his guests three tongues in mustard.1 However, Avraham kept all the mitzvot,2 one of which is to give the foreleg, jaw (including the tongue3), and maw of each slaughtered animal to the kohen. So how could Avraham feed the tongues to his guests, instead of giving them to a kohen (perhaps Shem4)?

  1. Bava Metzia 86b
  2. Yoma 28b
  3. Chullin 134b
  4. Nedarim 32b
  • Because kohanim didn't exist? And, just because gemara says something about Avraham doesn't make it true. You're not required to believe that every statement by Chazal is a histofactual.
    – rosenjcb
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 16:41
  • @rosenjcb Those statements from Chazal that are not "histofactual" - what are they and how should we think of them? Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 17:57
  • @AvrohomYitzchok Aggada and you should think of them seriously. This is standard Judaism.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 18:04
  • Followup question: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/44086
    – msh210
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 18:55

2 Answers 2


Clearly, Avraham had the guests acquire the tongues before slaughtering the animal. As he assumed they were non-Jews, their ownership of the relevant body parts exempts those body parts from the requirement (Shulchan Arukh YD 61:26). Perhaps Avraham gave them water to wash their feet as part of a Kinyan Chalipin (according to Levi (Bava Metzia 47a)).

Alternatively, Avraham may have known that Shem was too far away to get the meat before it spoiled and exchanged the meat for money to save the Shem's property value from being lost (Shulchan Arukh YD 61:10).

Finally, perhaps Avraham held like the opinions (Chullin 136a) that giving the tongue doesn't apply in the Diaspora because of a connection in the verse to Terumot and Maaserot. Since Avraham was living before Yerusha and Yeshiva of the land, the Mitzva didn't apply yet to his locale.

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    I probably shouldn't be having this much fun during the nine days...
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 16:56
  • 2
    Learning is supposed to bring you joy; that's why you aren't supposed to learn on 9 Av, isn't it? But in all seriousness, should this be closed as a riddle, or is this a really lomdishe question?
    – Seth J
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 17:38
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    @SethJ Are those the only two options?
    – Double AA
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 17:39
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    This is awesome.
    – jim
    Commented Oct 27, 2014 at 20:45

Note: See Rav Sternbach below:

There is no obligation to declare the Zero'a, Lechayayim, and Keivah as sanctified, or to separate them from the animal, if they are not going to be given to a Kohen.

This implies that if one cannot get the portions to a kohen before it spoils, then one need not separate them to begin with. If Shem was the Kohen, then Avraham could not have gotten it to him and was patur from separating it.

The gemarah Megilla daf 28a brings the case of Rav Preidah who said that as a middus chassidus he had never eaten from an animal from which the matanos had not been taken. The Art Scroll edition of the gemora on daf 28a (1) footnote 4 brings the Ritva who says that

The Gemora concludes that there is no analogy between the meat of an animal whos gifts have not been separated and tevel. ... Also in contrast to terumah, the priestly gifts from an animal are non-sacred, and so may be eaten even by a non-Kohen. Nevertheless, Rav Preida went beyond the demands of halacha, refusing to eat meat from an animal whose priestly gifts had not been separated (Ritva)

Avraham kept the Torah as a midus chassidus and on that basis is halachically allowed to eat tongue as well as serve it to his guests.

On thinking it over further, I have come to the conclusion (through logic) that Avraham would have also been considered a kohen at that time (when the "guests" arrived). In fact, that is why we have the line of kehunah being thought of as Shem (who outlived Avraham), Aiver, Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Levi (as seen by the treatment of the tribe of Levi in Mitzraim). It was only after Matan Torah that we have the assigned kehunah and the specific matanos.

The logic involves the fact that Shem (Malchitzedek) is called a kohen of Hashem. From the way Avraham is treated (Nsi Elokim) by Avimelech and Bnei Ches (for example) it would appear that he was also recognized as a kohen. At that time, the kehunah was not a matter of yichus, as that only started after the appointment of Aharon.

Since we can treat Avraham as a kohen, he was allowed to assign the matnos kehuna to himself, and, since they were not kodesh, serve them to his guests.

UPDATE The section below explains why tongue is permitted even though it was not given to the Kohen. This would apply to Avraham as well as nowadays.


(c) RAV MOSHE STERNBUCH shlit'a explains that there is a basic difference between Pidyon ha'Ben and all other Matnos Kehunah. The obligation to redeem a firstborn son is independent of the five-Shekel payment to the Kohen. Even when the five Shekalim are not given to a Kohen, it is necessary to "remove the Kedushah" from a Bechor by separating five Shekalim as a Pidyon. Since it is necessary to separate five Shekalim regardless of whether it will be given to a Kohen, the father must give them to a Kohen even though the Kohen is not fully "Muchzak." In contrast, Zero'a, Lechayayim, and Keivah (and Reishis ha'Gez) involve nothing more than a monetary obligation to the Kohen. There is no obligation to declare the Zero'a, Lechayayim, and Keivah as sanctified, or to separate them from the animal, if they are not going to be given to a Kohen. Since one does not need to give them to a Kohen who is not "Muchzak," one also does not need to separate them from the animal.

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    It's still Gezel...
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 8, 2014 at 3:29
  • "UPDATE While this does not necessarily apply to Avraham it explains why we are allowed to eat tongue today." Why did you include any of that here? It doesn't address the question, it is long, and I move for its removal.
    – Double AA
    Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 15:15
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    "through logic" What logic exactly is this? Someone who "ha[s] taken on the spreading the worship of Hashem" is therefore considered a Kohein? That's pretty poor logic if you ask me.
    – Double AA
    Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 15:16
  • @DoubleAA Not because he "took on the spreading of Hashem's worship, but because Hashem recognizedhim as a kohen and had the line of kehunah go through the avos. Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 1:05
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    From what I can remember that the Malbim says that Avraham created the calf through Sefer Yetzira. If the animal is created through that, does the relevant parts need to be given to a Kohen? Commented Feb 20, 2019 at 18:45

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