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The Laws of the Meal

The Laws of the Meal

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During the Meal

• One should not talk during a meal, i.e. while he has food in his mouth, for it can prove dangerous should it go down the windpipe. Even saying "bless you" to one who has sneezed should be avoided. However, if he pushes the food to the side of his mouth, there is no concern about talking1.

• When a number of people are eating together and using the same loaf of bread, the others are not allowed to eat from that bread until the one who said the blessing over the bread eats first. For example, they cannot take the loaf from which he cut, cut a slice for themselves and eat it before the first person started eating his. Likewise, he cannot cut them slices until he eats first, otherwise it would be considered an interruption. However, if each one has his own bread, they are permitted to eat before the first one eats2.

• It is proper for one to learn some Torah during a meal. At a minimum, one should say at least one chapter of Psalms, preferably chapter 23 (and better yet, if he says this chapter after saying the Hamotzi blessing and eating some bread)3.

• When one is distributing pieces of bread to those that are eating with him (e.g. on Friday night), one should not throw the bread to the recipient, nor hand it to him directly. Rather, the piece should be placed before them and they should take it4.

Eating Standing

• It is improper to eat or drink while standing. Neither is it proper to wipe one's plate clean while eating in such a manner that nothing is left on the plate; rather some food, even a small amount, should remain. It is also improper to lick one's fingers5.

Pets or Animals

• If one has pets or animals that he is responsible to feed, he may not sit down to eat his own meal without first providing them with their meal. According to some opinions, one is permitted to eat a snack prior to providing his animals with their food6.

Guests

• When a person comes into a home as a guest, he should not say to the host "give me to eat" but rather should wait until he is offered to eat7.

Sharing Food

• One should not offer to another individual a cup of any liquid from which he had started drinking so that the second person should drink what is left, since the second person may be too embarrassed to refuse the offer and it is stated that for health reasons one should not drink from the same cup that another person drank from. There is no problem if he puts the cup down and the other individual takes it from there8.

• If two people are eating together from the same plate (e.g. eating potato chips from a bowl that is between them) and one of them stops eating in order to drink or to do another minor act, the second person needs to stop eating from the plate and wait until his friend is ready to resume eating. If however, three people are eating from the same plate or bowl and one interrupts his eating, it is not necessary for the other two to stop their eating9.

Grace

• If there is bread remaining on the table at the end of the meal, it should not be removed until after Grace after the Meal. Likewise, one should not remove the tablecloth from the table until after one has said the grace. However, it is not necessary to bring bread to the table if there is none left10.

Footnotes
1.
Ketzos HaShulchan 39:2 and Badei HaShulchan. I have seen a number of explanations as to why this ruling is not followed nowadays by many people. One is the law was said when people ate in a reclining position and the way we eat today is different.
2.
Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch O.C. 167:20.
3.
Ktzos HShulchan 39:2. One of the reasons that the saying of Al Naharos Bavel - on days that Tachnun is said, and Shir HaMaalos - on days when Tachanun is not said, was instituted before bentching was to assure that one will have said some Torah during one's meal.
4.
Sefer Tav Yehoshua 3:6.
5.
Ktzos HaShulchan 39:3.
6.
Ktzos HaShulchan 39:1
7.
Tav Yehoshua 3:38, Ktzos HaShulchan 39:9.
8.
Shulchan Aruch O.C. 170 and the Bach there.
9.
Ktzos HaShulchan 39:7.
10.
Ktzos HaShulchan 39:17.
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4 Comments
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Menachem Posner March 23, 2016

Napkin Myth Is Bunk The folding napkin thing is an internet myth with no basis. Napkins were not even invented in the days of the Talmud. Reply

sheva lazaros Framingham November 8, 2015

esrog jelly every year, after sukkot, i gather esrogim and make several jars of jelly. (i use italian esrogim). i'm pretty sure eating it is a segulah for something. can you give me more information about the spiritual benefits of eating this product. Reply

Juan M. Alcon, Jr. Kaunakakai, Hawaii May 18, 2011

Folding of Napkin When the head of the table crumples his napkin, lays it on the dinner table, and leaves the table, that means he is done with his meal and is not returning. However, if the head of the table folds his napkin neatly, lays it by his plate, and leaves the table, that shows that he is returning to the dinner table.

Please confirm whether this is true. Reply

Loretta Thomasville Al April 11, 2017
in response to Juan M. Alcon, Jr.:

I don't know, that's what I would like to know. Reply

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