Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Table Manners and Meal Time

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

Although some exhibit behaviors which could have one conclude otherwise, table manners are an essential component of Torah-true Judaism. The ancient Persians were noted for their exemplary table manners worth emulating.[1] So severe are poor table manners that forgiveness for inappropriate table manners are included in the Yom Kippur confessional!

It is interesting to note that not only are table manners mandated by the Talmud, but dining times are as well, each according to one's class and personality.[2] For example, the Talmud teaches that cannibals should eat within the first hour of each day. Thieves should eat during the second hour and wealthy individuals should dine in the third hour of the day. Regular people should eat during the fourth hour though if one has an occupation that requires one to work with one's hands then the fifth hour is to be preferred. Finally, Torah scholars should eat their meals in the sixth hour of the day. Regardless of when one decides to eat, it should be at a set time every day.[3] Women should allow their husbands to partake of the bread at a meal first as it is said to ensure that wives won’t overeat![4]

Click here to read moreMeals are supposed to be held with family and other loved ones rather than alone, as King Solomon says: “Better is a meager meal of vegetables with love than a rich luxurious meal without love.”[5] Eating in public, however, is considered to be in poor taste.[6] Furthermore, one mustn’t eat until one is stuffed, but rather just enough so that one is no longer hungry.[7] Indeed, overeating is a grave sin.[8] One is also obligated to say divrei Torah at least once during the course of a meal.[9] Be advised that drinking hot liquids and eating warm bread Saturday nights has secret healing powers.[10] One should only eat when hungry and only drink when thirsty.[11]

It is strongly advised that one begin the day with an early breakfast,[12] and eating well protects one from the weather.[13] One should wait some time after eating before beginning any exercise.[14] One's eating should exceed the amount one drinks.[15] Never drink out of the same cup as someone else – it could kill you.[16] One should not make drastic changes in one's diet, as it can lead to severe intestinal disorders.[17] It goes without saying that wasting food is a serious sin.[18]

Eating should never be a rushed event – take your time.[19] The Talmud recommends that one not slice bagels or meat upon one's hands, as the blood that gushes from such a wound may spoil or otherwise ruin the taste of one's food.[20] Additionally, a guest should never serve food to the children of the host, lest there be a lack of food for other guests.[21] Never stare at someone when they’re eating.[22] It is prohibited to invite people for a meal if it is known in advance that they will not be able to attend.[23]

[1] Berachot 8b.
[2] Pesachim 12b.
[3] Yoma 75b.
[4] Shabbat 140b.
[5] Mishlei 15:17.
[6] Kiddushin 40b; some authorities even discourage restaurants based on this!
[7] Pesachim 114a.
[8] Eruvin 83b.
[9] Avot 3:4.
[10] Shabbat 119b.
[11] Sefer Chassidim 127.
[12] Pesachim 112a.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Shabbat 129b.
[15] Megilla 12a.
[16] OC 170:16; Mishna Berura 37; Sefer Chassidim 111.
[17] Nedarim 37b.
[18] Devarim 20:19.
[19] Berachot 54b.
[20] Berachot 8b.
[21] Chullin 94a.
[22] Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 42:13; OC 170:4
[23] Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 63:5

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