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Laws of Judaism Concerning Food

 

20.  Etiquette at Meals

 

From The Code of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah)

 

Certain customs, comprising etiquette when dining, were recorded by the Sages. For example, the most important person at the meal is the first to wash his hands and reclines at the head of the group.[1] The bread is not to be cut until each person has before him salt and any dip that is going to be used.[2] Since talking while eating can be dangerous, it should be avoided. Looking directly at another person or his food may embarrass him, so this is also to be avoided.[3] A server who brings food should be offered a taste of each dish, though the server does not eat with those being served.[4] After leaving a meal to urinate, a person must wash one hand (the one that touched his penis[5]) before resuming eating.[6] Foods like berries, grapes and figs that have no shells, bread and pieces of food are not to be thrown because they may become disgusting if they are thrown. Food and beverages should not be thrown out in a way that indicates contempt or ingratitude for them.[7]

 

A host is not to be embarrassed. For example, sending a barrel of wine with oil floating on it should be avoided because it might cause the recipient to think that a barrel of oil received later was actually wine. As a result, he might invite guests to drink the wine and be embarrassed upon discovering that it is really only oil.[8]

 

A learned sage should eat only at home whenever possible rather than in a public place. He should not eat with those who are not learned.[9] He who becomes drunk sins and loses his wisdom. Drunkenness in front of ignorant people is a desecration of the name of God.[10]

 

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Laws of Religion is a project of the Religion Research Society.

 

Updated October 16, 2016

 

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Food Laws of Judaism, Table of Contents

 

Abbreviations used in footnotes:

MT:  The Mishneh Torah of Maimonides (Code of Maimonides). The names of the specific books and treatises within each book are given according to the Yale University Press translation and also the Moznaim/Touger Hebrew transliterations to facilitate locating the texts posted here.

F:  indicates page numbers in the Feldheim Publishers, Ltd., translation of Book 1 of the Mishneh Torah of Maimonides, the Book of Knowledge.

M:  indicates page numbers in the relevant volume of the Moznaim Publishing Corporation’s Touger translation. (Some of the books of Mishneh Torah are published in several volumes by Moznaim, so the Moznaim volume numbers do not correspond to the Book numbers of Maimonides’ work.)

Y:  indicates page numbers in the translation of the Yale University Press Judaica Series.

●  The sources cited are described on the page Source Texts Used for Laws of Judaism.

 



[1] MT Book 2, The Book of Love, Sefer Ahava; Treatise 5 on Blessings, Berachot; Chapter 7, sec 1 (pages 120M 141Y)

[2] MT Book 2, The Book of Love, Sefer Ahava; Treatise 5 on Blessings, Berachot; Chapter 7, sec 3 (pages 120M 141Y)

[3] MT Book 2, The Book of Love, Sefer Ahava; Treatise 5 on Blessings, Berachot; Chapter 7, sec 6 (pages 122-124M 142Y)

[4] MT Book 2, The Book of Love, Sefer Ahava; Treatise 5 on Blessings, Berachot; Chapter 7, sec 7 (pages 124M 142Y)

[5] MT Book 2, The Book of Love, Sefer Ahava; Note 155 in Yale translation and Note 18 in Moznaim translation to Treatise 5 on Blessings, Berachot; Chapter 7, sec 8 (pages 124M 214Y)

[6] MT Book 2, The Book of Love, Sefer Ahava; Treatise 5 on Blessings, Berachot; Chapter 7, sec 8 (pages 124M 142Y)

[7] MT Book 2, The Book of Love, Sefer Ahava; Treatise 5 on Blessings, Berachot; Chapter 7, sec 9 (pages 124-126M 143Y)

[8] MT Book 2, The Book of Love, Sefer Ahava; Treatise 5 on Blessings, Berachot; Chapter 7, sec 10 (pages 126M 143Y)

[9] MT Book 1, The Book of Knowledge, Sefer Madda; Treatise 2 De’ot Personality Development, Chapter 5, sec 2 (pages 52b-53aF 86-88M)

[10] MT Book 1, The Book of Knowledge, Sefer Madda; Treatise 2 De’ot Personality Development, Chapter 5, sec 3 (pages 53aF 88M)