Skip to main content

Thought for the Day: Levels Of Eating "Together" And Why It Matters

Here is one of my favorite jokes about racism: A row broke out on a bus in the old south during the 50s (middle of last century).  They fight was over a passenger of color wanting to sit in a seat in the "persons of no color" section.  The bus driver we fed up and declared, "No more fighting!  This is ridiculous!  There's no white, there's no black; everyone on this bus is green!  Got it, y'all?!"  Everyone murmured their agreement and felt appropriately castigated.  The bus driver then announced, "Good.  Now, dark green in the back, light green in the front."

Let's analyze this joke.  במאי קמיפלגי/what is the source of their disagreement?  There must have been a sign at one row that said, "Dark green section."  מר סבר too exclude light green, but dark green can sit ahead of that row also; מר סבר dark green may only sit there and no where else.  Certainly, though, had there been two signs, "Light green here" and "Dark green here", there would have been no room of misunderstanding and the argument could have been avoided.  (Though the world would have lost a good joke.)

The gemara (Brachos 42b) makes a דיוק in the mishna on 42a that said that when people are reclining at a table for a meal, then one person should bentch for all.  The דיוק of the gemara is: reclining, yes; not reclining (ie, sitting), no.
Aside: During the times of Chazal, civilized people ate at a formal meal reclining on special couches.  The only remnant of that practice now is at the Pesach seder when eating and drinking should (at some points must) be done reclining.  Tosafos already notes that our sitting is there reclining and so you really need to know something to understand how these topics apply to our meals today.  Moreover, when they ate together at a formal meal, then one person said birkas ha'mazon and was motzi everyone else; similar to the way we do kiddush.
Tosafos (dh הסבו אין לא הסבו לא) exclams, "What the hey!?"  (My free translation.)  The immediately preceding clause of the mishna has said explicitly, "if they are sitting, then each bentches for himself."  You don't need to make a דיוק  when the words are right there in front of you!  (Ah... so that's the relevance of the joke... very clever.)  Tosafos says that one must interpret the mishna as talking about something besides not reclining; the mishna that said "sitting" meant "sitting for some other reason than eating".  The gemara then brings as contrast a baraisa that says that if a group is traveling and eats on the way -- even if they all eat from one loaf of bread -- each benches to himself, but if they sit together to eat -- even though each has his own bread -- one benches for all.  From cholent of practices (take a look, it's really cool), the gemara discusses four levels of eating together.

  1. Sitting and reading or playing cards or doing homework or whatever and at some point they eat.  Maybe they brought their own lunch/snack, maybe mom brought snacks.
  2. Sitting at a cafeteria.  You are eating at a table with other people, but not together.
  3. At work and someone says, "Hey, it's a beautiful day!  Lets go to the park and have lunch."
  4. Eating at a formal meal; a wedding, siyum, shabbos, etc.
Nowadays we don't recline and we don't have one person say birkas ha'mazon for all.  We do, however, make a zimun and sometimes one person will say al ha'michya for everyone else.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Sometimes a Food Loses Its Identity When It Loses Its Bracha; Sometimes It Doesn't

Let's start with a question: Why are We Allowed to Drink Coffee and Whiskey Made by Non-Jews?  Before you ask,"Why would I think that I shouldn't be able to drink whiskey and coffee made by non-Jews?", I'll tell you. Simple, we all know that Chazal made a decree -- known as בישול עכו''ם/bishul akim -- that particular foods cooked by non-Jews are forbidden.  There are basically two criteria that determines if a dish falls into this category:
Is not consumed raw.Fit for a royal banquet. Cooked carrots, therefore, are not a problem since they can be eaten raw (I actually prefer them that way).  Baked beans are find because the are not prestigious enough.  (For great synopsis of the laws, see the article on the Star-K site, FOOD FIT FOR A KING, by Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, shlita.)  There are lots of cool questions and details (baked potatoes are prestigious, does that make even potato chips and issue?) which are for another time.  Clearly, though, both coffee an…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…