Nishmat's Women’s Health and HalachaIn memory of Chaya Mirel bat R' Avraham

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Eating Together

A table for two suggests intimacy. The need for caution in such an intimate setting forms the basis for harchakot (restrictions) when a couple eats together.

A couple should observe the following rules during niddah:

1) They should not eat at the same table without a physical reminder of the niddah status. Such a reminder is called a heker. It should be a private symbol between the couple, which is not obvious to others. For example, they may place an object or food item on the table that is not normally kept there and will not be used during the meal, such as a special vase. Or they may use separate placemats, if they do not usually do so. According to some opinions, if they have fixed places at the table one of them may change his or her seat to satisfy the requirement of a heker.

According to some authorities, the reminder is not required if they are eating with other adults, or with children old enough to be embarrassed by intimate behavior.

2) They should not drink from the same cup or eat from the same plate, even if others are at the table. They are both allowed to take from a central serving platter, though they should place the food on their own plates before eating.

3) In general, the husband may not eat or drink from his wife's leftovers. (Some authorities restrict this prohibition to drinking and do not extend it to food.) The husband may partake of his wife's leftovers if any of the following conditions apply:

  • someone else ate or drank from the leftovers after her;
  • the drink or food was transferred to another cup, plate, or container (even if it was then returned to the original one);
  • he doesn't know that they are her leftovers (and she need not tell him);
  • she is no longer present.

4) The wife may eat or drink from her husband's leftovers.

5) Restrictions on pouring drinks for each other, or serving each other food, are discussed in Affectionate Service.

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