Halacha » Restrictions While Eating

Restrictions While Eating

One Table

When a couple eats together, they need to have a reminder that they are in a state of niddah, and that the meal should not become overly romantic. It is forbidden for the couple to eat together at one table without a heker.[1] A heker is anything with a little bit of height that can be placed on the table and is easily noticeable.[2] The heker does not have to be directly between the couple, it merely needs to be in a place that is easily noticeable.

A heker may be something which is usually on the table, but the couple will not use it for the duration of the current meal, or something which is usually not on the table – even if they will use it throughout the meal.[3] Something which is always on the table in a specific place and was moved to a new spot on the table may also be used as a heker.[4] Some examples of a heker include a saltshaker that is not usually on the table, an extra spoon or fork that was set aside as a heker, or a crumpled napkin.

There are a number of situations which do not require a heker.

A heker is only required by a real meal. When snacking and grazing there is no need for a heker.[5]

When eating on separate tables that are next to each other, such as two fold-down tables on a plane, a heker is not required.

If another person besides the couple is at the table, a heker is not required.[6] This includes a child form the age of three.[7]

A couple that has set seats by the table and switches their seats to new spots do not require a heker.[8]

Eating on placemats is like eating on separate tables, and would not need a heker. This is true even when only one spouse is using a placemat.[9]


A couple may not eat from the same plate, even with a heker.[10] Both may take food from a serving plate and eat it from their own plate.[11] Foods that are commonly eaten without a plate, such as popcorn, may be shared from one bowl, provided that the couple are taking the food a handful at a time. Taking one piece at a time would confer the serving bowl with the status of a private plate, and one would be prohibited to share the bowl with their spouse.

A husband may not drink or eat the wife’s leftovers;[12] however, the wife may drink and eat the husband’s leftovers.[13] Some Sephardic Poskim permit the husband to eat the wife’s leftover food, but not the drink.[14]

There are four times that leftovers are permitted:

  1. If the leftovers are transferred to a new cup or plate.[15] However, if there are bite marks on the food, the husband must remove the part of the food that his wife bit before he eats it.[16]
  2. If someone other than the wife drinks or eats after the wife, the husband may drink or eat the leftovers from the original plate or cup.[17]
  3. If the wife left the room, the husband may partake of her leftovers.[18]
  4. If the husband does not know that this is leftover food or drink from his wife, one does not need to notify him.[19]

Serving Food

The husband[20] and wife[21] may not pour each other drinks or serve each other food while niddah. This includes both putting down a plate of food in front of the other spouse, and putting food on to a plate which is in front of the other spouse.[22] This prohibition applies only when serving and pouring in the presence of the other spouse.[23] This prohibition does not extend to putting down a serving plate, it only includes putting down a plate or serving meant for one person.[24]

There are two exceptions to this prohibition, which would allow the couple to serve each other. One can serve food or pour drinks a little off to the side of the spouse. One may also serve and pour with their non-dominant hand.[25]

Passing Wine

The husband may not pass wine to his wife. This includes passing wine by sending it with a third party, and placing a cup of wine in front of her with his left hand.[26] This prohibition only applies to the husband sending wine to his wife; a wife may send wine to her husband.

The prohibition of sending wine to one’s wife only applies to a cup of wine that has a respectable amount in it. Passing a little bit of wine in a cup after kiddush is permitted.[27] When passing a non-respectable amount of wine, it is important to follow the rules of passing that were explained in the previous section.

[1] שו”ע סעי’ ג

[2] ע’ ט”ז סי’ פח ס”ק ד

[3] שו”ע ורמ”א סי’ פח סעי’ ב, ט”ז סי’ קצה ס”ק א

[4] פרמ”ג סי’ פח מ”ז ס”ק ד

[5] ארחות טהרה פי”א סעי’ לג, לד

[6] פ”ת ס”ק ה

[7] ארחות טהרה פי”א סעי’ ל ח

[8] ב”י בשם רבינו ירוחם

[9] שו”ע סעי’ ג

[10] ט”ז ס”ק ב, ש”ך ס”ק ד

[11] ט”ז ס”ק ב

[12] שו”ע סעי’ ד, רמ”א סעי’ ג

[13] רמ”א סעי’ ד

[14] טהרת הבית סי’ יב סעי’ יז

[15] רמ”א סעי’ ד

[16] ארחות טהרה פי”א סעי’ נה

[17] רמ”א סעי’ ד

[18] שם

[19] שם

[20] שו”ע סעי’ יג, מקור חיים ס”ק נב

[21] שו”ע סעי’ י, ש”ך ס”ק יג

[22] ארחות טהרה פי”א סעי’ סז, סח

[23] שו”ע סעי’ י

[24] ש”ך ס”ק יג

[25] שו”ע סעי’ י

[26] שם

[27] ארחות טהרה פי”א סעי’ עג, ביאורים אות יב