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Dear Jido,

Though it’s nice that many synagogues serve seuda shelisheet on Shabbat afternoons, so many people don’t adhere to basic etiquette when this food is placed in front of them. I’m not even talking about people who take excessive amounts of one particular item, so that there is little or nothing left over for anyone else. What bothers me most are people who treat the communal serving plates as their own, by double dipping or forking food directly from the plate into their mouths. Aside from being uncivilized, this is a highly unsanitary practice that could (and often does) lead to the spread of illness. What can you suggest responsible people do to correct this problem?

Signed,

A Germ-ee

Dear Fellow Germ-ee,

I’m with you! Nothing worse than digging into the tuna salad when it’s already been mixed with someone else’s avocado. Something should be done to educate the people about how unhealthy this is. In fact, the Shulhan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law, has an entire section on what you would call “Table Manners.” It includes such no-no’s as drinking from someone else’s cup, leaving your utensils in the serving bowl, and taking food out of turn.

Proper behavior at the table is something that must first be taught in the home, starting when children are young. Adults, too, are sometimes not even aware that they are doing something that is impolite, unsanitary, and halachically wrong.

Many years back, the Hafetz Hayim took it upon himself to teach the world about the perils of lashon hara. Almost every refrigerator in town nowadays has a picture of the Hafetz Hayim on it, or a black and red message that reads:
“If You Have Nothing Good To Say, Say Nothing.” Short of asking every pulpit Rabbi to begin classes on Siman 109, why not mount a small campaign of your own? You could prepare little easel messages to be placed on seuda shelisheet tables across the community that say, “Eating Directly from the Serving Plates Can be Hazardous to One’s Health.” You can even print on them
Donated by a Germ-ee.

Sincerely,

Jido