Proper Conduct of a Meal

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Saying Divrei Torah at the meal

  1. There's an obligation to say Divrei Torah at every meal [1] before Birkat Hamazon. [2]
  2. One should learn a Mishna, Halacha, Aggadata, or book of Mussar or at least a mizmor or Tehillim. It's a good minhag to say Mizmor LeDavid Hashem Roiy after making HaMotzei and some even permit saying it in between making Al Netilat Yadayim and HaMotzei. [3]
  3. Some rely on recital of the mizmor of tehillim of Al Naharot Bavel or Shir HaMaalot BeShuv even though it's preferable to actually say Divrei Torah during the meal. [4]
  4. Some say that saying "Mayim Achronim Chovah" counts as divrei torah at the meal. [5]
  5. There's a minority opinion that one fulfills one's obligation by benching. [6]

Talking during the meal

  1. It is forbidden to talk during the meal, however, between courses it's permitted to talk. However, the Minhag HaOlam (custom of the world) is to be lenient and allow talking during the meal. [7]

Other laws of proper conduct of a meal

  1. It’s forbidden to take in one’s hand a piece of food the size of a KeBeitzah. [8] However, many are lenient to permit holding a large piece of bread if that’s the way it’s normally eaten such as pizza, pita, or a sandwich. [9]

References

  1. Pirkei Avot 3:3, Chaye Adam 45:4, Aruch HaShulchan 170:1, Mishna Brurah 170:1
  2. Sh"t Rivevot Efraim 1:134 writes that one should make sure to say the divrei torah before Birkat HaMazon.
  3. Mishna Brurah 170:1, Halacha Brurah 170:2. Mishna Brurah writes that it's a good minhag to say Mizmor LeDavid after Hamotzei and Halacha Brurah 170:1 adds that one is even permitted to say it in between Al Netilat Yadayim and Hamotzei.
  4. Aruch HaShulchan 170:1
  5. Ben Ish Chai (Shelach #7), Shulchan Aruch HaMekusar (pg 245 note 12), Halacha Brurah 170:2
  6. Rav Ovadyah MeBartenura on Avot 3:3 writes that one fulfills this obligation by saying Birkat HaMazon. Mishna Brurah 170:1 and Rivovot Efraim 1:134 do not accept this as halacha. [Anaf Etz Avot (Rav Ovadyah Yosef, 3:3, pg 176) defends the Bartenuro from the question of the Tosfot Yom Tov (who asked why would the mishna be dealing with Reshayim who don't say Birkat HaMazon). However, Anaf Etz Avot isn't one of Rav Ovadyah's halachic works and this may be just what he would suggest in learning.]
  7. S"A 170:1 rules that it's forbidden to talk during the meal. Mishna Brurah 170:1 writes that it's only forbidden during the actual meal but not between courses. Halacha Brurah 170:1 agrees. The Perisha writes that perhaps this was only a concern in the days of the Talmud when they ate while leaning, but nowadays that people sit up while eating it's permitted but concludes that no one writes such a distinction. The Pri Megadim (A"A 170:1) writes that it seems that most poskim don't hold of the Perisha. Nonetheless, the Aruch HaShulchan 170:2 writes that the minhag is to allow talking during the meal and defends the minhag because of Shomer Petaim Hashem (Hashem protects the innocent from danger). Halacha Brurah 170:1 also writes that the Minhag HaOlam is to be lenient about this.
  8. Derech Eretz Rabba 6:30, Tur and S”A 170:7, Kitzur S”A 42:2, Mishneh Halachot 15:61
  9. Yalkut Yosef (vol 3 pg 150), Or Letzion vol 2 chap 46:7, and Halacha Brurah 170 are lenient to permit holding in one’s hand bread the size of a KeBeitzah if that’s the normal way of eating it (for example pizza, sandwich, pita). See Alehu Lo Yibol pg 107.