Shulchan Aruch (OC 167:18) says (in my own translation):

The one who slices the loaf of bread places a slice before each person. The individual then takes the slice with his hand. The one who slices the loaf does not put [the slice] into the hand of the one eating, unless [the latter] were a mourner.

Rama there explains that a mourner is customarily passed food (as is implied by a pasuk), and Mishna B'rura there (90) explains that therefore "it is inappropriate to do so when [the one eating] is not a mourner, lest his fate worsen".

My question is what precisely is indicative of mourning and therefore not done to non-mourners. Here are some options:

  1. Passing directly from the slicer to the eater is indicative of mourning. (However, passing it to a third party, who then passes it down the table to the eater, is fine, even if it goes from hand to hand throughout.) [This is literally what the Shulchan Aruch says.]
  2. Passing directly to the eater is indicative of mourning. (However, the slicer could pass it down the table hand to hand, as long as the last passage, to the eater, is not done from hand to hand.)
  3. Passing directly from the slicer is indicative of mourning. The slicer should not pass bread into someone's hand. (However, once the bread's on its way down the table, it can be passed hand to hand, even to the eater's hand.)
  4. Passing bread that will be eaten, from hand to hand, is indicative of mourning. Period. No one should pass bread to anyone.
  5. Passing bread from the slicer to the eater, even via other people, is indicative of mourning. However, if it at some point en route is set down, that's fine.

(Of these, option 3 seems very unlikely to me, since the sources above make it sound like it depends on the eater.)

As an ancillary but closely related question: If option 3 or 4 of my four options above is true, i.e. if bread should not be passed to someone even if he's not the eventual recipient, then what happens if it is passed hand to hand? Whose fate can (lo alenu) worsen: the one who received the bread en route, or the eventual recipient? For example, say R'uven slices a slice for Levi and hands it to Shim'on, who places it in front of Levi. Levi then eats it. If my option 3 or 4, above, is correct, R'uven should not have handed the bread to Shim'on because someone's fate could worsen. Whose? (Of course, if my option 1 or 2 (or similar) is correct, then this second question is moot.)

Sourced answers would be ideal.


1 Answer 1


Based on the Divrei Yirmiyahu's commentary on Rambam Hilchot Brachot, Chapter 7, Halacha 5, it appears that the Baal HaBayit (who is cutting the bread), is supposed to place a piece of bread in front of everyone sitting at the table.

He says that by doing so, the Baal HaBayit is honoring his guests. Placing it directly into the recipients hand would be like giving it to a poor person (which would be like giving out of need, not honor).

One is not supposed to give honor to a person in mourning, so we give it to him directly in his hand.

If I understand this correctly, it would appear that the Baal HaBayit should not be giving bread to be passed along. He should instead be placing it in front of everyone himself.

The Talmud learns out many laws of mourning from a verse in Yechezkel (24:17), where Yechezkel is commanded by G-d not to observe the regular mourning practices. The verse says:

Sigh in silence; make no mourning for the dead, bind thy headtire upon thee, and put thy shoes upon thy feet, and cover not thine upper lip, and eat not the bread of men.'

The Talmud (Moed Katan 27B) learns from here that on the first day of mourning one does not eat his own food. Rather, as the commentaries on the verse say, other people supply the first days' meal(s).

  • +1, very nice. Essentially he's saying the opposite of the Mishna B'rura: the MB (sorta the Rama really, though the DY is from the 19th century ADE) says don't do to others what's done to a mourner; the DY says don't do to a mourner what's done to everyone else.
    – msh210
    Commented May 9, 2012 at 20:55

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