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Is there a Halachah that forbids eating while learning? One of my friends told me it was forbidden.

  • What about every Melava Malka where Gedolim speak? – Hacham Gabriel Jun 24 '12 at 5:02
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    It depends if you consider it eating while learning or learning while eating. :) – jake Jun 24 '12 at 17:38
  • @jake if it's considered saying shema while greasing a wagon wheel, then kal vachomer.... :D – HodofHod Jun 25 '12 at 14:29
  • The details are a little vague, but I remember something from Yeshiva. In Chabad, there is a custom to learn the weekly Likutei Torah/Torah Ohr every Shabbat morning. Someone (I forget who) was upset that people would drink coffee while learning. His reasoning was that our sages tell us that when one learns someone's Torah, the author of that Torah is present, and reads the words together with the person learning. If so, that means when you're learning Likkutei Torah/Torah Ohr the Alter Rebbe is standing there and learning with you. How could you have the chutzpah to drink in his presence. – Menachem Jul 16 '12 at 20:05
  • it might be an exaggeration of אֵין דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה מִתְקַיְּמִים ... בְּלוֹמְדִים מִתּוֹךְ עִדּוּן וּמִתּוֹךְ אֲכִילָה וּשְׁתִיָּה sefaria.org/Shulchan_Arukh,_Yoreh_De'ah.246.21 and in the rambam "The words of Torah will not be permanently acquired by a person who applies himself feebly [to obtain] them, and not by those who study amid pleasure and [an abundance] of food and drink halacha 12 here chabad.org/910975 – hazoriz Jun 23 '17 at 22:46
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Mishna B'rura 170:1 bans saying words of Torah while eating a meal, lest food go down the windpipe instead of the esophagus. I see no reason eating anything else would be different from eating a meal but, of course, contact your rabbi for practical guidance rather than relying on what you read on this site. (And in this case, if your rabbi permits it, you may wish to contact your doctor also to see if he forbids it.)

I know of no reason one couldn't eat while thinking (not speaking) words of Torah. (Of course, eating while in the process of studying Torah, especially with a study partner, even while not speaking words of Torah, will limit your ability to speak Torah words aloud if any happen to come to you while you're eating, per the preceding paragraph, and thus prevent good studying. Moreover, eating can distract you from properly thinking about what you're studying. It may therefore be inadvisable; again, ask your rabbi.)

  • A tip of the hat to jake, whose comment about "learning while eating" reminded me of the g'mara on which this Mishna B'rura appears to be based (even though I suspect jake was referring to something else). – msh210 Jun 25 '12 at 6:35
  • Would this not apply to any speech at all, and not just words of Torah? – HodofHod Jun 25 '12 at 14:32
  • @HodofHod, my first paragraph would, but not my second, AFAICT. But the question was about studying Torah. – msh210 Jun 25 '12 at 21:05
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    This confuses me a little because R. Shimon, in Pirkei Avot 3, seems to feel strongly that people should say Torah at the table. Is the idea that there should be a precisely specified time for the words of Torah, and at that time people should stop eating? – Shivaram Lingamneni Nov 26 '13 at 7:10
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    @ShivaramLingamneni, I haven't looked recently, but seem to recall someone who asks as you have and answers that Torah at the table is not while eating. – msh210 Nov 26 '13 at 7:31
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My Rebbi, who is well learned in Halacha, taught me that the halacha that the Mishna Berurah states about eating while speaking in Torah applied more strictly a long time ago, when people choked more commonly (because they had slightly less advanced bodies that we do nowadays), and that nowadays one may learn without worrying about this restriction, if necessary.

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    What's a less advanced body? – Double AA Jun 23 '17 at 2:39
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    People don't choke on their food today? – Ploni Jun 23 '17 at 2:59

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