Peninei Halakha

06. The Dining Table

Tables of the past were made of thick, solid wood. People would put burning hot pastries and boiling pots on them, so ḥametz dishes would occasionally spill on them. Therefore, the custom became to kasher tables by pouring boiling water over them (SA 451:20), and some were more stringent, pouring boiling water onto a white-hot stone on the table (Mahari Weil). However, today’s tables are more delicate and fragile, and would be damaged, warped, or defaced by boiling water. Since the tables are so delicate, people do not place boiling pots or burning hot pastries directly on them.

Therefore, one must clean the table well, as this kashers the table in according to its majority usage. But since sometimes hot ḥametz liquids can splash onto the table, and sometimes people place hot pastries on it, it is proper to take care not to eat at the table without a tablecloth serving as a barrier between the table and the food.

Some are scrupulous to affix nylon or contact paper, out of concern that the tablecloth placed on the table will move around, but affixing them creates a permanent barrier, over which one places the tablecloth. If it is a table on which one occasionally kneads dough, a permanent barrier must be placed or affixed to it.[6]

For a table on which no one places hot ḥametz foods and no one kneads dough, it is sufficient to clean it well, and there is no need to cover it.

One may kasher a tablecloth on which ḥametz was eaten by laundering it in a washing machine. If a tablecloth cannot be washed, one should clean it and keep it in a locked cabinet with the ḥametz dishes.

[6]. SA 451:20 states that the custom is to pour boiling water on the tables, since ḥametz soup would sometimes spill onto the table (even though most of its use is with cold, and technically cleaning it is sufficient). According to Responsa Mahari Weil §193, since sometimes hot quiches are placed on the table, it absorbs taste at the level of kli rishon, so one would need to kasher it with a white-hot stone. Several Aḥaronim wrote that le-khatḥila one should act accordingly (Eliyah Rabba, Pri Megadim, MB 451:114). However, people do not place boiling pots or burning hot pastries directly on contemporary tables, which are comparatively fragile and delicate. At most, we place pots on a trivet, and occasionally ḥametz food spills from them onto the table, or we place hot – but not burning hot – pastries on the table, so pouring boiling water kashers it effectively even from its more intense usage. Yet even pouring boiling water can ruin the table. Therefore, it is proper to place a barrier on it. If it is a table on which one occasionally kneads dough, a permanent barrier must be affixed to it. This all follows the accepted view (above, 10:7) that le-khatḥila we are concerned about most intense usage. But be-di’avad, when necessary, even if it was used for dough, as long as its surface is smooth and there is no concern that ḥametz got stuck in its crevices, one may suffice with cleaning and rinsing, in accordance with most of its usage. Or Le-Tziyon 3:10:10 accepts this le-khatḥila.

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