While it seems a bit counterintuitive to have a day celebrating abundant eating the day after a national holiday, nevertheless, January 2nd is celebrated as “Buffet Day.”

The concept of a “buffet,” a French word describing a piece of furniture on which varied foods were displayed, was adopted because the Swedish term “smorgasbord,” introduced at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City, seemed too difficult to pronounce.

Kosher buffets can often be found at celebrations such as weddings and bar/bat mitzvahs, at organizational dinners and even Shabbat “kiddushes” at synagogue. Despite their popularity, there are some halachic (Jewish legal) issues that must be kept in mind when attending a buffet.

First, it is perfectly normal for the human body to become satiated after eating a certain amount. At a buffet, people’s eyes may be larger than their stomachs. People may take more food than they need, because, consciously, or perhaps subconsciously, they tell themselves that since they already paid for the food, they may as well eat all of it. Maimonides (Mishneh Torah, Laws of De’ot 4:15) writes that “ravenous eating (achilah gassah in Hebrew) is as deadly to the body of every man as poison, and is the base of all sickness.” According to halacha (Jewish law), a person who eats so much that it is difficult to continue eating, is not considered to be eating.

A second halachic consideration at a buffet is to remember to recite the order of the blessings properly. The general rule is that if an individual eats bread, no other blessings prior to eating need to be recited, save for the blessing on wine. If a person does not eat bread, they should recite the blessings, based on a Biblical verse (Deuteronomy 8:8), in the following order: mezonot (recited over items made from wheat, barley, rye, oats and spelt), ha’etz (recited over fruit), ha’adama (vegetables) and she’ha’kohl (the blessing recited over drinks and non-organic food, such as meat, eggs and everything else).

While a kosher caterer will not include both meat and dairy on a buffet, you may find meat and fish at the same buffet table. The Talmud (Pesachim 76b) prohibits cooking meat and fish together, claiming that doing so could yield a dangerous combination. The Code of Jewish Law (Yoreh Deah 116:2-3) proscribes eating fish and meat back-to-back without eating or drinking something else in between. Since we avoid eating fish and meat together, we also serve them on different dishes, so the mixture will be avoided.

NOTE: As with all Treats dealing with halacha (points of Jewish law), a local rabbi should be consulted for practical application.

Copyright © 2022 NJOP. All rights reserved.