No one should eat alone (Daf Yomi Pesachim 86)

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“Upon the houses wherein they shall eat it.”

We have been on a journey over the last weeks involving the sacrifice of the Paschal lamb on the eve of Passover.  Yesterday, we learned in the Daf Yomi portion that the eating of the Paschal lamb was an inside activity, and we were provided with a definition of inside, with a door as the defining boundary. The discussion today turns to who can be invited to the Passover table, with the general premise that one group shares one lamb, although there is some debate on the matter.

We are told that if two groups are conducting their seder in a single house, they should turn their faces away from each other as they eat. They may erect a wall or barrier of some sort between their respective tables. We are provided with the image of a waiter (perhaps in a yellow jacket like the famous cranky men who worked at Ratner’s) running between the tables in order to serve both groups. And if there is a bride present (and why a bride and not any other women?) she will also turn her head away from her group in order to avoid the gaze of men she does not know (although presumably, wouldn’t the table be occupied with her family and friends?)

There is debate if one lamb can be shared among two separate groups. One point of view says yes based on the text from Exodus (12:7) that says, “upon the houses wherein they shall eat it.” The plural of “houses” suggests that the lamb can be eaten among two separate groups. An argument is also made that one social person can eat the lamb in two separate places based on another text from Exodus (12:46): “in one house shall it be eaten.”

Where there are two Rabbis there are two opinions. On one side of the debate is Rabbi Yehuda who says that although one person must eat the lamb in one location, there is no prohibition against sharing the lamb among multiple groups. Rabbi Shimon has a different reading of the text and concludes that one lamb may not be shared among different groups. It all hinges on the interpretation and emphasis of one specific word related to who is doing the eating.

If someone decides to taste a small morsel of the roasting lamb directly from the stove, he now has found himself in a conundrum. He has unwittingly created an independent group next to the stove and is advised to eat his fill before the lamb is moved. We are told that if the members of his group are kind and want to share a meal with this hungry person, perhaps an uncle (one interpretation suggests it is the family butler), they will pull up and establish their seating right there next to the stove.

In the spirit of finding one thing each day, I was moved by the image of the hungry person who hovered over the roasting lamb and cut away a small morsel ahead of the meal. He was rescued from spending the evening alone by his family who pulled up chairs and established their official Passover table next to the roasting lamb.

This story brought back memories of my grandmother who did all the cooking for our seders –and all other holiday meals – and never actually joined us in the dining room. She would prepare a plate for herself and eat at the kitchen table while the long and protracted seder would be led by my grandfather in the next room. I remember sitting with her at the kitchen table. At least, I think I did, because the aroma-filled kitchen would have been a respite from what seemed like an endless reading from the Haggadah.

This is a reminder that no one should eat alone on the holidays. I write this as someone who has eaten alone on every holiday since the coronavirus shut down travel. But I know that my family and friends are right there with me in spirit, just as my departed grandmother surrounds me with her memories of all the love she shared from her hard-working kitchen. For her, food was love and love was food.

About the Author
Penny Cagan was born in New Jersey and has lived in New York City since 1980. She has published two books of poems called “City Poems “ and “And Today I am Happy." She is employed as a risk manager and continues to write poetry. More information on Penny can be found at
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