Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Musings about manners

HaRav Ari Eskin: It is interesting to note that not only are table manners mandated by the Talmud...

Is the requirement to eat with the accepted table manners of your own time and place, or with specific Talmud manners which are forever and everywhere in place? If the former: fine; if the latter, well, are we permitted to feed ourselves with forks? The personal table fork probably didn't catch on until at least the 16th century. Before that it was used to serve, but not to eat.

This strange claim about table manners brings me back to a vexing question, encountered again and again, in one form or another, over my long blogging career: How do we square our faith that every thing a Jew does is presrcibed by God or the rabbis, with the irrefutable evidence that customs, practices and even our beliefs, have evolved with the pasage of time? The easy and obvious answer is that most every this thing was not enjoined or set down; rather our practices were described and justified after first being embraced by the masses.

This answer satisfies me. (The vexing part, I guess, is that I've done such p.p job of selling it to the rest of you.)


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