Correction: There was a typographical error at the end of yesterday's Halacha which stated that the prohibition to take haircuts and shave does not apply this year according to the Sephardic custom. Clearly, this is incorrect and all of the laws of the week during which Tisha Be'av falls out apply this year to their fullest extent.
The Reasons and Parameters of This Law
If one is eating dairy foods, our Sages have enacted that one may not allow meat foods to be placed on the same table. For instance, one who is eating bread with cheese may not place meat on the same table. The reason for this is because we are concerned that one may eat from the meat items on the table (Rambam). The opposite applies as well that if one is eating meat dishes, one may not allow dairy foods to be placed on the same table one is eating on. Some explain that the reason for this prohibition is because we are concerned that the meat and the cheese will touch one another thereby causing one to transgress the prohibition of eating a milk and meat mixture (Rashi).
Eating Alone or With Someone Else
It makes no difference whether one is eating alone and there is meat and dairy on the same table or if one is eating with someone else on the same table who is eating either dairy or meat and in both instances, there is concern that one will come to eat the food one is prohibited to eat at the present time.
Two Unacquainted People
Although one eating dairy may not do so on the same table where one’s friend is eating meat, nevertheless, the Gemara (Chullin 107b) writes that only regarding two people who are acquainted with one another is it forbidden to place dairy and meat on the same table lest they mistakenly eat from one another thus having eaten milk and meat together. However, if the two individuals do not know one another, for instance, two people staying in the same hotel but do not know one another, one may indeed eat dairy and the other meat on the same table, for there is no concern that one will partake of the food of another person whom one does not know.
Based on this, if one is dining in a restaurant which serves both meat and dairy respectively (obviously, when no Kashrut issues, such as when there are two separate kitchens) and several people, some eating meat and others dairy, are seated around the same table in the restaurant although they are not friends, this poses no concern of eating meat and dairy on the same table.
Nevertheless, experience has shown that the kashrut pitfalls at such establishments which serve both meat and dairy dishes at the same time are great and many and many times, the waiters and cooks do not separate adequately between meat and dairy foods and dishes and it is quite possible that one will transgress some prohibition by eating there. One must therefore be exceedingly careful to check the kashrut supervision in such establishments and ascertain whether or not it is even halachically acceptable to eat at such places.
People Seated Far Away From One Another
Two people who are sitting on the same table and are eating dairy and meat respectively but are sitting far enough from one another that one cannot stretch out his hand and take some of the other’s food may continue to eat in this way even without a reminding object between them.
Summary: One may not eat meat foods on a table on which dairy foods are placed and vice versa. If the other food (meat or dairy respectively) belongs to an individual with whom one is unacquainted, one may sit next to him and continue eating, for there is no concern that one will eat some of the food belonging to the individual sitting next to him.
In the following Halacha, we shall discuss some more details regarding this law.