In the previous Halacha we have explained that it is forbidden to eat dairy foods on a table on which meat foods are placed, for there is concern that the individual eating will taste some of the other foods on the table, thus having transgressed the grave prohibition of eating milk and meat together. We have also explained that there is no distinction regarding this law between one who is sitting and eating alone and two people sitting and eating next to one another, one eating dairy and one eating meat; in either case, this is forbidden.
Placing a “Reminding Object” on the Table
Even two people who know one another, even if they are members of the same family, may eat dairy and meat respectively on the same table if they place a “reminder” between them (an objects which serves to remind both parties that it is forbidden for them to eat from one another’s food), for instance, by each of them eating on a separate table cloth. They may likewise place a “reminding item” between them which they are not using during their meal as long as this object is somewhat high and protruding, such as a loaf of bread or a pitcher. However, a small “reminder”, such as a ring and the like, is insufficient, for there is still room for error by them possibly not paying attention to the item between them and mistakenly eating from one another.
People Who Are Careful Not to Eat from the Same Plate
Even two people who are acquainted with one another but are careful not to eat from one another’s plate must nevertheless place a valid “reminder” between them when eating dairy and meat respectively on the same table, for our Sages were still concerned that they would transgress the prohibition of eating dairy and meat together.
Placing a “Reminder” When One is Eating Alone
We must point out that when we have written that placing a “reminding object” on the table makes it permissible to eat meat and dairy foods respectively on the same table, this only applies when two people are eating on the same table in which case we assume that even if one of the individuals mistakenly tries to taste some of the other’s food, the other person will remind him that he may not do so. However, if one is eating alone, such an individual may not rely on the “reminder” placed on the table, for there is still concern that the individual will move the “reminder” and will then not notice it and will then partake of the foods he is currently prohibited to, for everyone knows that when one sits alone at a table, one may come to eat any tasty food placed before him at the time without realizing that this is forbidden.
Appointing a “Guard”
There is nevertheless a possibility where even if one eats alone, one may rely on the “reminder” before him, which is when another person is present. Although this other person may not necessarily be eating together with the individual, the individual eating may nevertheless appoint his friend as a “guard” to remind him not to mistakenly eat foods that are currently forbidden to him. In this way and in addition to the “reminder” on the table, one may act leniently and eat in this regard with the combination of the “guard” and the “reminding object” similar to the law of two people dining together on the same table that we have discussed above.
Appointing a Child as a “Guard” and Eating Together With a Child
Nevertheless, a child cannot be appointed as such a “guard”, for a child cannot be relied upon to remind one not to eat foods forbidden to him. For this reason, one may not eat dairy on the same table as a child who is eating meat even if there is a “reminding object” between them, for there must always be a “reminding object” and an adult friend to remind one; a child may not be relied upon at all to remind one’s self. Although some rule leniently with regards to a child, the great Rishon Le’Zion, Hagaon Harav Yitzchak Yosef Shlit”a writes that one must act stringently. Thus, one cannot eat meat and dairy respectively with a child on the same table unless they are eating on two separate tables or another adult is appointed to “guard” them as is the law regarding one eating alone.