Halacha Date: 21 Tevet 5778 January 8 2018
Question: While distributing pieces of bread to the members of one’s household during the Shabbat meals, some have the custom that the head of the household throws the pieces of bread to those who are sitting far from him. Is this practice correct or not?
Answer: In the Halacha published this past Thursday (regarding sitting on food items), we have explained generally the basic laws of the prohibition of treating foods in a degrading manner.
The Prohibition to Throw Food
The Baraita in Masechet Berachot (50b) states that one may not throw bread. The Gemara explains further that regarding all types of food, the prohibition to throw them depends on whether or not doing so will ruin the food. For instance, soft figs will surely be damaged or ruined if they are thrown, even on a clean table. However, if it seems that throwing the food will not cause it to be ruined, such as throwing candies on a groom when he goes up to the Torah on Shabbat, there is no such prohibition, for this does not constitute disrespect to the food.
Regarding bread, however, the Rishonim disagree: According to the Tosafot, even if the bread will not become ruined as a result of throwing it, such as by throwing it from side to side on a table, it is still forbidden to do so, for bread has special significance and throwing is considered demeaning. The Rosh, Tur, and other great Rishonim rule likewise. (The commentary Tziyun Le’Nefesh Chaya, ibid, indeed infers this from the language of the Baraita.)
On the other hand, the Rashba and Rabbeinu Yonah (quoted by the Bet Yosef in Chapter 171) write that there is no distinction between bread and other foods and as long as the food is not ruined by throwing it, it is permissible to do so.
Based on this, according to the Tosafot, throwing pieces of bread from one end of the table to another is absolutely forbidden whereas according to the Rashba, it is permissible.
The Bottom Line
Halachically speaking, it seems from the wording of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch that he rules in accordance with the view of the Tosafot that one must act stringently and not throw bread, even on the table. Many Acharonim rule likewise. Hagaon Harav David Yosef Shlit”a rules accordingly in his Halacha Berura, Volume 9, page 49.
Although there are Poskim who justify the custom of throwing bread from one end of the table to another, one should nevertheless abstain from throwing bread completely. This applies especially to the bread eaten during the Shabbat meals upon which the head of the household recites a blessing in order to fulfill the Mitzvah. In such an instance, the Peri Megadim (Chapter 167, Eshel Avraham, Subsection 38) writes that even according to the Rashba, it will be forbidden to throw the bread, for this constitutes “degradation of a Mitzvah.” Several other Acharonim rule likewise.
Summary: One should not throw bread from one side of the table to the other. One should be especially careful regarding the bread used during the Shabbat meals upon which one recites the Hamotzi blessing.