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The Third Meal

I love the third meal on Shabbos afternoon. The singing, the food, the company, the words of torah etc. etc. [It is also fun to say the word "sholoshoudis".] In Kabbalah this time is called "ra'ava dra'avin" - the will of wills. The Sfas Emes that this is when G-d is "anxious" to bestow upon us blessings. He just wants us to make ourselves worthy. He has a will to have a will to reward us. This can be compared to a father who makes a great deal of money at work one day and comes home with a bag filled with presents for the children. He does not want to spoil the children by giving them something for nothing, so he hopes that their exemplary behavior will make them deserving of his largesse.

The problem is that many Jews don't eat the third meal! The truth is that the Shulchan Aruch [391/5] says unequivocally that we must. However, since we love Jews instead of pointing out their failures we will try to find a justification for their actions [when possible]. The Sefer Ohr Zarua [Simman 52] says that if one is not hungry he is not obligated to eat this meal. Another possible justification is that the implication of the Gemara [Shabbos 118b] is that the eating of the third meal is only a "Middas Chassidus" - an commendable act of piety, but not standard behavior.

Of course this is only a "limmud zchus" for those who are lax but of couse it is desideratum that everybody, men and women, alike should eat this meal. [See Tzitz Eliezer Vol. 16 Simman 13]

One final note. G-d is great! He tells us to eat delicious food and rewards us eternally for doing so. I would love to convert to Judaism. But I can't. I learned that when I was relieved of my foreskin one happy morning many moons ago. The Mohel whispered into my ear "Hey Al, you are Jewish. Forever! Welcome to the club. Hope you don't mind persecution too much." I answered "Thanks Mo!" and fell into a deep relaxing sleep. I have been having a ball ever since.

a chassidishe perspective (not bad for a yekke, but hey, i'm marrying a chassid)- seudah shlishis is actually the MOST important meal of shabbos,why? Friday night: you haven't eaten since chatzot, davening is energetic and your very hungry and it's dinner time. so you eat dinner, just in a festive manner befitting the holy shabbos. Shabbos day: you just spent 3 hours in shul, and you didn't eat before. you're hungry and it's lunch-time anyway. so you eat lunch, but in a festive manner befitting the holy shabbos. now, it's time for the third meal, and you are stuffed and wondering if you really have to (yekke voice in me:shulchan aruch says you're pattur if you're full!)but you eat anyway because you must eat 3 meals on shabbos! so davka now, it is FOR SURE lecavod shabbos, without any ulterior motives!

One only has to look in davening for the proof that שלשודוס ;-) is supposed to be the most joyous of all the meals, and one not to miss out on. In the midsection of the Shabbos עמידה, during the paragraph "אלוקינו ואלוקי אבותינו", we say "וינוחו בה ישראל"- "that Yisrael should rest on it"- about the Shabbos. Actually, we say that only during Ma'ariv. During Shacharis, we say "וינוחו בו ישראל" and by Mincha, "וינוחו בם ישראל". Why the changes?

B'nei Yisrael and Shabbos are compared to a Chosson and Kallah. During the first meal, we eat at the Kallah's house at it were- we have just accepted the Shabbos, so the Shabbos Queen can be compared to a lonely girl who has just found (and became MiKadeshet to!) her Zivug. So this first meal is her celebration, represented by the feminine "בה". The second meal is during the day, which was when Bnei Yisrael accepted the torah. So this meal is for the Chosson, who has just made "Eirusin" with his Kallah- hence the masculine בו.

The third meal is the plural "בם". We are now past the wedding celebrations. We ate at the Kallah's table, and the Chosson's table- all the family hubbub is in the past. Now the Chosson can sit alone with his Kallah, at their table. Ah! This is Shabbos! This is serenity! This is the time when we can come closest to feeling the sense of the Kedusha and the Shalvah of Olam HaBah! How could someone miss this?

The Ari Z"L HaKadosh says about Shalos Shudos: "חדו השתא בהאי שעתא דבה רעוא ולית זעפין"- "Be elated now, at this very point, [in] that in it there's favor, and no anger". Shalos Shudos is called "רעוא דרעוין"- the [most] favorable of favorable [times]- this is the best chance in the world to feel Shabbos! Just you and Shabbos, and הקב"ה- no anger, no judgement, no fights- just happiness. There's so much written about this meal, and it's a rare opportunity- and missing out on it is an incredible loss.

Thank you Morah and ctrl=alt=mo. Beautiful. So many people are too busy for this meal and they really are missing out.

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About me

  • I'm Rabbi Ally Ehrman
  • From Old City Jerusalem, Israel
  • I am a Rebbe in Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh.
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