THE LAWS OF SHABBAT
By Rav Doniel Schreiber
Shiur #12: Se'udot Shabbat
I. General Background
One is obligated to eat shalosh se'udot (three meals) on Shabbat. The source for this is found in the pasuk (Shemot 16:25): "And Moshe said, eat that (the manna) today, for today is a Shabbat to Hashem, today you shall not find it (the manna) in the field." The gemara Shabbat 117b derives from the threefold citation of "ha-yom" (today) in the pasuk that there is an obligation to eat three meals on Shabbat.
There is a dispute amongst poskim whether this is a Torah (Levush Sefer Chareidim 14:3, and Maharal of Prague) or a rabbinic obligation (Maharil no. 94, and Peri Megadim OC 291, in Mishbetzot Zahav note 1). The Arukh Ha-shulchan (OC 291:1) writes that even if shalosh se'udot are not a Torah obligation, at the very least they were instituted by Moshe Rabbeinu. For further research, see Rashi Shabbat 117b s.v. Telata, Rambam Hilkhot Shabbat 30:9, and Taz OC 291:1; also note that shalosh se'udot is not counted in the various listings of taryag (613) mitzvot.
2. Are women obligated to eat all shalosh se'udot?
Even though it is not discussed in the gemara, Rishonim cite different reasons as to why women are obligated in the mitzva of eating three Shabbat meals. Rabbeinu Tam (Sefer Ha-yashar volume of responsa 70:4) argues that since "af hen hayu be-oto ha-nes" - i.e., women were also included in the miracle of the manna - women are obligated in the mitzvot of lechem mishneh and shalosh se'udot. The Ran (Shabbat 44a in pages of the Rif s.v. Ve-katav) states that Rabbeinu Tam's reasoning was unnecessary. According to the Ran, women are obligated in these mitzvot simply because men and women are equally obligated in all positive mitzvot of Shabbat; see also Arukh Ha-shulchan 291:4. This is rooted in the rule (gemarot Berakhot 20b and Shevu'ot 20b) that whoever is responsible in shemirat Shabbat (refraining from melakha on Shabbat) is obligated in zekhirat Shabbat (the positive mitzvot of Shabbat). Rabbeinu Tam, however, may understand that this rule only applies to positive Torah obligations, such as kiddush, but not rabbinic ones such as shalosh se'udot (see Maharil cited in Peri Megadim Eshel Avraham OC 291:11).
On the strength of these arguments, the Shulchan Arukh (OC 291:6) rules that women are obligated to eat three Shabbat meals. See MB 291:26, and also shiur #11: Lechem Mishneh, par. 1. This is also the ruling of the Arukh Ha-shulchan (291:4) who notes that many women are generally unaware of this responsibility and proclaims that this must be rectified.
3. One who is not hungry
One must eat all three meals even if one is not hungry (OC 291:1). However, since the whole reason for eating is to increase one's enjoyment, if one is so full that he absolutely cannot eat, one is exempt (OC 291:1 and MB 291:3).
4. What are the proper time periods of each meal?
Some poskim are of the opinion that since the shalosh se'udot are derived from the threefold citation of "yom" (day), each meal should be distinct. Consequently, they should be eaten during three different periods of the day - leil Shabbat (Friday evening), Shabbat morning (prior to midday), and Shabbat afternoon (after midday). See Arukh Ha-shulchan 288:2 and compare with the formulation of the Mishna Shabbat 117b and Rambam Shabbat 30:9. See also Mesorah Torah Journal no. 4 p. 17, where the Rav zt"l posited that one is obligated to eat shalosh se'udot during the times of ma'ariv, shacharit, and mincha in order to fulfill "chatzi la-Hashem ve-chatzi lakhem" (the notion that half the day must be dedicated to spiritual service to Hashem, and the other half to appreciating Hashem by enjoying our physical environment). This idea is based on the Yerushalmi Shabbat 1:3 which applies "chatzi la-Hashem ve-chatzi lakhem" to Shabbat as well as Yom Tov. Davening and eating at each period of the day divides one's service to Hashem on Shabbat between the spiritual and the physical realms.
The details of timing the three meals will be discussed in section II.
5. What are the recommended foods for the shalosh se'udot?
It is preferable for one to enjoy more meat, delicacies, and wine on Shabbat than one does during the week, although one is not obligated to do so (OC 250:2, Shulchan Arukh Ha-rav 250:2, and SSK vol. 2 42:16). Minimally, one should try to eat two cooked dishes and fish (assuming one enjoys fish) at each meal (MB 242:1,2). In today's society, meat may have replaced fish as the greater delicacy. (See SSK, vol. 2, 42:16, note 63.) One should eat warm food at each of the Shabbat meals as this not only honors Shabbat but increases ones enjoyment as well. (Rema 257:8). However, one who does not like warm meals may enjoy cold meals instead (MB 257:48).
The obligation to eat bread will be discussed in section II.
6. One who cannot afford shalosh se'udot
If one only can afford two meals, he nonetheless fulfills his mitzvat oneg Shabbat with them. Furthermore, one is not obligated to borrow money for a third meal. However, if one cannot afford even two meals, then he should borrow enough money to buy three Shabbat meals; this is so since God guarantees that He will repay the debt. Nonetheless, if one feels that one will not be able to repay the loan, he should forgo mitzvat shalosh se'udot. (See Mishna Berura siman 242 note 3 and SSK, vol. 2 42:18, 19 note 71).
II. Laws pertaining to each of the shalosh se'udot
1. Se'uda rishona (the first meal)
The first meal may be eaten as early as pelag ha-mincha (if one has accepted early Shabbat) and as late as alot ha-shachar (dawn) (OC 267:2, MB 267:5, and Shulchan Arukh Ha-rav 271:16). One should begin the meal soon after returning home from shul so that he fulfills the mitzva of sanctifying the Shabbat day by reciting kiddush as soon as possible. However, if one is not hungry, he may delay the se'uda until later in the evening. Clearly, one should not delay the meal if eating later will disrupt the household or detain servants or guests. See OC 271:1 and MB 271:1.
One who did not eat the first meal on Friday must eat three meals on Shabbat day (Rema 291:1).
B. What must one eat to fulfill the mitzva?
One should preferably eat a little more than a ke-beitza (the volume of an egg) of bread; one who has eaten a kezayit (the volume of an olive) of bread has nonetheless fulfilled his obligation (OC 274:4, ibid. 291:1 and MB 291:2). The required amount must be eaten tokh kedei akhilat peras (2-9 minutes).
For further research: Rishonim dispute whether the reason for eating bread is due to oneg Shabbat or kavod Shabbat. See Rashba Berakhot 49b (oneg) and Tosafot Pesachim 101a, s.v. Ta'amo (kavod). See also MB 274:9.
2. Se'uda shniya (the second meal)
Since it is prohibited to fast beyond chatzot (midday) of Shabbat day (OC 288:1) one must begin the se'uda shniya prior to chatzot. Even if one has taken something to eat or drink before chatzot (e.g., one drank water before tefilla, or partook from the kiddush in shul), some poskim still require him to begin the meal before chatzot (Arukh Ha-shulchan 288:2). Other poskim rule that if one is involved in tefilla or Torah study, he may fast past midday and start the se'uda shniya later (MB 288:2).
B. What must one eat to fulfill the mitzva?
See se'uda rishona, B, above. It is advisable not to overeat during this meal so that one will have an appetite for se'uda shlishit (OC 291:1).
3. Seuda shlishit (the third meal)
i. Earliest Time
Rishonim dispute whether the se'uda shlishit may commence any time during the day (Ba'al Halakhot cited in Ran, Shabbat 43b in pages of the Rif, s.v. Tanu rabban kama) or specifically at the onset of mincha time (a half-hour after midday in sha'ot zemaniyot - see shiur #3, part B, section IV) (Tosafot Shabbat 118a, s.v. Be-mincha, and Rosh ibid. 16:5). Shulchan Arukh (OC 291:2) rules in accordance with this latter opinion.
ii. Before or After Mincha?
Some Rishonim posit that one should eat before davening mincha; this is out of concern for the view that one may not drink between mincha and ma'ariv (Rabbeinu Tam Tosafot Pesachim 105a, s.v. Ve-hanafka mina, and Rosh ibid. 10:13). Others write that it is best to eat this meal after davening mincha (Rambam Hilkhot Shabbat 30:10, Hagahot Maimoniyot ibid, note 20). The Rema (OC 291:2) cites both opinions and mentions that the custom is to follow the latter opinion. If it is difficult to have the meal after mincha, one may eat se'uda shlishit before mincha (MB 291:11). See also Arukh Ha-shulchan 291:1.
iii. Latest Time
Although the Shulchan Arukh (OC 299:1) forbids one to begin eating after the onset of sheki'a (sunset) (see MB ibid.) due to the approaching mitzva of havdala, the Mishna Berura allows one to start se'uda shlishit in a case of need until a half-hour before tzeit ha-kokhavim (nightfall). Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l (Igrot Moshe OC vol. 4 no. 69 par. 6), however, is stringent; he rules that one may only begin eating until a half a mil (i.e., 9 minutes) after the onset of sheki'a. If one began eating prior to sheki'a, he may continue eating even after tzeit ha-kokhavim (nightfall) (OC 299:1 and MB ibid. For further research see Bi'ur Halakha 299:1 s.v. Mi-shetechshakh.
B. Must one eat bread and have lechem mishneh at se'uda shlishit, or do other foods suffice to fulfill one's obligation?
This is disputed among the Rishonim. Many Rishonim are of the opinion that one must not only eat bread at the third Shabbat meal (Tosafot, Yoma 79b, s.v. Minei) but have lechem mishneh as well (Rambam Hilkhot Shabbat 30:9, Rosh and Tur OC 291). This is due to manna's status as a major staple and its connection with shalosh se'udot. Other Rishonim rule that even eating other foods suffices (Rabbeinu Tam Tosafot Berakhot 49b. s.v I, Rabbeinu Yona Berakhot 36b in pages of Rif, s.v. Birkat, and Ran Shabbat 44a in pages of Rif s.v. Ve-ika).
The Rema (OC 291:4) rules that it is best to eat bread and to have lechem mishneh. When this is not possible, one should recite birkat ha-motzi on a whole loaf of bread. If one is too full to eat bread, the Shulchan Arukh (OC 291:5) rules that one may fulfill the obligation of se'uda shlishit by eating mezonot foods. If this is not possible, one may eat meat or fish (like Tosafot ibid.), or as a last resort fruit (like Rabbeinu Yona and Ran ibid.).
The Arukh Ha-shulchan (OC 291:12), though, vehemently disagrees with this leniency, arguing that, inasmuch as the Rif, Rambam, Rosh, Tur, and Shulchan Arukh fundamentally require one to eat bread, one may eat foods other than bread only if one is ill. He furthermore contends that one who is lenient in this matter has committed a "great violation."
For further research: See Mesorah Torah Journal vol. 5 p. 14 which records an insight of the Rav zt"l (Maran Rabbi Joseph B. Halevi Soloveitchik) on the lenient opinion that allows one to fulfill se'uda shlishit by eating foods other than bread. Why should se'uda shlishit be different from the first two meals? The Rav zt"l explains that this opinion understands that the mitzva of shalosh se'udot does not require one to eat bread at any of the Shabbat meals. Rather, it requires one to only eat food, be it meat, fish, or fruit. On the other hand, the requirement of eating bread at the Shabbat meals springs from a completely different source - oneg Shabbat (the mitzva to have enjoyment on Shabbat). Oneg Shabbat divides Shabbat into two periods, Friday night and Shabbat day. Each period requires one meal consisting of bread. Thus, one is required to have one meal of bread on Friday night (the first meal) and one meal of bread on Shabbat day (the second meal). Once oneg of Shabbat day has already been fulfilled, there is no requirement of bread at the third meal.
An alternate reason can be found in Rabbeinu Yona (Berakhot 36b in pages of Rif, s.v. Birkat). He cites Rabbanei Tzarfat who say that the obligation to eat bread springs from the obligation to recite kiddush; kiddush must be recited where there is a meal (ein kiddush ela be-makom se'uda; see shiurim #8 and #9). Since the obligation to recite kiddush is only once on Friday night and once on Shabbat day, there is no necessity to eat bread at se'uda shlishit.
C. If one has lechem mishneh or bread for se'uda shlishit, must one cover them prior to birkat ha-motzi?
This depends on whether one covers the bread as a remembrance of the miracle of the manna or because bread generally has priority over wine. See shiur #7 Kiddush - part 1 paragraph 5. The Arukh Ha-shulchan (OC 299:14) understands that we follow the latter opinion. Thus, since we do not recite kiddush at se'uda shlishit, there is no need to cover the bread.
D. Must one drink wine at Seuda Shlishit?
Although there is no mitzva of kiddush at se'uda shlishit, it is commendable to recite a blessing over wine during the course of the meal (OC 291:4 and MB 291:21). See also Rambam Hilkhot Shabbat 30:9 and Arukh Ha-shulchan OC 291:10. The Mekubalim, cited in Arukh Ha-shulchan ibid., state that one should recite kiddush at se'uda shlishit as well. This does not appear to be our custom.
E. Talmud Torah and Seuda Shlishit
One should not schedule se'uda shlishit to take place during one's appointed time of Torah learning. However, one should not extend one's Torah learning or shiur, past the time of se'uda shlishit. One should even leave an unduly long shiur if the lengthy shiur will impinge upon one's fulfillment of se'uda shlishit (Peri Megadim, Eshel Avraham, OC 290, Arukh Ha-shulchan OC 290:3, Kaf Ha-chaim OC 290 no. 14, and Mishna Berura 290:8).
However, if one schedules se'uda shlishit to take place during the shiur, instead of before or after the shiur, then one must attend the shiur even if it will mean missing se'uda shlishit (Rokeiach no. 55; see Sha'ar Ha-tziyun 290:5). The Magen Avraham (OC 290) adds that this ruling only applies to a shiur that educates people in halakha and inspires "fear of Heaven." This would exclude shiurim limited to theoretical analyses or lectures on politics and the like. See also Bach, OC 290:2.