Some of the Laws of Seudah Shelishis
Question #1: Min haTorah or not?
Is eating three meals on Shabbos a Torah requirement?
Question #2: Shaloshudis?
Why do most people slur the word and pronounce it as shaloshudis? Should it not be called seudah shelishis?
Question #3: Three and over
What is required to be eaten for the third meal on Shabbos?
The mitzvah of celebrating Shabbos is mentioned by the prophet Yeshayahu (58:13), in his famous words, vekarasa laShabbos oneg, “And you shall call Shabbos a delight.” Although this observance is not mentioned in the written Torah, many authorities rule that it has a halachic status of being min haTorah. It may be included in the Torah’s words mikra’ei kodesh (Vayikra 23:2, see Ramban, as explained by Shaar Hatziyun 242:1). Alternatively, it was originally a halacha leMoshe miSinai, meaning part of the Torah Shebe’al Peh without allusion in the written Torah, until Yeshayahu stated this requirement (Chasam Sofer, Shabbos 118a). The Gemara (Yoma 71b) instructs that some halachic rulings had been halacha leMoshe miSinai until the nevi’im taught them. As the Ramban explains (Notes to Sefer Hamitzvos, Shoresh II), since a navi may not add to the Taryag mitzvos, if this requirement was introduced by Yeshayahu, it would have the status of a takkanas chachamim introduced by the great Torah scholar Yeshayahu, who also happened to be a prophet.
The Chasam Sofer (Shabbos 118a) appears to be of the opinion that no early authority held that the mitzvah is only miderabbanan. After mentioning that some poskim understand the requirement to celebrate the Shabbos not to be min haTorah, the Mishnah Berurah (Shaar Hatziyun 242:1) notes that people should not treat this mitzvah lightly. He suggests that, perhaps, it should be treated even more strictly than a Torah requirement.
As part of the observance of oneg Shabbos, Chazal required that we eat three meals every Shabbos. Although the Mishnah never mentions directly a requirement to eat three meals on Shabbos, a beraysa from the era of the Mishnah does report it (Shabbos 117b). This beraysa records a dispute between the tanna kamma, who rules that three meals are required, and Rabbi Chidka, who requires that we eat four meals every Shabbos. The Gemara provides an extensive discussion regarding this dispute.
The famous amora, Rabbi Yochanan, explains that both tanna’im derive their ruling from seemingly extra words in the same pasuk that states, regarding the mann, “And Moshe said, eat it today, for today is Shabbos for Hashem. Today you will not find it (the mann) in the field” (Shemos 16:25). Rabbi Yochanan notes that the word hayom, today, is written three times in the pasuk, and refers each time to Shabbos. This is the midrashic source for eating three meals on “the day” — Shabbos. In other words, eating extra meals on Shabbos is a way to remind us that Hashem provided for us in the Desert.
The tanna kamma understands the pasuk to be requiring that three meals are eaten in the course of Shabbos, whereas Rabbi Chidka derives that the three meals must be consumed during the daytime of Shabbos.
Three meals or four?
Having established that the tanna kamma requires three meals each Shabbos, and Rabbi Chidka requires four, the Gemara discusses whether proof can be rallied from various Mishnayos regarding whether it held like either of these opinions or, perhaps, held a potential third position. In this context, the Gemara cites a Mishnah (Peah 8:7) that reports that there were many levels of tzedakah collection in the days of Chazal, among them was one called tamchuy (literally, plate or platter) and another called kuppah (literally, box). The tamchuy, which was what we call a soup kitchen, supplied meals for anyone who arrived in a Jewish community. Any pauper, whether resident or itinerant, was entitled to eat at the tamchuy (Tosefta, Peah Chapter 4). However, only those who did not have enough money or food for two meals were eligible.
The kuppah was restricted to the local poor (Tosefta, Peah 4:8). Itwas intended for those who were relatively well off –enough to provide at least for their next fourteen meals. The Mishnah assumes that a poor person is satisfied with two meals a day, one in the morning and one in the evening (no free lunch), and that the kuppah is for those who do not anticipate being able to support themselves and their families with minimal food requirements for the coming week.
Someone with sufficient financial resources to expect that he will have fourteen meals was not permitted to join either the tamchuy or the kuppah. Someone who had two meals, but not fourteen, was permitted to collect from the kuppah, but not from the tamchuy.
The question raised by the Gemara was that the Mishnah does not seem to agree with either the tanna kamma or Rabbi Chidka. According to the tanna kamma, since the requirement for participation in the kuppah was the ability to provide for yourself and your family for the next week, why does the Mishnah state that the minimal requirement for the tanna kamma is someone who has fourteen meals. Since there is a requirement to eat three meals on Shabbos according to the tanna kamma, and four according to Rabbi Chidka, the kuppah limit should be higher – fifteen meals according to the tanna kamma, and sixteen meals according to Rabbi Chidka, allowing for the extra meals required on Shabbos. Upon this basis, the Gemara suggests that the Mishnah represents a third opinion, which requires only two meals on Shabbos.
After a bit of discussion, the Gemara concludes that, indeed, the Mishnah’s ruling is not universally held. However, the author of this Mishnah is Rabbi Akiva (Pesachim 112a, 113a), whose dispute is not with the tanna kamma or Rabbi Chidka regarding the requirement to eat extra meals on Shabbos, but in a different subject. Rabbi Akiva rules that, although there is a requirement to eat extra meals on Shabbos, the requirement does not extend to someone who will require tzedakah funds to provide the extra meals (Shabbos 118a). The rishonim dispute whether we rule according to Rabbi Akiva or not (see Rambam, Hilchos Shabbos 30:9, who rules unlike Rabbi Akiva).
The Shulchan Aruch rules according to Rabbi Akiva, although he qualifies the ruling somewhat: “Even a person who is in need of financial assistance should exhibit his desire to honor Shabbos by minimizing what he eats during the weekdays, in order to be able to have a respectable Shabbos meal. The ruling [of Rabbi Akiva] that you should make your Shabbos as a weekday and not utilize tzedakah funds applies only to someone who is truly needy” (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 242:1).
Although our article has been discussing exclusively the three meals of Shabbos, and not the motza’ei Shabbos meal of melaveh malkah, we would be remiss not to note the following discussion. In his commentary on this passage of Gemara, Rashi asks the following question: When the Gemara discusses whether the extra Shabbos meals are included in the qualifications for the kuppah, why does it not take into consideration the melaveh malkah meal that one should eat on motza’ei Shabbos (see Shabbos; Tur and Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 300)? Rashi answers that tzedakah funds are not used to provide for melaveh malkah (Shabbos 118a s.v. achlei). I am aware of two other approaches to answer this question.
1. The Magen Avraham explains that if you ate seudah shelishis late, there is no requirement to eat bread for melaveh malkah, but you can fulfill the mitzvah by eating fruit (Orach Chayim 300). Since the Tosefta (Peah Chapter 4) mentions that a poor person provided from the communal funds is also provided with fruits and vegetables, he can leave over from these for his melaveh malkah.
2. The Ba’eir Heiteiv (Orach Chayim 300:1) quotes from the Ohr Zarua that if you extend seudah shelishis into night, you thereby fulfill the mitzvah of eating melaveh malkah.
According to both of these approaches, someone can fulfill the mitzvah of melaveh malkah without needing extra support from the tzedakah funds.
Bread or not?
The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 291:5) cites a four-way dispute among rishonim, whether the third meal of Shabbos must be a bread meal. He quotes the following opinions:
1. The third meal must be a bread meal (Mordechai, Shabbos #397, quoting Yerei’im and Maharam; Tosafos, Brachos 49b s.v. ei nami).
2. The third meal can be either mezonos or a bread meal (Tosafos, Sukkah 27a s.v. beminei; see also Tosafos, Yoma 79b s.v. minei).
3. The third meal can be meat or fish, and need not include bread (Mordechai, Shabbos #397, quoting Ra’avyah). Ra’avayah states that eating something that would be considered a delicacy fulfills the mitzvah of eating the third meal.
4. The third meal can be fruit (Ramban; Rashba; Ran all to Shabbos 118a).
It should be noted that all authorities agree that it is preferable to have a bread meal for seudah shelishis, and the other three approaches are to be followed only under extenuating circumstances (Bach; Mishnah Berurah).
Two other opinions
5. Among rishonim, we find yet a fifth, more lenient opinion, that of the Rashba, who contends that one can fulfill any of the three meals of Shabbos by eating fruit. It is possible that he is assuming, similar to the Ra’avyah quoted above, that it must be something unusual to demonstrate the kavod and oneg of Shabbos, and not just eating an apple. This position is not accepted by most authorities, who rule that only the third meal may have this lenience (Tosafos, Pesachim 101a s.v. te’imu; Tur Orach Chayim 274). Those who have difficulty eating grain products can explore with their rav or posek the possibility of relying upon the Rashba’s approach.
6. There is, possibly, yet a sixth opinion, quoted in the name of the Zohar (Parshas Emor), that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai fulfilled the mitzvah of seudah shelishis on Erev Pesach by learning Torah. It is unclear if this Zohar is meant to be understood literally as a halachic opinion, and, even if it is, is it meant to reflect something specifically related to Erev Pesach. Nevertheless, since I have seen it quoted in a halachic context, I share this with our readers.
At this point, we can address one of our opening questions: What is required to be eaten for the third meal on Shabbos?
According to the accepted conclusion of Shulchan Aruch, the third meal of Shabbos for both men and women should include bread. By the way, it should also have two whole loaves on the table, lechem mishneh. This latter halacha applies equally to women and men (Ran, Shabbos).
Under extenuating circumstances, to be discussed with an individual’s rav or posek, it may be permitted to eat mezonos, meat, fish or fruit instead of a full seudah and thereby fulfill the mitzvah of seudah shelishis, which, as we noted above, might be a requirement min haTorah. Someone who has medical issues that preclude his consuming bread at the third meal of Shabbos, or on Erev Pesach, when having three bread meals presents a challenge, can discuss with his rav or posek what to do.
We can also address, at this point, another of our opening questions: Why do most people slur the word and pronounce it as shaloshudis? Should it not be called seudah shelishis?
Indeed, the correct pronunciation of this meal is seudah shelishis, or, in Sefardic and Israeli pronunciation, seudah shelishit. The history of its being called shaloshudis appears to be as follows:
Although having three meals on Shabbos, one on Friday night and two on Shabbos day, should not be a difficult mitzvah to fulfill, many viewed eating bread to fulfill the third meal as a burden. They stated quickly, “we need to fulfill shalosh seudos,” a tongue twister, which easily slurs into shaloshudis. (Similar slurrings occur when people wish one another “a guten yontif,” instead of a guten Yom Tov, or when reading the posuk in Hallel as “ki le’olam chazdo,”instead of ki le’olam chasdo, as the posuk states.)
Kiddush bimkom seudah
It should be noted that a dispute similar to the machlokes rishonim I cited above regarding what one is required to eat for seudah shelishis, exists regarding kiddush bimkom seudah. This means that when one recites kiddush on Friday night or Shabbos morning, one fulfills the mitzvah of kiddush only when he intends to eat a meal at the same time and place (Pesachim 101a; Shulchan Aruch¸Orach Chayim 273 and 289:1). (The details of the laws of kiddush bimkom seudah are quite extensive and will be dealt with at a different time.) The question is: What constitutes a meal?
There are four major opinions:
1. A bread meal (Maasei Rav #122;see also Biur Halacha 273:5 s.v. kosvu).
2. Mezonos (Rabbi Akiva Eiger commentary to Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 273:
3. Wine or mezonos (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 273:5; Magen Avraham 273:11).
4. Fruit (Shiltei Hagiborim, quoted by Magen Avraham 273:11; and accepted as definitive by Rav Yitzchak Elchanan Spector, Shu’t Ein Yitzchak, Orach Chayim #12).
We should note that the Shulchan Aruch quotes only the third opinion. Following this approach, standard practice on Shabbos morning is to recite kiddush and then eat mezonos to accomplish kiddush bimkom seudah. There are individuals who may wish to be stringent and follow opinion #1, and make sure to eat hamotzi when they recite kiddush Shabbos morning. This is mentioned by his disciples as the Vilna Gaon’s personal practice, but is a personal stringency that may be followed only in a completely unobstrusive way and only after discussion with a gadol baTorah. I refer the reader to the insightful statement of Rav Eliyahu Dessler, Michtav Mei’eliyahu, Volume III, page 294, regarding the status of observing personal chumros that are not halachically mandated.
The fourth, and very lenient, opinion is quoted by some major halachic authorities, but is not usually considered a halachic position on which one can rely. However, someone may receive a special dispensation from their rav or posek to rely upon this approach and eat only fruit and consider it to be kiddush bimkom seudah. This will certainly be understandable for someone suffering from celiac, a food allergy or other medical situation in which consumption of any grain product is counterindicated.
Women and three meals?
Are women obligated to eat three meals on Shabbos, when it is a time-bound mitzvah?
Although the Gemara teaches that women are exempt from time-bound, positive mitzvos, the early halachic authorities require women to eat three meals on Shabbos. Nevertheless, we find a critical dispute as to why this mitzvah is an exception to the rule. Rabbeinu Tam rules that women are obligated because of the principle, af hein hayu be’oso haneis¸ they were also the beneficiaries of the miracle that is the basis of this mitzvah observance, since they also received the mann, upon which the three meals of Shabbos are based. On the other hand, the Ramban and the Ran rule that there is a more basic reason why women should observe this mitzvah: the two different references to the observance of Shabbos in the two versions of the Aseres Hadibros — zachor, remember,and shamor, observe –teach that in all mitzvos of Shabbos, men and women are equally obligated. In other words, we have a general principle that the laws of Shabbos are exceptions to the rule that women are not obligated in time-bound mitzvos. (There are practical halachic differences that result from this dispute. Those who would like to research them can look, for example, at Shu’t Rabbi Akiva Eiger #1.)
In reference to the pasuk from Yeshayahu, vekarasa laShabbos oneg, likdosh Hashem mechubad, “And you shall call Shabbos a delight, that day which is holy to Hashem should be honored”, the Ramban (Shemos 20:8) explains that observing Shabbos is not simply a day of rest, and it is certainly not intended to be a day of recreation. It is meant to be a day of holiness, where we draw our attention away from temporal and temporary involvement, ideas and values and, instead, provide pleasure for our bodies, lives and souls in the service of Hashem. This includes emphasizing Torah study, and spending time with Torah scholars, to hear what Hashem wants from us in our daily lives. As I explained at the onset of this article, celebrating Shabbos according to the Torah’s dictates is part of the Torah’s instruction for the proper observance of this Holy day.