This week’s article will discuss the third Shabbos meal, customarily eaten after Mincha. How can this meal be observed this Shabbos Hagadol, since chometz cannot be consumed from the fifth hour of daylight? And if “Shalosh Seudos” is already on the table, we’ll be taking a closer look at the meal’s virtues and importance. While some see it as an additional meal to be eaten only when hungry, others see it as the most important of Shabbos meals. Why? And how should the mitzva of Seudah Shlishis be optimally observed? What should be done in the non-optimal scenario? Of this and more, in the coming article.
Seudah Shlishis on Erev Pesach
This year, whereas Erev Pesach falls on Shabbos, the Mitzva of Seudah Shlishis is especially challenging. Any solution would not be optimal on a regular Shabbos. This article will discuss the Mitzva of Seudah Shlishis all year round and then focus on how to perform it on the coming Shabbos Hagadol, Erev Pesach.
Starting the fifth hour of the day on Erev Pesach eating chometz is forbidden. From midday, owning chometz is forbidden by the Torah. Chazal were concerned that since the determining factor is the passage of time from daybreak and people may not be proficient in measuring it, or the day may be overcast, they instituted that chometz may not be eaten from the end of the fourth hour of the day, and owning chometz – from the end of the fifth.
One should make sure to check the local calendar for the moment of dawn and sundown to calculate the end of the fourth hour and the end of the fifth hour. (Chabad’s website https://www.chabad.org/calendar/zmanim/cities_cdo/aid/3585672/jewish/Zmanim-Halachic-Times-Times-Around-the-World.htm is an excellent tool for determining this.) For example, dawn in Jerusalem on Shabbos Parashas Tzav will be at 6:34. The final moment for eating chometz according to the Magen Avraham will be 10:11 and according to the Gra and Baal Hatanya 10:41.
The Shacharis Shmone Esrei cannot begin on that Shabbos before 6:34 (daybreak). Until the last time for eating chometz one must be finished praying Shacharis, Kriyas HaTorah, Musaf and eating two meals, with a short interval between the two.
Besides for the technical difficulty in managing so many things in such a short time span, there are several halachic difficulties involved.
How can one who is unable to fit everything in and only manages eating the bread for the first of the day meals before the final time for eating chometz fulfill the mitzva of Seudah Shlishis?
For a better picture of the relevant halachos, let us take a look at the sources and halachos of the three Shabbos meals.
Eating Three Meals on Shabbos
Chazal learn (Shabbos 1167b) from the thrice mentioned word “today” in the pasuk “And Moshe said, ‘Eat it today, for today is a Shabbos to the Lord; today you will not find it in the field” (Shemos 16:25) that Moshe instructed Am Yisroel to eat three meal on Shabbos. The Friday night meal counts as the first of the three Shabbos meals.
The Mechitla (Beshalach, chapter 4) explains that the three parts of the pasuk were delivered to Yisroel at different points of the day. In the morning, when they wanted to go out and collect manna Moshe instructed “Eat it today” – eat what is leftover from yesterday, because manna will not come down today. In the afternoon they again wanted to go out and search for manna. Again, Moshe instructed them to eat what was left from the morning because “today is a Shabbos to the Lord” and manna will not be found. Later on, the nation expressed fear that manna would no longer come down. To alleviate their concerns Moshe answered “today you will not find it in the field” – but tomorrow it will return. The Malbim (Shemos 16:25) explains that here, too, is an indication to eat again what was left over, and not worry that no manna would come down anymore.
Thus, Moshe Rabbenu instructed the people to eat three times on Shabbos. This is the source for the halacha of eating three meals on Shabbos.
The Gemara (Shabbos 118a-b) expounds on the merits of one who is scrupulous to eat three meals:
“Rabbi Yosei said: May my portion be among those who eat three meals on Shabbos.” Another Gemara reads: “Rav Nacḥman said: May I receive my reward because I fulfilled the obligation to eat three meals on Shabbos magnificently”. The Birkei Yosef (Orech Chayim 291:1) points out that while one is warned in the revealed Torah to be very scrupulous in eating the three Shabbos meals (see Shulchan Aruch 291:1), according to the hidden Torah one should be even more scrupulous. We find that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai praised himself on his deathbed only that he never missed the mitzva of eating three meals on Shabbos (Idra Zuta, Haazinu 288b).
The Gemara (Shabbos 118a) writes:
Rabbi Shimon ben Pazi said that Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi said in the name of bar Kappara: Anyone who fulfills the obligation to eat three meals on Shabbos is rescued from three punishments: From the pangs of the Moshiach, and from the judgment of Gehennom, and from the war of Gog and Magog.
Rashi explains that the “Pangs of Mashiach” as the incitement against talmidei chachomim which will be rampant in the times before Mashiach. The wars of Gog and Magog are wars in which most of our nation will fall. In these times, whereas Mashiach is certainly close, it is especially pertinent to make every effort not to missing out on this mitzva.
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (Shemos 16:25) frames the concept:
Hence, also the importance and meaning of the third meal of Sabbath is referred to in this verse. Not to curtail our enjoyment of Life has God forbidden us to gain or prepare our means of living, but to give meaning to, and to raise the whole conception of human worth by submitting our means of living to God. And getting and having this idea is indeed calculated to raise Man, untouched, above all People for the purpose of preparing the way for this idea, and on the individual and social-political world in general, to cleanse and purify them…
The Shulchan Aruch (291:1) writes: “One should be very scrupulous in eating this [third] meal.” The Chida explains (Machzik Bracha 291:1) that if one fulfills the mitzvos of the first and second meals magnificently, it still does not prove that he has done so in honor of Shabbos alone in order to earn him endless merit — or for his own body’s pleasure, for which he does not deserve reward. But when sitting to a special meal in honor of Shabbos one indicates that the first two were also in honor of Shabbos. Then he is rewarded for all three.
The Mishna Brura writes (291:1) that one who needs to borrow in order to eat the third meal on Shabbos is obligated to do so. Tzedakah organizations are obligated to provide the poor with enough food for three meals on Shabbos.
The Shulchan Aruch writes that one who is not hungry can still fulfill the mitzva of Seudah Shlishis with a kebeitza — an egg-sized piece of bread (100 cubic centimeter according to the most stringent opinion). The Mishna Brura adds (footnote 2) that one should eat a slightly larger piece. Some opine that a kezyis (olive size = 27-45 cubic centimeters) will suffice for this, but it is better to be more stringent, if possible.
One who is uncomfortable eating at that point, for whatever reason, is not obligated to eat at all because the Shabbos meals are meant to be a pleasure, not discomfort. One who eats although he is disgusted by the food does not perform a mitzva in eating.
Of this the Shulchan Aruch writes: “The wise man has eyes in his head” (Koheles 2:14). One should make sure not to eat so much in the morning meal in order to leave ample appetite for the third meal.
Therefore, l’chatchila, one should eat a piece of bread slightly larger than 100 cubic centimeters. If impossible, eating 45 cubic centimeters or at least 27 cubic centimeters will suffice.
The Rishonim are divided regarding how early one can eat the third Shabbos meal.
The Halachos Gedolos (quoted in Sefer Haittim, chapter 193; Ran on Shabbos 43b; and others) writes that the accepted manner for fulfilling the mitzva of eating three meals on Shabbos is to stop in the middle of the morning meal, recite Birkas Hamazon, and then again wash and eat an egg-size piece of bread and again recite Birkas Hamazon. With that, one will have fulfilled the mitzva of eating three meals on Shabbos.
Many Rishonim challenge this custom with several arguments:
- The Tosefos (Shabbos 118a) write that the third meal must be eaten only after Mincha Gedola (the earliest time for praying Mincha). Before that time, one cannot fulfill the mitzva of Seudah Shlishis.
- The Tosefos (ibid) add that reciting Birkas Hamazon while still hungry and then washing again consists of an unnecessary blessing. (In general, one should not intentionally place himself in a position requiring unnecessary blessings.)
- The Or Zarua (volume II, chapter 52) writes that the virtue of three meals on Shabbos is eating at three different times, because when one has eaten and is now hungry again, eating is an honor to Shabbos. During the week, one who is hungry after eating remains hungry, or eats a fruit. But on Shabbos, one can indulge and eat another meal. Honoring Shabbos is not achieved through splitting one meal into two, and reciting Birkas Hamazon three times on Shabbos is not really the mainstay of the mitzva.
The Mahram of Rothenberg and his student the Rosh (Shut Harosh klal 22:14) agree that Seudah Shlishis must not be eaten before Mincha Gedola. However, they opine that if one began eating before midday and the continued past midday, and if he would stop eating now he would not be able to eat again later, splitting the meal into two and eating an egg-sized piece in honor of Seudah Shlishis is permitted. This is how the Maharam of Rothenberg and the Rosh conducted themselves. They add that one need not be concerned with unnecessary brachos since this is done because of the obligation to eat three meal on Shabbos.
The Rosh writes that this should not inform the public of this leniency because people might come to split the meal even before the time for Mincha Gedola.
The Shulchan Aruch rules (Orech Chayim 291:1-3) that the morning meal should not be split to two and one does not fulfil the mitzva of Seudah Shlishis before Mincha Gedola (a half hour after midday). If the meal continues after Mincha Gedola and one feels that if he will stop eating, he will not have appetite to eat again, he is permitted to split his meal – recite Birkas Hamazon and again wash and eat the third meal. This pertains especially to the short winter Shabbosos. The Mishna Brura adds (footnote 14) that one should get up and walk out of the room between ‘meals’ because one who remains in his seat is like having eaten one prolonged meal and has not fulfilled the mitzva.
The Mishna Brura mentions, too, (footnote 14) that this should not be taught publicly since people might come to split meals during the morning hours, unwarrantedly.
The Rama adds that one who will be able to eat an egg-sized piece of bread later on should preferably wait and eat later.
The Tosefos (Succah 27a); Smag (Esin 27) and Hagahos Maimonios (Shabbos, chapter 30:9) write that the mitzva of Seudah Shlishis requires eating bread. This is also understood from the Rambam (Shabbos 30:9): the halacha of eating three meals on Shabbos is learned from the manna, which is called ‘bread’.
The Rosh (Succah 2:130 and Hagahos Maimonios (Shabbos 30:9) write that if one does not want to eat bread, one should at least eat food that is made of the five grain species, not fish, meat, or fruit. The Mishna Brura explains (291:240) that after eating bread in the morning people are not hungry for more bread, therefore cakes or pastries are also considered meal components.
The Tosefos (Succah 27a) add that if not eating bread one can eat things that are served alongside bread such as fish or meat, but not fruit.
Rabbenu Yona (Brachos 36b); Ran (Shabbos 44a); and Shibolei Haleket (chapter 93) quote Rabbenu Yitzchak saying that fruit will also suffice in extenuating circumstances. Shibolei Haleket (quoted in the Beis Yosef 291) adds that his brother Rabbi Yehuda was careful to eat fruit of the Seven Species. The Pri Megadim (291:2) explains that the Seven Species satisfy more than other fruit and therefore require a special blessing to be recited after eating them.
The Shulchan Aruch mentions all options as possibilities, noting that preferably, bread should be the food item of choice. However, one who is too full to eat bread can be lenient and eat other foods. The Rama writes that this is also true on Erev Pesach that falls on Shabbos.
Seudah Shlishis on Shabbos – Erev Pesach
This Shabbos Parashas Tzav we will be faced with a difficulty in fulfilling the mitzva of Seudah Shlishis: bread should preferably be eaten in a meal which should preferably be eaten after Mincha Gedola. Since bread cannot be eaten or owned this late in the day, halachic sources provide several options for fulfilling this mitzva.
The Shulchan Aruch (444:1) writes to fulfill the mitzva of Seudah Shlishis by eating egg-matzah (matza ashira – ‘rich matzah’). This is traditionally a matzah baked with eggs or 100% fruit juice without a drop of water. The Rishonim are disputed regarding the status of this matzah. According to the Shulchan Aruch (Orech Chayim 462: 1-4) this matzah is kosher for Pesach. According to the Rama (ibid, chapter 4) it may be used on Pesach only in extenuating circumstances — for the elderly or infirm since it can easily become chametz. (Additional restrictions apply as to the exact recipe.)
The Shulchan Aruch writes that eating this matzah is possible only until the beginning of the tenth hour (in Jerusalem this year — 3:50). After the beginning of the tenth hour on Erev Pesach one is forbidden to eat egg-matzah.
The Rama (ibid) disputes the Shulchan Aruch, writing that Ashkenazim do not eat egg matzah (‘rich matzah’) on Erev Pesach at all. Most Achronim understand that since Ashkenazim do not eat egg matzah on Pesach at all, therefore, after midday, when one is no longer permitted to eat chometz, one is forbidden to eat egg-matzah. However, the Gra is of the opinion that the Rama here is indicating that since one is forbidden to eat matzah on Erev Pesach, one is also forbidden to eat egg-matzah on Erev Pesach. Therefore, eating Seudah Shlishis on Shabbos Erev Pesach cannot be performed with egg-matzah. According to the Gra, one should not eat egg-matzah even for the morning meal.
The Ben Ish Chai (Shana Alef, Tzav, Erev Pesach B’Shabbos, 5) writes that it is best to eat a Seudah Shlishis of fruit after Mincha, preferably fruit of the Seven Species for which a special blessing is recited after consumption.
[Contemporary rabbonim are split as to the status of the commercial product sold today under the title of Egg Matzah. According to the Mishna Brura (Biur Halacha 462:3) matzah which contains wine vinegar is certainly chometz. Some opine that use of leavening agents such as baking soda also renders the product chometz. Rav Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer volume IX, Orech Chayim 42) opines that egg-matzah is permitted for Sfaradim and even gave his kashrus certification to such a product. He did stipulate, though, that sellers were obligated to inform Ashkenazi buyers that is was chometz for them. Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu (Ma’amar Mordechai volume IV, Shabbos 37) and the Or Letzion (volume III, chapter 11:12) both agree that the current production methods used today render it forbidden even for the Sfaradi consumer and it should not be used on Erev Pesach. The Or Letzion writes: “Rich matzah prepared from home brewed wine with proper care is permitted for consumption. However, there are various pitfalls and one who is not proficient in its preparation should be careful not to prepare it at home.” See Or Letzion [ibid] for the proper precautions necessary for preparation. One who follows the customs of Eidot Hamizrach and wants to use egg-matzah for Seudah Shlishis on Erev Pesach should ask his rabbi for his opinion on the matter.]
Other Food Items
The Rama (444:10 writes that for Seudah Shlishis one should eat fruit, fish, or meat. The Mishna Brura writes (footnote 8) that it is better to eat meat and fish or other foods customarily eaten at the Shabbos meal together with the bread, rather than fruit. One should be careful not to eat too much to retain an appetite for the matzah at the seder.
The Mishna Brura (444:8) writes that before the tenth hour (Jerusalem: 3:50) one can also eat matzah balls for Seudah Shlishis (for those who eat gebrochs). This is because the matzah meal has been cooked in water. However, matzah meal cakes should not be eaten on Erev Pesach. (Please consult a rabbi if planning to warm matzah balls.)
This solution is in a sense the best because the bracha on kneidlach is mezonos, as it is made of the five species of grain. However according to the Gra, one should not eat even cooked matzah on Erev Pesach. The Mishna Brura, although detailing that fish and meat are preferable over fruit, did not mention cooked matza balls. Rabbi Sraya Devlitzky was known to refrain from eating cooked matzah balls on Erev Pesach. However, when Erev Pesach fell on Shabbos he would eat matzah balls in order to fulfill the mitzva of Seudah Shlishis in the most preferrable manner (Mikraei Kodesh).
Dividing the Morning Meal
The Magen Avraham (footnote 1) and the Mishna Brura (footnote 8) write that preferably, one should also split the morning meal to two, recite Birkas Hamazon after the first meal, change the tablecloth and walk away from the table. After a half hour, one should wash again and recite Hamotzi on more bread. This allows for accommodating the Halachos Gedolos. Then, after Mincha Gedola, one should eat a portion of other foods so as to fulfill the Tosefos and Rishonim’s opinion that Seudah Shlishis cannot be eaten before Mincha Gedola.
The Shevet Halevi (volume XI chapter 116) writes that preferably one should split the morning meal to two and later, eat again fruit, meat, fish, or kosher l’Pesach cake (non-Mezonos). He warned, however, that if one is too full to enjoy his food it should not be eaten.
Biur Hagra writes that splitting the morning meal to two is the main opinion l’halacha. This seems to indicate that while on a regular Shabbos splitting the morning meal to two does not display honor of Shabbos, on Shabbos-Erev-Pesach, whereas both chometz and matzah are forbidden later in the day as well as egg-matzah the time for eating the third meal is in the morning since it is clearly done in honor of Shabbos.
The Mishna Brura writes (footnote 4) that on this Shabbos everyone rises early for Shacharis and prayers should be short to allow people to finish eating the chometz early enough. The Ben Ish Chai (Shana Alef, Tzav, Erev Pesach B’Shabbos, 2) adds that even if there is a bridegroom, additional aliyos should not be made. Nevertheless, even though speed is of essence on this Shabbos, the prayers themselves should not be said hastily.
Egg Matzah for Friday Night and Shabbos Morning
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe Orech Chayim volume I, 155) was asked by a person who wanted to totally refrain from eating chometz on a Shabbos-Erev-Pesach due to the care he would have to exercise in cleaning and eliminating it on Shabbos. This person wanted to fulfill the mitzva of eating the Friday night and Shabbos morning meal with matzah, finishing it before the final time for eating chometz. The Igros Moshe answered that since one may not eat matza on Eren Pessach, it should certainly not be eaten on Shabbos morning and even on Friday night one should only eat Kosher l’Pesach egg matzah.
One who is afraid of bringing bread into his home because of the difficulty in cleaning should prepare egg matzah which is Kosher l’Pesach mi’ikar hadin. Then, even if some crumbs fall and are lost it is not chometz. However according to the Ashkenazi custom, it should not be eaten after the final time for eating chometz on Shabbos morning.
[According to the Igros Moshe (Orech Chayim volume I, chapter 154) even egg matzah without a drop of water is considered hardened chometz if it remained unbaked for over 18 minutes. Therefore, if using commercially sold egg matzah, one should be careful not to let crumbs fall into his Pesach dishes. The only benefit from using this product would be according to some opinions who maintain is not chometz.]
According to the Shevet Halevi (volume XI chapter 116) m’ikar hadin one can eat egg matzah until the final time for eating chometz, but the custom is to refrain from it. For children and the infirm, one can be lenient.
For Shabbos Parashas Tzav one should prepare the exact amount of bread required for his Shabbos meals. If necessary, one should buy small pita or challah rolls. The Friday night meal can be eaten normally, but the Shabbos day meal must end before the final time for eating chometz. As it is a rabbinic prohibition and extenuating circumstance, one can be lenient and rely on the later time of the Gra and Baal Hatanya (Jerusalem: 10:41). Therefore, one should awaken early and pray with the Hashkama minyan on this Shabbos.
One who can split the morning meal to two should certainly do so. In this case, he should eat bread and a cooked item, then recite Birkas Hamazon, clear the table and take a break of a half hour. Then reset the table and wash again and eat another egg-size slice of bread and complete his meal. This is preferable only if one can ascertain he will not come to eat chometz after the proscribed time. If one is delayed, he should refrain from eating chometz altogether and certainly not split the meal.
A half-hour or more after chatzos one should eat meat and fish or whatever he customarily eats at a Shabbos meal by way of Seudah Shlishis, whether he split the morning meal or not. If it is hard for one to eat, a fruit will suffice. One should leave sufficient appetite for the matzah on Pesach night.
Those who eat gebrochs can eat kneidlach or any other item made of matza meal cooked in water. (One should not eat foods with matzah meal that was fried or baked (schnitzel)). These foods should not be eaten after the beginning of tenth hour of the day. The same is true for egg matzah.
One who does not have bread for the meals on Shabbos, or gluten-sensitive individuals should fulfill the obligation to eat a meal on Shabbos with fish and meat and other filling foods.
One who cannot tolerate yeast and eats matzah all year round can eat egg-matzah on Shabbos morning before the proscribed time for eating chometz ends, even if he would not eat it on Pesach. Conversely, he could also eat kneidlach and other foods made of matzah meal.