Eat your way out of Armageddon (Shabbos 118)

King David received a prophesy that he would pass from this world on Shabbos.  Consequently, Shabbos was the most stressful day of the week for the king.  Not knowing when his final day would arrive, he would immerse himself in the study of Torah constantly, thereby removing any window of opportunity for the Angel of Death to have his way.

And when Havdallah would finally roll around each week, King David would make a celebratory feast.  Not wanting to disrespect the holy day by revelling in its departure, he would refer to it as ‘Melaveh Malkah’ – the accompaniment of the Shabbos Queen.  Just as we go out to greet the Shabbos as we welcome her in, so too should we bid her farewell in an honourable manner.

אָמַר רַבִּי שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן פַּזִּי אָמַר רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן לֵוִי מִשּׁוּם בַּר קַפָּרָא: כָּל הַמְקַיֵּים שָׁלֹשׁ סְעוּדוֹת בְּשַׁבָּת נִיצּוֹל מִשָּׁלֹשׁ פּוּרְעָנִיּוֹת: מֵחֶבְלוֹ שֶׁל מָשִׁיחַ, וּמִדִּינָהּ שֶׁל גֵּיהִנָּם, וּמִמִּלְחֶמֶת גּוֹג וּמָגוֹג.

Rabbi Shimon ben Pazi quoted Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi in the name of bar Kappara: Anyone who fulfills the mitzvah of three meals on Shabbat is rescued from three punishments: From the pangs of the Messiah, from the judgment of Gehenom, and from the war of Gog and Magog.

וְאָמַר רַבִּי חֲנִינָא: לְעוֹלָם יְסַדֵּר אָדָם שֻׁלְחָנוֹ בְּמוֹצָאֵי שַׁבָּת, אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵינוֹ צָרִיךְ אֶלָּא לִכְזַיִת. חַמִּין בְּמוֹצָאֵי שַׁבָּת — מְלוּגְמָא, פַּת חַמָּה בְּמוֹצָאֵי שַׁבָּת — מְלוּגְמָא.

Rabbi Chanina said: A person should always set his table at the conclusion of Shabbat, even if he only needs an olive amount of food. Hot water after Shabbat is a remedy, warm bread at the conclusion of Shabbat is a remedy.

Two of the most important meals of the week are seudah shlishit, the third meal on Shabbat, and melaveh malkah, the meal on Motzei Shabbat (Saturday night).  Bar Kappara tells us of the extraordinary spiritual power of the third Shabbat meal, while Rabbi Chanina teaches us about the physical healing power of melaveh malkah.

The healing power of the post-Shabbos meal is so vital that even if you only have a small meal, it’s worth the effort.  The Orchos Yosher explains it like this: A bitter pill may be difficult to swallow, but if you know it’s going to heal you, it’s worth the temporary discomfort.  The healing power of melaveh malkah is so important that it is well worth the inconvenience of having a small meal when you’re not particularly hungry.

The Kaf Hachayim adds that the healing power extends beyond this lifetime.  At the time of the resurrection, the reconstitution of the body begins with a small bone at the base of the spine called the luz.  The luz bone is sustained from melaveh malkah and the greater one’s commitment to melaveh malkah, the less the luz bone will decompose.  A completely intact luz bone will make for a painless reconstitution and resurrection.

Now, sometimes it’s hard to eat two meals back-to-back, between shaleshudos (the Yiddish name for seuda shlishit) and melaveh malkah.  The Or Zarua offers a shortcut.  He says that if you extend your third Shabbos meal into the night, you fulfil both obligations at once.  The Arizal disagrees and points out that the meal will be considered only shaleshudos – proof of the fact is that (according to the Maharam) if Motzei Shabbos were Rosh Chodesh, one wouldn’t say Yaaleh v’Yavo, since the meal began on Shabbos.  Nevertheless, it’s still a good trick to be aware of when you’re unable to have two separate meals, for whatever reason.

Traditionally, many of us eat shaleshudos at shul after Mincha.  At Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue, the Summer Seuda Series is a highlight of the year.  Unfortunately, right now, we’re not yet able to serve food at shul.  So even though we’re heading back to shul tomorrow, we’re still going to have our third meals at home.  For many that will be disappointing.  But, as Chief Rabbi Mirvis reminds us: Don’t compare the next few weeks to synagogue life last year.  Compared to the synagogue experience we’ve had over the last few months, the next chapter is a huge step in the right direction.

For us, at home, we’ve really been enjoying shaleshudos as a family.  The long summer day allows us to have milchigs (dairy), and so we enjoy a third meal of challah, fish, and an assortment of cheeses.  And so if it takes a few pieces of cheese to save us from Armageddon, that doesn’t sound like a bad idea!  So, we’re happy to be continuing our shaleshudos as a family.

Certainly, we’re aware that not everyone has other members of their household to share their Shabbos meals with.  The good news is that in the UK, as of tomorrow, we’re also going to be able share meals with other households (one at a time).  So, let’s carry some of the silver linings into the next phase of history, such as family shaleshudoses.  But, at the same time, let’s keep in mind that it’s time to reopen our homes and include others in our family meals.

May we soon merit to be able to pray and break bread all together and put this Armageddon behind us, once and for all!

About the Author
Rabbi of Hampstead Garden Suburb Synagogue, London, UK.
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