Likkutei Sichos-Parshas Beshalach: Shalosh Seudos-An investigation into the mystical meal that customarily has little food

This article is an excerpt from the above Sefer

Parshas Beshalach

Shalosh Seudos-An investigation into the mystical meal that customarily has little food

(Likkutei Sichos Vol. 21 Sicha 2)

In Parshas Beshalach the miraculous falling of the heavenly bread known as Mun is discussed. The Jewish people lived off this bread of heaven throughout their 40 years in the desert, and it served them as a spiritual sustenance as much as it did a physical sustenance. Although we no longer have this heavenly bread today available to us, its legacy is everlasting, as due to it exists the traditional three Shabbos meals. In the Scripture of this week’s Parsha, the falling of the Mun is discussed three times, and from each time that it is discussed we derive another one of the Shabbos meals. Interestingly, however, we find that the third meal is customarily treated with lesser importance, as can be vividly seen in its light menu. Even amongst the Poskim we find a number of opinions regarding the menu requirement for this third meal, with some ruling that even eating a mere fruit suffices. Strangely, amongst Chabad Chassidim we find a custom of specifically not washing on bread for this meal and to suffice with simply tasting a food. In this talk, the Rebbe investigates the reason behind why the third meal is treated with a lesser status, and why Chabad Hasidim who are generally always stringent in Jewish law, here take a more lenient approach. Is the minimal eating of the third meal due to it being of less importance than the previous two meals, or is it somehow of even greater importance and holiness, which requires a lessening of eating and an increase of spiritual experience. This we shall discover in this revolutionary talk which sheds new light on to this traditional meal.

  Explorations of the Sicha:

1. From where in Scripture are the three Shabbos meals derived from?

2. Why is the menu requirement for the third meal so lacking?

3. Why are Chabad Hasidim not careful to wash on bread for the third meal?

4. How is the third meal connected to the future redemption, and the revelations in the times of the resurrection.

1. The mitzvah of eating the three Shabbos meals:

One of the most well-known and cherished customs of Jewry is to have a Shabbos meal. Although the eating of the Shabbos meals is Rabbinical in origin[1], it is derived from the words in Scripture discussing the falling of the Mun. It is learned from the following verse[2]: “And Moshe told the Jewish people, eat it today, because today is Shabbos for God, as today you will not find it in the field.” The word today, Hayom, is written a total of three times in the verse, and from this repetition the sages[3] derive that there is an obligation to eat three meals on Shabbos. Now, how is this meal fulfilled? Through the eating of bread[4], [otherwise known today as Lechem Mishneh, even though that in truth having two whole breads is indeed a separate obligation[5]]. This is learned from the fact that the entire source of the three meals is from the verse in Scripture describing the Mun, and the Mun is called bread, hence revealing that also by the three meals one must eat bread.[6] Nonetheless, despite this teaching, we find a difference of opinions regarding the third meal and if indeed eating bread is required.

2. The menu of the third meal:[7]

Although regarding the first two meals it is a clear ruling, as stated above, that bread must be eaten, regarding the third meal we find a dispute in this matter. Some Poskim[8] rule that just like all the other meals, the third meal also requires bread. Other Poskim[9] rule that one is not required to eat bread, but one is required to eat a Mezonos product. Other Poskim[10] rule that one is not even required to eat a Mezonos product, and can suffice with eating meat and chicken and fish. Other Poskim[11] rule that one is not even required to eat meat and chicken and fish, and can suffice with the eating of fruits and vegetables. It remains to be understood as to why regarding the third meal we find lenient opinions, in contrast to the first two meals in which everyone agrees that bread is required. After all, each of the three meals are derived from the same verse and the same extra word of “today,” and hence to differentiate between them in their menu requirements begs for clarification.

3. The reason for leniency by the third meal:[12]

The Poskim offer several reasons behind the leniency associated with the third meal. One reason offered is because the third meal is learned from the third time that it states the word today in the verse. Now, in this third time that it states the word today, the verse states “and today you shall not find” emphasizing the negative, that the Mun will not be found on Shabbos. This is in contrast to the first two times that the verse records the word “today” which is in reference to the eating of the Mun. Thus, it makes sense that by the first two meals eating bread is required, as their source in the verse is discussing eating the Mun which was called bread, while by the third meal it is not required being that its source is discussing not finding the Mun bread.[13] Another reason offered in Sifrei Chassidus[14], based on the ruling of the Poskim[15], is that the third meal corresponds to the time of the  future redemption during the era of Olam Haba, and just as in Olam Haba we will not have any eating or drinking[16], so too during the third meal we diminish in eating and drinking. In greater detail this is explained as follows: During the time of the third meal there is a revelation of godliness that comes from the level of “Ayin” which emphasizes the nullification of physicality. Accordingly, it is only befitting to diminish in physical pleasures during this time, and therefore we do not eat bread. It is for this reason that in Scripture we find that the word “today” which refers to the third meal is written in the way of “today it is not found,” to emphasize the point that by the third meal one can fulfill his obligation with the mere taste of food.

4. The final ruling in the above debate and the Chabad custom:

The final ruling in the above debate regarding the third meal menu, is that one is not to rely at all on the lenient opinions unless it is a time of great need, and is thus to always make sure to eat bread.[17] This is likewise the conclusion of Admur in his Shulchan Aruch.[18] This follows the stringent opinion above who states that since all three meals are learned from the same word “today” in the verse, therefore, they all have the same law to obligate bread eating to fulfill their minimum required menu.

Interestingly, despite the above ruling and conclusion of the Poskim, including the Shulchan Aruch Harav, the custom of the Chabad Rabbeim was to seldomly wash on bread for the third meal and they would rather suffice with simply tasting a random food.[19] Now while one can say that they were following the esoteric perspective on this meal, as opposed to the Halacha, this cannot suffice as an explanation, as both the revealed and esoteric parts of Torah are one and united, and we cannot accept that the Chabad Rabbeim openly followed a practice according to Nistar which compromises on the rulings of Halacha. If Admur concludes in his Shulchan Aruch that one is not to rely on the opinion which states that it is not necessary to eat bread by the third meal unless it is a time of great need, how could the Chabad Rabbeim be scrupulous to go against this and follow the Kabbalistic custom of not eating bread. Hence, we must conclude that the custom of the Chabad Rabbeim to not be careful to eat bread by the third meal is somehow consistent also with the final Halacha, despite the above conclusion that bread should be eaten. To understand this, we must first introduce the reason and purpose behind the general obligation of the Shabbos meals.

5. The purpose of eating the Shabbos meals is for the sake of pleasure:[20]

The mitzvah to have a meal on Shabbos is an offshoot of the command of having pleasure on Shabbos.[21] In other words, since one is commanded to have pleasure on Shabbos [i.e. Oneg Shabbos] therefore one is required to have a Shabbos meal, as having a meal generally gives a person pleasure. However, there is no intrinsic command or requirement to eat a meal and have bread independent of the above Mitzvah of Oneg. Accordingly, if it were to be true that for whatever reason having a meal does not give the person pleasure, and on the contrary gives him pain, then he is exempt from having a meal on Shabbos, as its intrinsic purpose will not be fulfilled through the eating.[22] Thus, for example, we find an allowance for one who had a bad dream to fast on Shabbos because for such a person making him eat on Shabbos would be painful, as he would be susceptible to the bad dream.[23] Likewise, someone who has no appetite and is suffering from a stomach flu and anything he eats gives him tremendous abdominal pain, then not only is he not required to eat the Shabbos meals, but it is practically forbidden for him to do so, in order so he doesn’t cause himself pain on Shabbos. This concept does not just apply for the general meal, but also applies to each individual course and food eaten within the meal, and therefore if a certain food does not give one pleasure but rather pain then he is exempt from eating it, and furthermore is even initially prohibited from eating it. Thus, if the eating of bread during the Shabbos meal causes one pain and not pleasure, then he is exempt from eating it, and is not initially allowed to eat it, as doing so would contradict the purpose of the Shabbos meal. Based on this, we can now explain why the Chabad Rabbeim were not careful to eat bread during the third meal.

6. The reason that the Chabad Rabbeim sufficed with a mere taste of food for the third meal:

After establishing above that the eating of bread during the Shabbos meals is only a mitzvah if it gives one pleasure, and one actually may not eat bread if it gives him pain, we can now explain that the custom of the Chabad Rabbeim in abstaining from eating bread by the third meal is due to the fact that the eating of bread gave them pain during this meal. Now, what pain is associated with eating bread during the third meal? It is the pain of contradicting the spiritual revelation that is elicited during this time.

The Chabad Rabbeim were very righteous and spiritually sensitive individuals who could feel the atmosphere of spirituality at a given time and hour. On Shabbos, they literally felt the holiness of the Shabbos, and felt the various changes and Holiness that occurred between the nighttime and daytime of Shabbos. Accordingly, when the time of the third meal would arrive, they would experience the unique sublime divine energy that is elicited at that time, and due to this experience, they could not bring themselves to eat bread. As explained above, the divine revelation that occurs during the third meal is one of the level of Olam Haba when there will be no eating or drinking. The Chabad Rabbeim experienced this very feeling during the time of the third meal, and therefore did not eat bread during the meal in order not to contradict the divine revelation that is akin to the world to come. This avoidance of eating the bread as a result of their experience was not considered at all to be a leniency in Halacha, but on the contrary was actually a Hiddur, as since the eating of bread for them at this time would serve as a source of distress, therefore they were not allowed to eat bread and contradict their Oneg Shabbos.

7. The reason that Chabad Chassidim also don’t eat bread by the third meal:

The custom of the Chabad Rabbeim to not eat bread by the third meal is likewise followed by their followers, Chabad Chassidim world over. Based on the above explanation it remains to be understood under what basis these followers avoid eating bread by the third meal if they indeed do not experience the divine revelation of the future era that shines at this time and hence would certainly not feel any stress or pain if they were to eat bread at this time. Under what basis then do they not eat bread by the third meal as is the initial required practice, as brought above? The explanation to this matter is that although they do not associate any pain in eating bread with the revelation of the future, which they do not feel, nonetheless, if they were to eat bread there would be another stress involved, which is mainly the stress of not being able to follow the path of their teacher. Since Chassidim are connected to their Rebbes they deeply desire to follow their customs, and if they would eat bread during the third meal unlike their Rabbeim, this itself would cause them to be distressed and therefore they too are exempt from the eating of bread due to the distress it would cause for them to not be able to follow their teacher’s path.

What remains however to be understood based on the above is why the Chabad Rabbeim made a point to eat something by the third meal and did not just fast, as will occur in the future era in which there will be no food or drink.

8. The reason one must nonetheless eat something for the third meal:

It states regarding Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochaiy, that when Erev Pesach fell on Shabbos he would spend his time learning the inner dimensions of Torah during the third meal instead of eating.[24] This possibility of switching the third meal for learning Torah can be explained based on the fact that the time of the third meal corresponds to the future era in which there is no eating and drinking. Rashbi, who felt this revelation, was therefore able to fast by the third meal. Accordingly, the question is asked why also the Chabad Rabbeim did not follow in suit of the Rashbi and fast by the third meal. Why did they specifically make sure to eat something, and at times even stop in the middle of their Torah lesson in order to eat? The explanation is as follows:

Although in the future era there will be no eating or drinking, and the revelation during the third meal is similar to that which will occur in the future era, nonetheless, until we reach the future era, some level of eating and drinking must be emphasized. The reason for this is because the time the third meal is merely similar to the future era, and does not contain its full revelation, and hence some eating must take place, and this small amount of eating does not contradict the divine experience. Furthermore, in truth, even in the future there will be some level of eating, as is well known that in the future there will be the famous meal of the Levyason and Shur Habur, and hence the concept of eating is not completely negated in the future times, but simply diminished. Furthermore, in truth, in the future era not only will the physical body not be diminished and become secondary, but on the contrary will become elevated and become a source for spiritual fulfillment, for which reason all the souls will come back into their bodies in the times of the resurrection. This is a deeper reason for why we are careful to eat at least something by the third meal, in order to emphasize the greatness of the physical body that will finally be revealed in the future era.

  Halachic Lessons of the talk:

1. Not all opinions hold that you are obligated to eat bread by the third meal, and the Chabad Rabbeim were even initially accustomed to follow the lenient opinions due to the contradictory feeling that it would create with their Godly experience, if they were to eat bread by the time of the third meal.

2. Those who experience the sublime revelation of the third meal are exempt and even prohibited from eating bread, and likewise the students of such individuals are likewise exempt if they feel distressed over the fact that they can’t follow their teachers’ customs.

3. Even according to the Chabad custom, one must at the very least eat some food for the third meal, even mere fruits.

4. As revealed in the above talk, there exists a most sublime revelation by the third meal of Shabbos, which is akin to the revelation of the future era. One should savor these moments of Shabbos and utilize them for the most spiritual of purposes only, to experience Dveikus with Hashem.


[1] See Admur 274:1 that the scriptural source it is a mere Remez; Kuntrus Achron 271:4; M”A 254:23; However, see Taz 678:2

[2] Beshalach 16:25

[3] Admur 274:1; Shabbos 117b

[4] See Admur 274:5

[5] See Admur 274:2

[6] Admur 275:5; See Shemos 16:15

[7] See Admur 291:7; Michaber 291:4; Piskei Dinim Tzemach Tzedek 357

[8] 1st opinion in Admur 291:7; 1st opinion in Michaber 291:5; Rama ibid that so is the custom to do so over bread; Rambam Shabbos 30:9; Hagahos Maimanis; Tashbeitz 22;

[9] 2nd opinion in Admur 291:7; 2nd opinion in Michaber ibid; Opinion in Tur 291; Hagahos Maimanis; Rosh Sukkah 2:13

[10] 3rd opinion in Admur 291:7; 3rd opinion in Michaber ibid; Tosafus Sukkah 27a

[11] 4th opinion in Admur 291:7; 4th opinion in Michaber ibid; Rabbeinu Yona Brachos 36b; Ran 117b; Shibulei Haleket 93

[12] See Admur 291:7; Michaber 291:5

[13] Levush 291:5; See Piskei Dinim Tzemach Tzedek 357

[14] See Hayom Yom 22nd Adar 1; Meiah Shearim 44a; Keser Shem Tov Hosafos p. 546; Samech Vav p. 545; Ayin Beis 2:1,127

[15] See Bach 291

[16] Brachos 17a

[17] Admur 291:7; Michaber 291:5; Rambam Shabbos 30:9; Hagahos Maimanis; Tashbeitz 22

[18] Admur 291:7

[19] See Hayom Yom 22nd Adar 1

[20] See Admur 288:2-3

[21] Admur 288:2; 291:1; 167:23; 529:3-4 regarding Yom Tov that this is the definition of Oneg. [Authors note: It requires further analyses why this was not mentioned regarding Shabbos, neither in 242 [which simply defines Oneg as eating delicacies] or in 274 1-4 which discusses the laws of having three meals on Shabbos. There it is mentioned that the obligation of eating bread is hinted to from verses in the Torah and no support for its obligation is brought due to it being considered part of Oneg Shabbos. Furthermore, the reason mentioned for one’s obligation to eat bread is because of the verses discussing the “Mon” eaten in the desert and not because of the Mitzvah of Oneg Shabbos. Vetzaruch Iyun. To note that in 249:10 and 254:8 Admur mentions that eating bread is the main part of the Shabbos meal, although this does not necessarily connect to the idea of Oneg.]

[22] Admur ibid

[23] See Admur 288:3

[24] Zohar 3 95a, brought in M”A 444:2 in name of Shelah

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