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Laws of Not Eating Before the Friday Night Shabbat Meal
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Parsha Halacha is underwritten by a grant from Dr. Stephen and Bella Brenner in loving memory of Stephen’s father, Shmuel Tzvi ben Pinchas, and Bella’s parents, Avraham ben Yitzchak and Leah bas HaRav Sholom Zev HaCohen
The Torah portion of Beshalach discusses the miracle the manna which fell in the desert. The manna would fall on the first six days of the week, but in order to enable the Jews to observe Shabbat, the manna didn’t fall on Shabbat. Instead, a double portion fell on Friday. We use two loaves (Lechem Mishna) at every Shabbat meal to commemorate this miracle.
Collecting and preparing the manna would have involved the following Shabbat violations:
· Traveling outside of the Shabbat borders in order to gather the Manna. As the verse says, “See that the L-rd has given you the Shabbat. Therefore, on the sixth day, He gives you bread for two days. Let each man remain in his place; let no man leave his place on the seventh day.” Rashi, based on the Talmud, says that the prohibition for a man to “leave his place” is referring to going beyond the Shabbat borders.
· Gathering the Manna from the place it “grew.” This is forbidden on Shabbat as it is included in the labor of harvesting. (See Shabbat 107b that harvesting applies even to something that aren’t nourished from the soil such as mushrooms.)
· Carrying the Manna in the public domain and from the public to the private areas.
· Baking or cooking the Manna. As the verse says, “Tomorrow is a rest day, a holy Shabbat to the L-rd. Bake whatever you wish to bake, and cook whatever you wish to cook (i.e., before Shabbat begins).”
This portion also alludes to the three meals that we are supposed to eat on Shabbat. As the verse says, “And Moshe said, ‘Eat it today, for today is a Shabbat to the L-rd; today you will not find it in the field.’” The Talmud saysthat the repetition of the word “today” three times alludes to these three meals.
This article will focus on the laws relating to maintaining one’s appetite for the Friday night meal.
Friday Afternoon Fare
The Talmud cites two opinions regarding eating a meal on Friday afternoon. According to Rabbi Yehudah one may not eat (a full meal) from the before the time of Mincha and on. Following this rule will make the Kiddush and subsequent Shabbat meals more beloved to a person. Whereas, according to Rabbi Yossi, one may eat a meal up until nightfall. The Talmud explains that, according to Rabbi Yehudah the time from which one should refrain from having a full meal is one half hour before the time of Mincha Ketana, i.e., the beginning of the ninth hour of the day. This is approximately three hours before sunset.
Fundamentally, the halacha follows Rabbi Yossi’s view. Nevertheless, it is recommended that one be stringent and refrain from eating a meal during the last three hours of the day on Friday.
In this context, a meal is defined as enough bread (or any grain food) to satisfy a person. Whereas a small amount – to stave off one’s hunger, is allowed.Some say that one should (preferably) not eat more than the size of an egg of bread or grain food. One may, however, eat plenty of fruit as well as drink their fill of nonalcoholic beverages. It is proper to not drink more than 3 ounces of alcoholic beverages at this time.
· Early Afternoon
The Mishnah Berurah writes that during the winter, when the days are short, it is best to refrain from eating a full meal even earlier in the afternoon based on one’s estimation of how soon they will regain their appetite.
The Bach writes that on Friday “men of action are accustomed to refrain from eating a regular meal even before Mincha time. Rather, if they are up to it, they eat a much smaller amount such as (a bit of) bread and radish.”
· From Midday
Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Sufrin of Komarna (1806 – 1874) wrote that “One whose soul is as precious to him as his body will not eat after midday (on Friday) except for a very small amount. This is in order that he eat the Shabbat meal with pleasure, appetite and a good heart.”
· From the Morning
The Aruch HaShulchan writes that “on the short winter days it is proper for all G-d fearing people to not eat any full meal on Friday but rather only snacks. In the summer one should only eat a small meal in the morning.”
Fasting Not Recommended
In earlier generations there were righteous individuals who would fast on Friday in order to have a better appetite for the Shabbat meal. The later Halachic authorities discouraged this practice as it causes a person to begin Shabbat in a state of discomfort. If, however, a person is extremely delicate and eating even a small amount on Friday would ruin their appetite for the Shabbat meal, they may fast.
One who started to eat a meal before the ninth hour of the day may continue to eat after that time.
The Talmud says that there were two families in Jerusalem. One would regularly have a meal on Shabbat (during the time of the afternoon Torah lecture) and the other would regularly have a meal on Friday (see below as what was wrong with this). Both of these families were wiped out (as a punishment for these sins).
The commentaries point out that according to the Talmud (quoted above) one may, by the letter of the law, eat a meal even on Friday afternoons. As such, they question what sin this family was transgressing. They offer several explanations.
· Too Big of a Meal on Friday Night
Rashi (in his first explanation) says that they ate a large (Shabbat) meal on Friday night. Their sin was that they neglected to make a large meal on Shabbat Day. In fact, the Shabbat day meal is supposed to exceed that of the night time meal. Although they had good intentions – to have more time for Torah study – this was considered a sin.
· Regularly Scheduled Meals – Forbidden
The Ramban says that although, by the letter of the law, one may eat a meal on Friday afternoon, it is forbidden to do so on a regular basis as it shows disregard for the honor of the upcoming Shabbat meal.
· No Friday Night Meal
Another explanation given by the Ramban is that they would eat so much on Friday afternoon that they didn’t have a proper Shabbat meal on Friday night.
· No Time to Prepare for Shabbat
The Rashba explains that, as a result of their feasting on Fridays, this family didn’t have enough time to prepare for Shabbat properly.
· Large Meals – Forbidden
The Maggid Mishnah says that the family was eating a particularly large meal on Fridays – larger than the meal they would eat during the rest of the week. Such a large meal is forbidden even in the morning as it is likely to ruin one’s appetite for the Shabbat meal. The Halacha follows this view. As such one may not schedule a large banquet for any time on Friday. Exceptions are made for mitzvah feasts which have a fixed time such as a brit milah or a wedding. (Since a brit and wedding should not be delayed, they are considered to be mitzvot that have a fixed time.) The details of this are discussed in O.C. 249.
May we merit to soon experience the ultimate Shabbat with the coming of Moshiach!
 Exodus, Chapter 16
 Shabbat 117b based on verse 22
 See Shulchan Aruch HaRav 396:1 that, by Torah law the Shabbat boundary is 12 mil(just over seven miles). By Rabbinic law, it is 2,000 cubits (approximately 3150 feet).
 Exodus, ibid, verse 10
 Eiruvin 17b and 51a
 Seforno on verse 27
 Implication of Targum Yonatan on verse 5
 Verse 23
 See O.C. 291
 Verse 25
 Shabbat ibid
 Pesachim 99b
 Maggid Mishnah on Laws of Shabbat 30:4, O.C., 249:2 and Shulchan Aruch HaRav 249:9
 Biur Halacha on 249: 2D.H. Milikvo’a
 Ketzot HaShulchan 69, note 11
 Rabbi Yoel Sirkish of Krakow (1561 – 1640)
 O.C. 249 D.H Umihu
 Shulchan HaTahor 249:10
 Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein of Novardok (1829 – 1908)
 O.C. 249:3 and Mishnah Berurah 18
 Shulchan Aruch HaRav 249:12
 Kaf HaChaim 21 based on Pesachim ibid
 Gittin 38b
 See Shulchan Aruch HaRav 271:8 and 289:2
 Although the Bait Yosef (249 D.H. Ein Kovin) quotes this explanation, the Alter Rebbe points out in the Kuntres Acharon (2) on Siman 249 that most authorities do not agree with this ruling.
 Cited in note 15
Wisshing you a Shabbat Shalom UMevorach!