A Halachic Guide to Seudas Shabbos and Lechem Mishna

Published Summer 2014

One of the highlights of the week is the Shabbos seuda. The divrei Torah, zemiros, Shabbos delicacies, family and guests allow us to come closer to the Ribbono Shel Olam and recharge our ruchniyos and gashmiyos (spiritual and physical) batteries. Although a delicious bowl of chicken soup on Friday night and hot cholent during the daytime seuda enhance the Shabbos meals, one does not fulfill his obligation of “seudas Shabbos” with either of these items. What is necessary to fulfill one’s obligation for seudas Shabbos?

I. Seudas Shabbos

Men and women are obligated to eat three meals every Shabbos. Each “meal” must consist of bread.1 Chinuch-age children are also obligated. On Yom Tov, one2 is obligated to eat only two seudos as there is no obligation for a third meal.

Ideally, one should eat the volume of a “k’baytza v’yoser”3 from challos, matzos, rolls, bread or any Hamotzi product.4This volume is slightly more than two kezaysim. How much does that equal in contemporary volume measurement? A kezayis is 1.27 fl. oz. (38 ml), so a k’baytza v’yoser would be 2.6 fl. oz. (77 ml) or roughly the size of two golf balls. If one cannot eat so much bread, one kezayis5 will suffice. Either way, at least one kezayis of a Hamotzi product6 must be eaten in the amount of time known as “k’dai achilas pras”7 – preferably within two minutes – but if necessary within a maximum of four minutes. Although ideally a kezayis should be consumed immediately, it is also acceptable for one to initially eat a small amount of bread after the brocha and then eat a kezayis of bread within a two, or at least four minute span later in the meal.8

II. Kashrus

Purchasing food with a reliable hechsher, and preparing it in a kitchen which has proper standards of kashrus, does not guarantee that the finished product is kosher. For example, many of the Shabbos delicacies are oleh al shulchan melachim (fit for a king’s table) and are inedible raw; therefore, they are subject to the halachos of Bishul Akum. This includes meat, chicken, kugel and cholent. If an aino Yehudi cooked one’s Shabbos meal, the food becomes not kosher.9 If a Yid turns on the flame, even though the food was prepared and stirred by an aino Yehudi, the food is considered Bishul Yisroel.10 Furthermore, before Shabbos an aino Yehudi may reheat food that was already cooked. When an aino Yehudi cooks in a Yid’s kitchen, one must be careful that all ingredients are approved and that everything is done k’halacha. It should also be noted that many individuals who are lenient to eat “pas palter” (commercially baked goods baked by an aino Yehudi) are makpid on Shabbos and Yom Tov to eat only Pas Yisroel.11

In addition to the regular halachos of kashrus, one must also be cognizant of the halachos of shehiya,12 chazara13 and hatmana.14 If the electricity went out in one’s neighborhood, and the electric company turns it on during Shabbos, the food in the crockpot or water in the urn may be used. However, if one forgot to turn on the flame or plug in the urn or crockpot, if the electricity went out in a specific home (e.g., a fuse blew or circuit breaker was tripped), or if the flame went out under the blech,15 one may not ask16 an aino Yehudi to turn it back on.17 In this case, one may not even hint to the aino Yehudi. If the aino Yehudi turned it on even without being asked, the food is still prohibited18 on Shabbos.2 One may eat it when it cools down20 (if it had been cooked before the fire went out). In these cases, it is critical to ascertain that the food is safe to eat and did not spoil when the flame was out.

III. Times

The first seuda should be eaten Friday night immediately following Kiddush.21 The earliest time is plag hamincha, 1 ¼ halachic hours before sunset (i.e., if the person makes early Shabbos),22 and the latest time is one half hour before dawn. B’dieved, if one did not eat a seuda Friday night, he should eat it on Shabbos day (after reciting the Friday night Kiddush without Vayichulu), thereby eating all three meals on Shabbos. The second seuda is eaten during the day.23 The third seuda should begin after Mincha Gedola, the earliest time to daven mincha.24 L’chatchila, one should begin seuda shlishis before sunset. B’shaas hadchak, if one was not yet yotzai seuda shlishis, one may begin up to 40 minutes25 after sunset.

IV. Lechem Mishneh

To commemorate the miracle of the mann that fell in the desert, one is obligated to begin the Shabbos meal with “lechem mishneh” – two rolls, challos or matzos.26 This obligation applies to both men and women at all three meals.27 If one eats a fourth meal on Shabbos, ideally lechem mishneh should be used.28 The challos should be covered.29 One holds both challos,30 recites Hamotzi,31 and cuts the challah.32 Those who are yotzai by hearing the Hamotzi33 can also fulfill their obligation of lechem mishneh by eating a piece of the challah taken from the lechem mishneh.34 The one who recites the brocha should begin eating before everyone else.35

The challos for lechem mishneh must be shalem (unbroken and complete). B’dieved, if one or both challos is missing up to 1/48, it is still usable for lechem mishneh.36 This means that if 2% of the matza or challah has been cracked or taken off, it may still be used for lechem mishneh. If the matza has a crack in it, it is still kosher for lechem mishneh as long as it stays intact when one lifts it holding the smaller half.37 If one baked rolls with the intent that they initially remain attached (including for packaging purposes), and are then broken apart, one should preferably not use them for lechem mishneh.38

Each loaf of the lechem mishneh should l’chatchila be at least the size of a kezayis.39 Furthermore, the second roll or matza can be something not fit to eat (e.g., one who is makpid on yoshon can use a second roll that is not yoshon). Similarly, if necessary, it can be pas palter, non-shmura on Pesach (even if makpid), or frozen.40

One should be mafrish challah after kneading the dough (i.e., before Shabbos). If one forgot, one may not be mafrish challah on Shabbos. In chutz l’aretz, one may continue eating. However, one must save at least one piece and be mafrish challah off this leftover piece after Shabbos.41

V. The Meal
One should save the best and tastiest food for Shabbos. Ideally, one should eat meat, chicken or fish,42 as well as hot food,43 with other delicacies.44 If having hot food is difficult, one should at least drink a hot tea or coffee. One should not eat a lot and become full before Shabbos.45

VI. The Shabbos Table
The Shabbos candles should preferably be lit in the same room that the Friday night seuda is eaten.46 The Shabbos table should be covered with a tablecloth,47 which should ideally be white.48 Ideally, divrei Torah should be discussed and zemiros should be sung at the Shabbos seuda.49 One should refrain from discussions that are prohibited on Shabbos.50 For example, one may not discuss prices or “deals” on Shabbos, nor should one discuss an activity planned for after Shabbos that would definitely51 be prohibited on Shabbos – unless it is for a mitzvah or for the benefit of the tzibur.

VII. Birchas Hamazon
On Shabbos, one must recite Retzei during Birchas Hamazon. If one forgot to say it, the following halachos apply: If one reached the words, “Ha’kail Avinu Malkeinu” in the fourth brocha, or one is in the “Harachaman”s or has finished bentching, if it is after one of the first two meals one must recite Birchas Hamazon again from the beginning. If one forgot “Retzei” at seuda shlishis, one need not repeat Birchas Hamazon. If one realized his mistake at any Shabbos meal52 – after completing the brocha of “Bonai B’rachamav Yerushalayim”, one should recite the special brocha found in many siddurim (“Asher Nosson Shabbosos”). If one is still in the brocha of “U’vnay Yerushalayim”, one should go back and say “Retzei”. On Yom Tov,53 if a man forgot to recite Yaaleh V’Yavoh54 (in the first two meals), he must repeat Birchas Hamazon.2 However, in this case women do not repeat Birchas Hamazon (except the first two nights of Pesach).56

In the merit of us enhancing our “oneg Shabbos” through the Shabbos seuda, may we merit the blessings of “rov simcha”, an abundance of happiness, the geula (redemption),57 and all the brochos of the Ribbono Shel Olam.

[1] Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 274:4 (all further references to “S.A.” refer to Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim). B’shaas hadechak, one can be yotzai seuda shlishis with chameishes minei dagan (e.g., cake). If this is not possible, one may be yotzai with meat, fish or fruit (S.A. 291:5).

[2] With regard to a woman’s obligation on Yom Tov, see footnote 55.

[3] Mishna Brura (M.B.) 291:2. For a discussion of the pronunciation, see Shaarei Teshuva Orach Chaim 156:2.

[4] The brocha should be recited on lechem mishneh (e.g., two challos). For a full discussion, see Section IV.

[Note: The terms challos, rolls and matzos are used interchangeably – we are generally referring to all of these Hamotzi products.]

[5] M.B. 291:2. It should be noted that when one eats less than a k’baytza of bread, the brocha of “Al netilas yadayim” is not recited when washing (S.A. 158:2). In such a case, if possible, one should be yotzai with someone else reciting the brocha.

[6] Technically, one could be yotzai by being kovaya seuda on pas habaa b’kisnin (e.g., a large amount of cake); these halachos are beyond the scope of our discussion.

[7] See S.A. 475:6

[8] The additional amount eaten after the first kezayis (i.e., to reach a total of a k’baytza v’yoser) can be eaten throughout the meal and does not have to be within a two or four minute span (Sefer Emes L’Yaakov 291 Ha’ara 317). See also Shmiras Shabbos K’Hilchasa (SSK) 54:n129, who brings those who are machmir on how quickly the second kezayis (plus a little more) must be eaten.

[9] The pots and pans also become non-kosher.

[10] This is the halacha for Ashkenazim; Sefardim should consult their rav. For a full discussion of the halachos of bishul akum, see article entitled Food Fit For A King here

[11] M.B. 242:6. The reason is for kavod Shabbos and Yom Tov. Items baked by an aino Yehudi in one’s home are pas akum and prohibited all the time.

[12] Shehiya – Before Shabbos the food must be at least ½ (or according to some 1/3) cooked, or the pot must be on a blech (i.e., the fire must be covered). The details of these halachos, as well as the halachos of chazara and hatmana, are beyond the scope of our discussion.

[13] Chazara – Restrictions regarding when food may be returned to the flame on Shabbos.

[14] Hatmana – Restrictions regarding wrapping the food to insulate it.

[15] If there is no flame, and gas is coming out, one may turn it off with a shinui.

[16] B’shaas hadchak, it is muhter to ask an aino Yehudi to turn on a flame to cook on Yom Tov if one needs the food if there is no bishul akum issue (e.g., it would be muhter for the Yid to then put the food on the flame or for the aino Yehudi to reheat the food or cook the food not subject to bishul akum). This is because it is a shvus d’shvus b’makom oneg Yom Tov (see Biur Halacha 502, “Ain” in the name of the Bartenura that haavara on Yom Tov is d’rabbonon).

[17] It is muhter to ask an aino Yehudi on Shabbos to cook (or reheat) the food for a choleh she’ayn bo sakana (one who is ill, even if his life is not in danger). This is true even if the food will be bishul akum.

[18] During Bain Hashmashos (until 40 minutes after sunset [in Baltimore] or until one’s shul reaches Mizmor Shir l’Yom HaShabbos, whichever comes first), one may ask an aino Yehudi to turn on the gas flame or electricity to cook for Shabbos. This is allowed only if the food was already at least ½ cooked before Shabbos (or was still warm) so there is no bishul akum concern.

[19] If there are no bishul akum issues, the food may be eaten after Shabbos b’kdai sheyaasu (the amount of time after Shabbos required for the food to cook).

[20] If one instructs an aino Yehudi to heat up food, even if it was already fully cooked, it is assur on Shabbos even after it cools down (see Tshuvos Harashba 8:18 brought in Bais Yosef end of 253 vz”l).

[21] For the laws of Kiddush, see article entitled Halachic Guide to Kiddush here. Kiddush is also required before eating the second meal, but not before seuda shlishis.

[22] If the meal began early, if possible one should be machmir and eat another kezayis of bread at night (M.B. 267:5).

[23] There are those who are machmir to begin the second seuda before chatzos (see Sefer Kovetz Halachos-Shabbos 14:2). It should be noted that one may not fast until chatzos on Shabbos. Therefore, if one did not drink before Shacharis, one must eat or drink (after Kiddush b’makom seuda) before chatzos.

[24] One halachic half hour after chatzos (in the fall and winter, one should wait the full 30 minutes after chatzos). If one began the third meal before chatzos (e.g., he made Hamotzi on lechem mishneh after davening vasikin or at the hashkama minyan, thereby fulfilling his obligation for a second meal and began “lunch” before chatzos), one may eat a k’baya v’yoser or at least a kezayis of bread after Mincha Gedola to fulfill his obligation of seuda shlishis (M.B. 291:7 and Piskei Tshuvos 291:2).

[25] Harav Aharon Kotler zt”l told this to Rav Heinemann for Lakewood, NJ. If one is further south (where it gets dark earlier), one should be more machmir. For example, in as far south as Miami, if necessary one could begin seuda shlishis until 33 minutes after sunset. See also Sefer Kovetz Halachos-Shabbos 14:47, who says b’dieved one may begin seuda shlishis only up to 20 minutes after sunset.

[26] If one does not have lechem mishneh, one still has an obligation to recite Hamotzi and eat the proper amount of bread for the seuda. In such a case, one should ideally make Hamotzi on a full roll plus a piece of bread, or on two pieces of bread (see Aruch Hashulchan 274:5).

[27] B’shaas hadchak, one can be lenient not to have lechem mishneh (but have only one shalem) at seuda shlishis (see Shmiras Shabbos K’hilchasa 55:2).

[28] Rama 291:4. The same applies on Yom Tov. Therefore, if one eats a third seuda (e.g., Neilas Hachag, even if it is not Shabbos), ideally lechem mishneh should be used.

[29] Many also keep them covered while reciting the brocha (see M.B. 271:41 in the name of the Chaye Adam).

[30] On Friday night, the bottom challah (held closer to oneself than the top one) is cut. At all other meals (including both Yom Tov meals), the top challah is cut.

[31] Some make a small mark in the challah before the brocha. If one cannot easily find the mark after saying the brocha, cut the challah at the most convenient spot (Sefer Kovetz Halachos-Shabbos 14:n34).

[32] The halachos of dipping bread in salt are discussed in S.A. 167:5.

[33] i.e., fulfill their obligation to recite a brocha through shomaya k’ona

[34] It should be noted that when necessary, one can hear the Hamotzi from the one reciting the brocha on lechem mishneh and then wash and eat (see S.A. 167:7 and M.B. 45)

[35] S.A. 166:15. According to the Rama, the mevarech is allowed to cut the challah for everyone else before he eats, as long as they wait for him to start eating (see also M.B. 79, who brings a Taz that disagrees).

[36] Tshuvas Chacham Tzvi Siman 62 and Machtzis Hashekel 274:1

[37] S.A. 167:1

[38] Opinion of Rav Heinemann, shlit”a – see Machtzis Hashekel (274:1). See also Tshuvos Sho’el U’mayshiv (1:167) as brought in Daas Torah (274:1), who is lenient if the intent of the baker or baal habayis is to separate them. When nothing else is readily available, one may rely on these lenient opinions.

[39] Sefer Pesach Hadvir 274:6 brought in Kaf Hachaim (274:8). See also Sefer Kovetz Halachos-Shabbos (14:10), who is lenient.

[40] See SSK 55:12 & 14 and n39, that if it is hard as a rock, it is preferable not to use.

[41] For more information, see article entitled When You Need to Knead here.

[42] Shulchan Aruch Even Haezer 70:3 & M.B. 242:2

[43] Rama O.C. 257:8

[44] S.A. 250:2

[45] It is not proper to begin a meal with bread after the end of the ninth halachic hour on Friday or erev Yom Tov. On erev Pesach and Sukkos, one may not even eat Mezonos after this time.

[46] During shiva, on Shabbos, the candle for the niftar should preferably not be in the room where everyone eats (see M.B. 558:3 and SSK 64:n25).

[47] Shulchan Aruch Harav 262:1. It is kavod Shabbos to keep it covered for the entire Shabbos.

[48] Sefer Minhag Yisroel Torah, Siman 262, in the name of Sefer Atzai Besamim, who says that changing from the weekday colored tablecloth to a white Shabbos tablecloth symbolizes s’lichas avonos (forgiveness of sins), like the “chut hashani” that turned white on Yom Kippur.

[49] See Medrash Rabbah (Esther 3:13), where it says the kapara of klal Yisroel is when we bless and praise Hashem at our seudos, as opposed to the umos ha’olam – those who eat and drink and speak “tiflus” (e.g., the discussion about Vashti and other pritzus they discussed at the party of Achashveirosh).

[50] Kal v’chomer, one should not speak lashon hara, rechilus, or ona’as dvarim which are prohibited all of the time.

[51] “Definitely” means something which is prohibited under all circumstances (except sakana). However, if something is “potentially” permissible on Shabbos, one may discuss it. For example, one may say, “I will bring the chairs to your house tomorrow”, even in a city where there is no eruv, because potentially had there been an eruv it would be permissible. Similarly, one can say, “I am going to New York tomorrow”, because it could potentially be in the tchum (if they would build up the entire region). However, it is prohibited to say, “I am driving to Chicago this week” or even “I am going shopping tomorrow” (see S.A. 307:8).

[52] Including seuda shlishis, if it is before sunset.

[53] On Rosh Hashana, if one forgot Yaaleh V’Yavo one need not repeat Birchas Hamazon (see M.B. 188:19 in the name of the Magen Avraham).

[54] If one remembers between the third and fourth brochos, one should recite the special brocha for Yom Tov. This applies to women also.

[55] If one totally forgot Yaaleh V’Yavoh on Rosh Chodesh or Chol Hamoed, even if it occurs on Shabbos, one does not have to repeat Birchas Hamazon. However, there is a special brocha if one remembers between the third and fourth brochos.

[56] See Teshuvas Reb Akiva Eiger – Chalek 1, Siman 1, see also the Hashmatos. The reason is because women are exempt from seudas Yom Tov. However, on the first two nights of Pesach they have a chiyuv to eat matza, which constitutes a seuda. See Sdei Chemed-Maareches Yom Tov 2:6 and SSK 54:n121, who bring opinions that say women are obligated to eat bread on Yom Tov (i.e., a seuda).

[57] As sung in the zemer of Mah Yedidus.