Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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1 Sivan 5761 - May 23, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Food For Thought

by Shlome Leitner

Let me ask you a simple question. What did you eat for breakfast this morning? And yesterday? And the day before?

Have you noted the similarity?

You will be pleased to learn that most people follow the same pattern as you. We are in general quite content to consume the same food for breakfast, day in and day out.

What is also striking about our menu for breakfast is that we are all rather concerned that what we eat for our first meal of the day should be healthy and wholesome food -- more so than the food we eat during the rest of the day. I well remember how I had to swallow a spoonful of cod liver oil before going off to school every morning.

However, when it comes to the midday lunch or the evening meal, then a completely different set of rules seems to apply. For these meals we all demand variety. The housewife who tries to serve the same menu as the previous day is not likely to receive a warm reception from her household. Even if the same food is served, it has to be somehow camouflaged in a different setting. Not many of us like to eat the same menu for lunch or dinner with any frequency.

Yet, on Shabbos this phenomenon changes.

You will find that most of us not only just prefer, but also almost insist on keeping to, the same menu for each of the Shabbos meals, as we are accustomed to. Any changes to the usual are frowned upon. In fact the menu for our Shabbos meals seems to be universally similar, with very few variations.

No one would try serving kippers or even schmaltz herring at the Friday night meal, or sausages instead of the chicken. Nor would anyone choose chicken soup for Shabbos dinner instead of cholent!

At any yom tov meal however, this rule that applies to our Shabbos meals is not applicable. The yom tov meals do indeed require a variety of sort.

The Bnei Yisosschar (Shabbos 7:9) explains why Chazal formulated a different text for each of the Shemoneh Esreis on Shabbos, whilst on yom tov we find that each of the three Shemoneh Esreis: Ma'ariv, Shacharis and Mincha, are the same. (The text of the Musaf on yom tov has a special reason for being different.) The texts for the three weekday Shemoneh Esreis are also the same for all three tefillos.

With regard to Shabbos, the posuk tells us: "Vekoroso laShabbos oneg -- You shall proclaim the Shabbos an oneg, a delight. For something to be a true delight it must have hischadshus, variation. As the Torah informs us that Shabbos is an oneg, it follows that each period of Shabbos must appropriately have a new and unique aspect of its own. If that is so, then each tefilloh of Shabbos is unique and requires its own text of Shemoneh Esrei.

It is for this reason that Chazal instituted a variation to the Shemoneh Esrei of Shabbos.

This idea of oneg is not mentioned with regard to yom tov and therefore all its Shemoneh Esreis can be similar. Likewise, for the weekday Shemoneh Esreis.

We can now perhaps understand the interesting custom with regard to the week of Sheva Brochos following a wedding.

On each of the weekdays following the chasunah we arrange for one Sheva Brochos meal each day, whilst on Shabbos each of the three meals are usually celebrated with sheva brochos.

Furthermore, on the weekday sheva brochos we require a ponim chadoshos, a new guest. Someone needs to be present at the meal who did not participate in the wedding feast or at a previous sheva brochos so as to add to the simcha. On Shabbos however, there is no requirement for such a person.

From what the Bnei Yisosschar informs us, each period of Shabbos has a unique kedushoh that is entirely independent. Therefore each of the seudas of Shabbos is a separate entity and deserves its own sheva brochos, because each is unique and independent of the other. Moreover, the hischadshus of the period of the day that the oneg brings does not require us to have a ponim chadoshos at the meal. The extra simcha that the ponim chadoshos otherwise provides at the sheva brochos is supplied by the uniqueness of that period of Shabbos.

The Arizal explains that all foods that we consume on Shabbos are destined to benefit the Neshomoh, irrespective of how much we consume. On weekdays, however, only that food which is required to keep the body healthy and alive is considered benefiting the Neshomoh. Any extra food consumed, over and above what a person requires for health purposes, goes to strengthen the yetzer hora within a person. (This should automatically put an end to all between-meal snacks!)

It is interesting to note that the very first message that Hakodosh Boruch Hu related to Odom Horishon is with regard to food consumption. Hashem informed him that he may eat the fruit from all the trees growing in Gan Eden, (except for one). Mikol eitz hagan ochole te'ocheil (Bereishis 2:16). We note from here that it is important for a person to consume a variety of foods as each food contains nutrients that other foods do not have. Collectively his food will ensure he maintains a healthy and robust body, something that any one food alone cannot do.

HaKodosh Boruch Hu, in His infinite kindness, has also ensured that the foods we consume have a distinct variety in color, shape, texture and smell. This visual variation in itself gives us a specific pleasure. It also ensures that we reap adequate pleasure in eating the food so as to have sufficient appetite for it.

With regard to pleasures: It is a well-known fact that a person who is having real pleasure and satisfaction from any event or item will not allow himself to be distracted at the same time by any other pleasure, whatever it may be.

For example, someone who derives pleasure and satisfaction while listening to a shiur will not be persuaded to do anything else at the same time that would distract him. If you find someone filling in a crossword puzzle during a chasunah meal then you can be guaranteed that he is not gaining much pleasure from the surroundings in which he finds himself!

The oneg that Shabbos itself provides us with is a very high form of pleasure. Chazal tell us that eating a seudas Shabbos is part and parcel of that oneg. The meal has to be made up of the very finest of foods, as we are all accustomed to do.

However, on Shabbos we do not seek for the food to provide us with the pleasures that food consumption normally gives. Our pleasure on Shabbos is provided by the day itself. The food that we consume is there to add to and to be mechazeik the kedushoh of the day. Hence we do not look for variety in the foods we eat, but allow each specific food, which is unique for that period of the day, to play its part in the special oneg that Shabbos provides.

Just as the Shemoneh Esreis vary for each period of the day of Shabbos, so do the foods we consume at each specific Shabbos meal.

On yom tov, however, where this special oneg is not incorporated, we therefore find that variety in the menu for each meal is the norm. It is this variety that adds to the simcha of yom tov.

Why indeed do our meals play such an integral part of our Shabbos and yom tov?

The Shem Mishmuel quotes the halochoh that a person who eats his Purim meal by night has not fulfilled his obligation of seudas Purim. This meal has to be consumed on Purim day. He quotes the Medrash Rabba at the beginning of Shir Hashirim, which explains why a siyum on learning is accompanied by a seudas mitzvah. The medrash says that the seudah is mechazeik the limud Hatorah that has just been completed.

Similarly, says the Shem Mishmuel, the seudas Purim was instituted to be mechazeik the reading of the Megillah. The morning recitation of the Megillah is the main one and the seudas Purim therefore has to be after this reading and not the evening one. However, the Shulchan Oruch still mentions that a small seuda should be consumed on Purim night. This is obviously to be mechazeik the evening reading of the megillah.

This may also explain why Chazal state that the Shabbos dinner meal is the main meal of the day, as Rashi in Gittin 38b explains.

A person receives the main part of his neshomoh yeseiroh whilst reciting Nishmas on Shabbos morning. The meal following is therefore the main meal, which is being mechazeik the neshomoh yeseiro which is now complete.

It is also interesting to note that every other seudas mitzvah which Chazal have instituted, is for a mitzvah that a parent does for a child. These are: sholom zochor, bris milah, pidyon haben, bar mitzvah and chasunah.

Using the Medrash Rabbah from Shir Hashirim it is obvious that Chazal understood that with regard to mitzvos involving the upbringing of our children, an extra chizuk is required and the accompanying seuda provides this. It follows therefore, that as the child grows up, the respective seudas mitzvah is carried out in an ever nicer format, as a stronger chizuk is required.

Starting from a sholom zochor, which is a relatively simple affair, to a chasunah for which we extend much time, effort, and expense.

Our meals therefore provide an extra chizuk to our Shabbos and yom tov. On a weekday midday or evening we expect a different menu for each meal. This is now understandable, as the variety in the food is the only pleasure provided. And it is a pleasure which encourages a healthy appetite.

Chazal are very particular about our breakfast, the pass shacharis. As it is the first meal of the day, it is serving the Neshomoh, as the Arizal says. We therefore ensure that the food we consume is healthy and wholesome. Perhaps that is why we never serve dessert at breakfast!

Having just awakened from our sleep, our neshomoh is rejuvenated. This hischadshus of the neshomoh provides us with sufficient pleasure and we therefore do not seek from our breakfast menu the pleasure that a variety would normally offer.

It's food for thought.

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