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