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Peninei Halakha > Shabbat > 07 - Shabbat Meals and Melaveh Malka > 04. The Importance of the Shabbat Day Meal

04. The Importance of the Shabbat Day Meal

The daytime meal is more important than the Friday night meal, so the best foods should be saved for this second meal. Regarding kiddush, however, Friday night is more important, because we are meant to sanctify the day as close as possible to its onset. It is with regard to honoring Shabbat that the daytime takes precedence over the nighttime (Pesaĥim 105b; SA 271:3).

Some maintain that one who honors the Friday night meal more than the daytime meal should fear punishment, because he has disrespected the day’s meal (Rashi, Gittin 38b). Therefore, some make a point of not eating fish on Friday night, to avoid a situation in which the meal by night might seem more important than the meal by day (Yam Shel Shlomo, ad loc.).

Others maintain that if it turns out that the Friday night meal is better because hot, fresh food can be served then, it does not reflect any disrespect. Therefore, one may prepare foods for Friday night that need to be served hot – such as fish, soup, or other foods that would go bad if they sat overnight – even if this means that the Friday night meal will be better than the daytime meal. But when dealing with foods that can be served either by night or by day, such as wine and fruits, one should make sure to give precedence to the day’s meal. For many people this is not a problem, because even though on Friday night they have hot, fresh food, they still prefer the foods that are generally served by day, such as cholent and kugel, whose unique flavor results from leaving them on the warming tray for a long time (AHS 271:9).

In practice, one who prefers the foods served during the day is certainly honoring the daytime meal. But one who does not prefer them must make a point of serving foods he especially loves by day, to show that it is the more important meal. He need not cut back on the Friday night meal in order to do so.

Some say that one should ideally eat a meal with bread immediately after making kiddush, and not have foods that are mezonot or other foods then, because the primary mitzva of enjoying Shabbat is fulfilled through eating a meal. If one eats various foods beforehand, he might have no appetite for the Shabbat meal. Nevertheless, there is no prohibition involved, because enjoying Shabbat following kiddush is also considered honoring the day. What is important is to not spoil one’s appetite for the second Shabbat meal, which will be celebrated with bread (Darkhei Moshe 249:4; BHL ad loc. 2 s.v. “mutar;” AHS ad loc. 12-13).

Some eat a light, dairy meal for the second Shabbat meal so that they will be alert, energetic, and able to learn Torah all day. They then have the main meat meal near evening at se’uda shlishit (See MT 30:10). It would seem that they too fulfill the mitzva, because the key is for the important meal to be eaten on Shabbat day.

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Editor: Nechama Unterman