Shabbat Afternoon and Third Meal
For many, the last part of Shabbat is the more spiritually fulfilling.
The Shabbat Nap
The body is on a natural 7-day cycle, and the nap can promote physical and emotional health by alleviating stress and boosting the immune system. Beyond this, it's actually a mitzvah to nap on Shabbat! In fact, it's not so unusual for the whole family to sleep a good hour or so after the Shabbat midday meal. It may not be possible if there are kids around with varied sleeping schedules, but if parents take turns, a Shabbat nap can usually be had by all.
Keep this tradition in mind if you plan on doing any visiting in the afternoon. If your knocking on the door yields no reply, chances are the household is snoozing.
Just because it's a mitzvah to nap on Shabbat doesn't mean you should sleep this important day away. Many people make a point of learning Torah on Shabbat afternoon. Most communities organize lectures at shuls or homes. If yours does not, why not start it! Get some people together and ask a rabbi or teacher to give a talk on a specific subject – perhaps the weekly Torah portion.
This is a great time to connect with friends and family, to spend quality time with the people you care most about. Visit, go for a walk, get to the local park, read stories. Enjoy these last hours before the hectic pace of the weekday is upon you again.
People tend to lead their lives in mountain-valley patterns. We work hard to achieve our goals. When the goal is achieved – when it is all over – we often experience a letdown, a drop in energy and excitement. If we are not careful, Shabbat could become just that – an achievement that ends, followed by a "fall."
Mincha usually begins approximately 40 minutes before sunset. Prior to the standing Amidah, the first part of next week's Torah portion is read. Yes, even before this Shabbat is over, we begin preparing for the next.
We began Shabbat with a meal, with the determination that the physical gifts of life – food, silver, crystal, wine – would be elevated to a higher level. Through our actions and words, we brought new meaning to things such as eating and drinking.
Yet with the two previous meals, which are often elaborate and festive, it can sometimes be easy to get caught up in the tasty dishes and forget the higher purpose of Shabbat.
Seudah Shelishit, the Third Meal, is by far the smallest of the meals, often just bread, salads, and perhaps gefilte fish.
It is a simple reminder of what the meals of Shabbat were all about and what they have contributed to our personal development over Shabbat. We have stepped away from the complex and flash of weekday living and entered a space where we identify not just as a body, but as a soul.
This simple meal becomes just as enjoyable as the sumptuous meal of Friday night, for we have retrained ourselves to get rid of the excess and have instead begun to focus on all that is important: family, friends, wisdom.
It is the final meal. The sun is setting, and the cycle is complete.
It is proper to eat three meals with bread on Shabbat: the Friday night meal, the Shabbat midday meal, and one meal toward the end of the day just prior to sunset, called Seudah Shelishit, or the Third Meal.
1. Try to leave room when eating lunch, so you'll have an appetite for the Third Meal. However, if eating bread is very difficult, then eating cake (the equivalent amount of a slice of bread), or even just fruit will do.
2. No kiddush is recited before this meal.
3. The Third Meal must be started before sunset, but can end well afterward. Grace After Meals should include the special paragraph regarding Shabbat, since the meal officially began during Shabbat.
4. It is common for shuls to have Third Meal available for people attending the Minchah-Maariv (afternoon-evening) service. The fare is usually quite simple, consisting of bread, fish, fruit, etc.
5. After finishing the meal, no food should be eaten until after the Havdalah ceremony.
Songs for the Third Meal
The mood is much more solemn now, and we turn to slower, more reflective songs.
Adonoy ro'i, lo echsar.
Bi-ne'ot deshe yarbitzeini,
al mei menuchot yenahaleini.
yancheini ve-magelei tzedek
Gam ki eileich be'gei tzal'mavet
Lo ira ra, ki ata imadi,
Shiv'techa u-mishantecha, heimah yena'chamuni.
Ta'aroch lefanai shulchan, neged tzorerai,
dishanta va-shemen roshi, kosi revayah.
Ach tov va-chesed yirde'funi kol yemei chayai,
ve-shavti be-veit Adonoy le-orech yamim.
A psalm of David.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me past still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the path of righteousness,
for His name's sake.
Even though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for You are with me.
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You set a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You have scented my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
* * *
Yedid nefesh av ha-rachaman
meshoch avdecha el retzonecha,
yarutz avdecha kemo ayal
yish'tachaveh el mul hadarecha,
ye'erav lo yedidotecha,
mi-nofet tzuf ve-chol ta'am.
Hadur na'eh ziv ha-olam,
nafshi cholat ahavatecha,
Ana Eil na, refa na la,
be-harot lah noam zivecha,
az titchazeik ve-titrapei,
vehaytah la simchat olam.
Vatik yehemu na rachamecha,
ve-chusah na al bein ahuvecha,
ki zeh kamah nichsof nichsafti,
lirot be-tiferet uzecha,
eileh chamdah libi,
ve-chusah na ve-al titalam.
Higaleh na u fros chavivi alai,
et sukkat shelomecha
Ta'ir eretz mi-kevodecha,
nagilah ve-nismechah bach,
maheir ahuv ki va mo'eid
ve-chaneinu kimei olam.
Beloved of my soul, merciful Father,
draw Your servant toward You.
Let Your servant run as a hind
to bow before Your glory.
Let Your affection for him be
sweeter than a honeycomb or any other delicacy.
Glorious One, most beautiful splendor of the world,
my soul is sick with love for You.
Please God, heal it
by revealing the delight of your splendor.
Then it will be invigorated and healed,
enjoying everlasting happiness.
Ancient One, let Your mercy be aroused
and have pity on Your beloved son.
For I have yearned for so long
to see Your mighty splendor.
This is the desire of my heart
have pity and do not hide Yourself.
Reveal Yourself and spread over me, beloved One,
the shelter of Your peace.
Let the earth sparkle with Your glory
We will rejoice and be happy with You.
Be quick, beloved, for the time has come,
and favor us as in days of old.
The evening service begins when Shabbat ends. Thus we begin the week with prayer, asking God for wisdom, light, health, understanding... all that is important in life.
Shabbat may be over, but it is a new week and we are carrying forward the understanding and growth from Shabbat. And already we are preparing for the Shabbat to come.
A special section is added to the Evening Service ("May the pleasantness...") toward the end, before Aleynu. This is said with the specific intention of instilling the holiness of Shabbat into the rest of the week.
In the summer, Shabbat afternoon is l-o-n-g, especially with the kids, so a group of us got together to form "The Shabbat Club." It was originally five families, but grew to about 20 because it was such a hit.
Every Shabbat afternoon families gather for Third Meal, hosted in someone's backyard. The location rotates, with everyone getting a turn to host throughout the summer. Food is light – challah rolls, pita bread, salads, tuna fish, chopped egg, brownies. It really doesn't matter, because the main thing is that we're all together, and the kids play, and Shabbat is spent as a community.
The person hosting gives a little talk on the Torah portion of the week, and the only other rule was that there should be beer – nice on a hot summer's day.
It really helps fill the day, and by the time you get home, the kids are wiped out, so it is just a matter of putting them to bed, curling up on the couch, and reading until the stars come out.
* * *
I try to be really creative at the Third Meal. I make up my own trays of egg salad, tuna, salads and healthful goodies they haven't seen all Shabbat. I want them to eat at this meal, because otherwise it's just lost, and they're hungry later that night, when they should already be asleep.
Third Meal is a mitzvah, and sometimes it's hard to achieve, so we make it as much fun as possible, with one of the kids giving a Devar Torah instead of us. It makes them feel so important, and they come up with some wonderful ideas that are really very wise!
* * *
A friend of mine came up with something terrific – Third Meal is for women only. We all leave our kids home with our husbands and gather together at someone's house for a light meal and lots of singing. It's so nice to be together, and I've met some wonderful women this way.
Adapted from "Friday Night and Beyond" by Lori Palatnik (Jason Aronson Pub.)