Halacha for Monday 8 Cheshvan 5781 October 26 2020

Women and the Shabbat Meals-The Custom of Maran zt”l

Question: Are women obligated to eat all three Shabbat meals as are men?

Answer: In the previous Halachot, we have explained the primary laws regarding the Shabbat meals, including the obligation to eat three meals on Shabbat: One on Shabbat night, one on Shabbat morning, and one on Shabbat afternoon.

We have also discussed that one must recite a blessing on “double bread” during these meals which means that the “Hamotzi” must be recited on two loaves of bread.

Regarding whether or not women are obligated in these meals, indeed, Rabbeinu Moshe of Fontaiza (one of the great Tosafists who lived approximately eight-hundred years ago) inquired this of Rabbeinu Tam. The root of his question is based on the rule that women are exempt from all positive, time-bound Mitzvot, such as the Mitzvah of taking the Lulav, for this is a positive Mitzvah (taking the Lulav) and is bound by time (as it can only be performed during the Sukkot holiday). So too, the Shabbat meals are likewise positive Mitzvot and are time-bound for they apply only on Shabbat and not on any other weekdays. Based on this, it would seem that women should be exempt from this Mitzvah.

Nevertheless, Rabbeinu Tam replied to him that women are indeed obligated in the Shabbat meals, for this Mitzvah is in commemoration of the Manna that fell from Heaven for the Jewish nation in the desert and they would receive a double portion of Manna in honor of Shabbat. Since women were also included in this miracle of the falling of the Manna, they are likewise obligated to partake of three Shabbat meals in commemoration of the miracle. Just as they are obligated in the Mitzvot of lighting Chanukah candles, reading of Megillat Esther, and drinking of the Four Cups of wine on Pesach because they were also included in the miracles these Mitzvot commemorate, they are likewise obligated in all three Shabbat meals for the same reason (see Sefer Ha’Yashar, Chapter 70, Section 4). Rabbeinu Tam adds that based on this, women are also obligated in “double bread” during each of the Shabbat meals exactly as men are.

Rabbeinu Tam strengthens his opinion by saying that since the Mitzvot of partaking of Shabbat meals and having “double bread” during these meals are merely rabbinic and not Torah law, women are obligated in all rabbinic Mitzvot with no difference than men. The Ramban (Shabbat 117a) writes that regarding the Mitzvot of Shabbat, there is no distinction at all between men and women. Several Rishonim explain varying reasons for this law, but they all agree that women are obligated in all three Shabbat meals and “double bread” at every meal.

Although Hagaon Harav Shlomo Kluger writes that women are not obligated in the Mitzvah of “double bread” and disagrees with several Rishonim for varying reasons, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l rebuffs his opinion and wonders how he has the courage to reject the opinions of all of the above Poskim who all agree that women are indeed obligated in three Shabbat meals and “double bread” during each one (see Chazon Ovadia-Shabbat, Part 2, page 172).

Thus, halachically speaking, there is no distinction whatsoever between men and women regarding the obligation to eat three Shabbat meals and to have “double bread” during each of these meals, for women are completely obligated in these Mitzvot.

Nevertheless, it is customary in many communities nowadays that men eat Seuda Shelishit in the synagogue and as a result, women are lax and do not eat the third Shabbat meal or eat only some fruit and the like. This is an improper custom. The fine custom of Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l was that although he delivered many classes and lectures throughout Shabbat, he would nonetheless make it a priority to eat Seuda Shelishit at home with his wife and family in order to educate them and make sure they ate this special meal, in accordance with the Poskim and Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch.

Ask the Rabbi


8 Halachot Most Popular

Lighting the Chanukah Candles

The Mitzvah of Lighting Chanukah Candles There is a Mitzvah to light Chanukah candles throughout all eight nights of Chanukah (beginning from next Thursday night). The Sephardic custom is to light one set of Chanukah candles per house. The Ashkenazi custom, however, is that every member of the hous......

Read Halacha

Melaveh Malka

Question: Is one obligated to eat bread on Motza’ei Shabbat for the fourth Shabbat meal which is also referred to as “Melaveh Malka” (meal escorting out the Shabbat Queen)? Answer: The Gemara in Masechet Shabbat (119b) tells us that one should always set one’s table nicely......

Read Halacha

The Laws of Women Regarding the “Melaveh Malka” Meal

In the previous Halacha we have explained that one should put forth an effort to eat The fourth Shabbat meal, which is also known as the “Melaveh Malka” meal, which is held on Motza’ei Shabbat to escort out the Shabbat Queen and to retain blessing for the rest of the meals of the w......

Read Halacha

A Tool Used for Work Prohibited on Shabbat

In the previous Halachot, we have discussed the basic laws of Muktzeh on Shabbat which is that there are certain objects our Sages prohibited moving on Shabbat. Utensils or tools which are used for types of work that are permitted on Shabbat may be moved for any purpose. Thus, one may move forks, kn......

Read Halacha


Moving an Electric Blanket or Fan on Shabbat

Question: May one use an electric blanket (heating pad) on Shabbat or is it prohibited to be moved due to the prohibition of Muktzeh? Similarly, may one turn a fan to another direction on Shabbat? Answer: In the previous Halachot we have discussed several laws of Muktzeh on Shabbat which are obje......

Read Halacha

“Muktzeh Due to Monetary Loss”

In the previous Halachot, we have discussed several laws regarding Muktzeh which are certain objects that our Sages prohibited moving on Shabbat. As of yet, we have discussed three types of Muktzeh: “Utensils used for work permitted on Shabbat”, such as forks, knives, and the like, wh......

Read Halacha

The Customary Order of Rosh Hashanah

It is customary to eat certain symbolic foods during the two nights of Rosh Hashanah which signify good fortune for the entire upcoming year. It is therefore customary to eat black-eyed peas, pumpkin, leek, spinach, dates, pomegranates, apples dipped in honey, and meat of a sheep’s head on the......

Read Halacha

Moving Books and Newspapers on Shabbat

Question: Is one permitted to move or read medical books or phonebooks on Shabbat? What is the law regarding reading newspapers on Shabbat? The Opinion of Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch Regarding Reading Books on Mundane and Forbidden Topics Answer: Maran Ha’Shulchan Aruch (Chapter 307, S......

Read Halacha