Halacha Date: 13 Kislev 5781 November 29 2020
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 week. We also explained that there is a special Mitzvah for one to eat bread during the fourth Shabbat meal, but if one is unable to do so because he is already satiated, one may partake of “Kisnin” bread (such as cake or crackers) instead. If one cannot even eat “Kisnin” bread, one should at least partake of some fruit.
Regarding whether or not women should put forth effort to eat the fourth Shabbat meal, the Sefer Tosefet Ma’aseh Rav (Chapter 39) recounts that once, the wife of the Gaon of Vilna accepted a fast upon herself that was to last from Motza’ei Shabbat until Friday night consecutively. Thus, she refrained from eating immediately after the Third Shabbat meal and immediately upon hearing Havdalah, she went to bed. This matter became known to the Gra and he sent a messenger to tell his wife that all of the fasts that she had undertaken would not suffice to atone for missing the fourth Shabbat meal even once. Immediately upon hearing this, she quickly rose and ate the fourth Shabbat meal. Clearly, we can infer that the Gra maintains that women are also obligated in the Mitzvah of partaking of the fourth Shabbat meal. (Similarly, Hagaon Rabbeinu Yosef Haim of Baghdad writes in his Responsa Rav Pe’alim (Chapter 35) that those who customarily fast on Jewish leap years from Motza’ei Shabbat until Friday night consecutively may not begin fasting immediately following the third Shabbat meal, thereby cancelling the fourth Shabbat meal.)
Similarly, the Sefer Petach Ha’Devir writes that women must also partake of the fourth Shabbat meal. This based on what is written in the Sefer Mateh Moshe (Chapter 513) that “there is a bone in a person’s body called ‘Nascoy’, which is also known as the ‘Luz’ bone, which is the essence and root of the human being from the essence of Heaven. When a person dies, this bone neither disintegrates nor becomes diminished and even if it were to be thrown into fire it would not burn, for this bone is eternal and from it will a person be restored at the time of the resurrection of the dead.” Similarly, our Sages tell us in the Midrash (Kohelet Rabba Parasha 12, Chapter 5) that in the future, a person will be resurrected using the “Luz” bone located in one’s spine. The Mekubalim tell us that this bone benefits solely from the fourth Shabbat meal eaten on Motza’ei Shabbat. Thus, women must also partake of the fourth Shabbat meal. There are more reasons for this which we cannot go into detail about at the present time.
Therefore, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that women should also put forth an effort to partake of the fourth Shabbat meal. He adds that it is quoted in the name of the saintly Rav Elimelech of Lizhensk that when a woman eats something for the fourth Shabbat meal and says beforehand, “this is for the sake of the Melaveh Malka meal,” it is especially auspicious for easy childbirth and in this merit they will, G-d willing, give birth easily and safely. We are actually aware of several cases where this Segulah (auspicious custom) has worked.