Halacha for Thursday 14 Sivan 5784 June 20 2024

A Meal on Erev Shabbat

Question: At what point does it become forbidden to eat a meal on Friday?

Answer: There are several variables related to this question, which we shall now discuss.

The Prohibition to Eat on Erev Shabbat
There are certain kinds of meals which our Sages decreed may not be held on Friday, so that one does not enter Shabbat overly satiated and unable to eat the Shabbat night meal with appetite.

Three Kinds of Meals
There are three kinds of meals: One is a meal one is accustomed to eating every weekday, such as bread with some cheese for breakfast. Another type of meal is one that one does not usually eat during the week. The third is not really a meal at all, such as some fruit or meat, without bread.

A meal one is accustomed to eating during the week may be eaten anytime on Friday; according to the letter of the law, it is even permissible to eat such a meal during the afternoon hours. For instance, if one usually eats bread and salad every day at 2:00 PM, one may do so on Friday afternoon as well.

A meal one does not usually have on weekdays, such as if one does not eat bread during the week at all, may not be held anytime on Friday. This kind of meal is already forbidden from Friday morning.

A meal of an unsettled character, such as rice with some vegetables or meat (without bread) may be eaten on Friday, however, one should take care not to eat it at such a late hour that it will impinge on one’s appetite for the Shabbat night meal.

The Mitzvah to Abstain from Having a Meal Close to Shabbat
There is a Mitzvah to abstain from eating a meal, even one that one is accustomed to during the week, beginning from three seasonal hours before the onset of Shabbat. There are several details regarding these laws that we cannot delve into at this point, however, the main idea is that one should not eat a lot, even without bread, within three hours of the onset of Shabbat.

We should point out that there are families where it is customary that the children and grandchildren gather in the grandparents’ house on Friday and eat a large meal cooked by the grandmother. This is an inappropriate custom and constitutes an affront to Shabbat. The Gemara states that there was a prominent family in Jerusalem that was completely eradicated and left without any continuation because they sat down to heavy meals on Erev Shabbat. It is therefore proper to abolish this custom and to merely taste the foods in a way that the family members wish to enter Shabbat with an appetite for the meal.

The Kaf Ha’Chaim writes that one should not drink alcoholic beverages on Erev Shabbat (not referring to just tasting a sip; rather, actual drinking) so that one can enter Shabbat sober and with a clear head. Entering Shabbat intoxicated is obviously disrespectful to Shabbat and can likewise prevent one from eating the Shabbat night properly.

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