We have to do something to improve the way we do shalosh seudos, because people aren’t taking it seriously.
Do you know any family that says, “Oh, we’re not makpid on the Friday-night seudah?”
“That’s nice. We don’t do Chanukah parties.”
“Wow. We don’t eat that first meal after Yom Kippur.”
In fact, people talk about it like, “Oh, you guys do Shalishudiss?” Like, “No wonder you’re fat.”
And even the people who do eat it every week don’t take it seriously. And here’s why I think that is:
(1) First of all, the name we give it is just disrespectful. Yes, I understand there are reasons people call it “Shalosh Seudos” instead of “Seudah Shlishis,” but we don’t call it “Shalosh Seudos.” We call it “Shalishudiss,” which is not a very appetizing word. Like when you say “the Pesach Seder,” it evokes images in your mind of family and togetherness and drinking … “Shalishudiss” is literally burped out, like you don’t have time to say both words.
Though at least it has a name. I don’t even know how to refer to the second Shabbos seudah in my articles. I’ve been calling it “Shabbos lunch,” and every time I do that, one reader writes in to say, “You know, you shouldn’t be calling it lunch. It’s disrespectful.”
I hope you’re reading this in the same voice that I’m writing it.
People get upset when I say “Shabbos lunch,” but we can all say, “Shalishudiss” and that’s not a problem.
So I’ve asked these people, “What should I call the second seudah? Shneishudiss? Because if I call it “the lunch seudah,” I’m still using the word ‘lunch!’”
And they say, “The day seudah.”
The day seudah?! I feel like people who call it “the day seudah” aren’t super-makpid on Shalishudiss. Because there are two day seudos.
(2) Another thing about how we handle Seudah Shlishis is that the food can be better. I don’t know; maybe we can invent some kind of milchig cholent situation. Or a vegetable soup, but better.
Let’s put it this way: The minhag for Shabbos lunch is to have at least one hot dish. The minhag for Seudah Shlishis is tuna. The traditional Seudah Shlishis food, handed down for generations, is tuna. It’s like food that you eat in a hotel room.
True, that’s not all we eat. In the summer, you can probably put together a milchig Seudah Shlishis in a way that there’s something to look forward to. But in the winter, we have to come up with something pareve, and the translation of the word pareve actually is “not exciting.”
Every other seudah is made up of foods that we say, “We only make this food for Shabbos Kodesh.” But not Shalishudiss foods. At best, we say, “I bought this noodle salad l’kavod Shabbos Kodesh.”
“Can I buy some for during the week?”
“No, why would you? It’s gross.”
Or we have store-bought egg salad. No one ever buys egg salad for their house. Bought egg salad was made for Shalishudiss. As far as I know, there is no non-kosher supermarket brand of egg salad. It’s exclusively a Jewish thing.
I also don’t think any non-Jews eat herring.
I try at least to buy something special for Seudah Shlishis. Not egg salad. In the summer, I buy some new kind of cheese or ice cream or something. But that’s the extent of my creativity. The rest of the seudah is like, “You liked Friday night’s fish? Well, here it is again! Also, I think last night’s kugel was pareve!”
I mention this going into the winter season, because on short Shabbosos I really don’t know what to do. Buy a new kind of pareve ice cream or fake cheese? There’s something to look forward to. So I go to the store, and I say things like, “I think the kids like cucumber salad…”
There’s another food that was clearly invented for Shalishudiss.
(3) It doesn’t help that we’re not hungry.
And if you’re not hungry, the worst food in the world to force-feed yourself is tuna.
And it doesn’t even make sense, because under normal circumstances, you have no problem eating. Friday night in the winter you ate a huge seudah and then you went out for a shalom zachor, and then you came home and had cholent. But this is like, “I have to eat again? I just ate this morning!”
So I think that maybe in the winter at least there should be some kind of custom to eat the second seudah for breakfast or something. You went to bed at 6:30 p.m.; you can wake up for hashkamah minyan. And then we can stop calling it “Shabbos lunch!” We’ll start calling it “Shabbos breakfast.”
(4) Another issue is that we don’t even set it up like a Shabbos seudah.
If I come out and say that we use paper goods on Friday night, certain people will not be meshadech with us. But no shul Shalosh Seudos uses real dishes.
Also, all the other seudos have at least four courses, but with this, it’s all one course. Sometimes there’s a separate dessert, but there’s never an appetizer. I mean the seudah is fish; what is an appetizer to fish? More fish?
You know what? Maybe no one’s in the mood to eat because there’s no appetizer. You have no appetizer, you have no appetite. Should we maybe add an appetizer? I don’t have an answer. I’m just trying to figure this out here.
(5) We’re also eating in a rush.
For one thing, it’s smashed up against the very end of Shabbos; no one really has time for it. The other seudos are like, “We have the entire Friday night to eat!” or “We have all of Shabbos day!” There’s no “We’re starting Seudah Shlishis now, but who knows how late we’re going to go?”
We all know exactly how late. It’s the only one of the seudos that you have to run out of to get to shul. Except maybe a winter Shabbos lunch if you have talkative guests.
(6) It’s super informal. If you want to have someone over for one of the other seudos, you need to invite them a week in advance, you have to know about it when you go shopping, plan a menu, ask about allergies … You even need advance notice for weekday dinners. But for Shalishudiss you have random kids in your house who got stuck there when the seudah started.
7) I also think a large part of why people don’t think it’s important is that shuls have Shalosh Seudos.
There’s no shul that says, “Hey, husbands, if you want to eat the Friday-night seudah with us instead of with your families…”
And what percentages of wives don’t eat because their husband doesn’t come home, and the husbands don’t come home only because they don’t want to put the extra hassle on their wives?
You know, there are other ways not to put food-prep hassle on your wife that don’t involve not eating.
Don’t get me wrong; I understand the convenience of eating in shul. No walking home, no kids, any kids you did bring took one look at the food and are playing in the hallway … Why not do this for all three Shabbos seudos?
It’s like somebody decided, “Why do the men have to be home? It’s not like there’s Kiddush!”
Is that the only reason we eat at home? Who’s opening the pickle jar?
And even in shul the whole thing’s a rush. The shul has several minyanim for Minchah, but Shalishudiss has to come after the very last one. The women think we’re in shul schmoozing and having a good time, but nobody’s schmoozing. As soon the last person washes, somebody immediately sings, “Askinu. Seudasa. D’mheimenusa…”
I know you’re reading this in the same tune that I’m writing it.
By the time everyone in shul finishes washing—one at a time because even though there are four sinks there is only one washing cup and one towel—it’s already time to start singing, because you have to get all three zemiros in.
(8) There’s no other seudah at which you have to sing absolutely all of the zemiros—even the ones that ArtScroll says, “Some congregations omit this.” But Seudah Shlishis, when there’s maybe an hour for the entire seudah, you have to get all the zemiros done in time for the rav to start speaking.
The other seudos have a nice variety of zemiros and each one has different tunes, but the whole world sings the same three tunes for Shalishudiss. Possibly because we eat in shul together, so it never branched off into different people trying new tunes.
I feel like the only really respectful Seudah Shlishis is when you go to a Shabbos sheva berachos, for example, and the first two meals are catered, and then the caterer says, “I don’t do Shalishudiss.” So sometimes, the ba’al simcha says, “Well, what if we cut the lunch seudah in half?” So we eat liver and dips and then we bentch, and then after a makeshift Minchah with a ba’al korei who had no idea he was going to lein, we wash again and have cholent for Shalosh Seudos. Which is sacrilege. Cholent for Shalosh Seudos?
But sometimes the ba’al simcha turns to his guests and says, “Can everyone just make one thing?” And then everyone makes the one thing they’re the best at and Shalishudiss shines. Those are the best. Five kinds of salad… quiche… But that is definitely not what’s happening in shul on a typical Shabbos. Because if it were, that would be great—every guy coming in with the thing he shines at. Though it would still mostly be tuna sandwiches. n
Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of seven books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com. Read more of Mordechai Schmutter’s articles at 5TJT.com.