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.”
And even the people who eat it every week don’t take it seriously. Here’s why I think that is:
- First of all, the name we give it is disrespectful. Yes, I understand that 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 of family and togetherness and drinking… “Shalishudiss” is literally burped out, like you don’t have time to say both words.
- 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 from generations, is tuna. It’s like food that you eat in a hotel room.
Yes, 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’kovod 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 to at least 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!”
- And it doesn’t help that we’re not hungry.
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 Sholom Zachor, and then you came home and had cholent. But this is like, “I have to eat again? I just ate this morning!”
- 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 that got stuck there when the seudah started.
- 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 percentage 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.
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 Mincha, but Shalishudiss has to come after the very last one. The women think we’re in shul shmoozing and having a good time, but nobody’s shmoozing. The second the last person washes, somebody immediately goes, “Askinu. Seudasa. Demheimanusa…”
I know you’re reading this in the same tune that I’m writing it.
There’s no time. 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, it’s already time to start singing, because you have to get all three zemiros in.
- There’s no other seudah at which you have to sing absolutely all of the zemiros—even the ones that the 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 ever is when you go to, for example, a Shabbos sheva brachos, and the first two meals are catered, and then the caterer says, “I don’t do Shalishudiss.” So the baal 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.
Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published eight books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].