Saturday, July 17, 2010

Dividing Meals [Se'udah Hamfseket]

There are several interesting parallels in the Final Meal before the Fast of Tisha b’Av and Yom Kippur
  1. The most obvious parallel is that both fasts are for a full day - actually about 25 hours - as opposed to other fasts which are from early morning until night.
  2. Both Final Meals traditionally follow the Minchah Service.
  3. Both Final Meals have several custsoms and rituals that are unique to these meals.

What makes these meals so special?  Nearly every Holiday has a special ritual at mealtime. The most obvious is the Passover Seder. At New Year, we eat special symbolic foods to start the year off right. At Sukkoss we eat in the Sukkah and even Shavuous we have the custom of eating dairy.

The problem with eating on Yom Kippur and Tisha b’Av is obvious since that they are both Fast Days. And since they are both FULL DAY fasts, we cannot possibly engineer a meal that would symbolize the day. That is where the final meal comes in. The reason it is eaten after Minchah is to connect as closely as possible it to the upcoming fast day. This explains perhaps why we specifcally recite the confession at Minchah BEFORE the meal on Yom Kippur eve.   Since Yom Kippur is after all a Yom Tov, this final meal is somewhat festive. We have Challah, some have honey and we eat meat - although it is wise to eat bland and easily digested foods to prepare for the fast.

On the other hand, Tisha b’Av is a day of mourning. Mourners coming back from the burial normally DO have a special Mourner’s Meal. Since we cannot eat on Tisha b’Av, this mourners meal takes place BEFORE the Fast.

Therefore, these Final Meals before Both fast, function as substitutes for the meals that should have been consumed on the days themselves, but could not due to the fasts.
The Talmud teaches us that whoever eats on Yom Kippur Eve for the sake of the Yom Kippur Fast Day is considered to have fasted Both Days.

Preriously Published On NishmaBlog  - Thursday, September 6, 2007