Not Hungry for Third Meal (Seudah Shlishit)
After the Shabbat day meal with that heavy cholent, I often have no appetite for the final meal. Is one required to eat it if he isn’t hungry?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
Technically, no. Since the Shabbat meals are to enhance our enjoyment of Shabbat, one would not be required to eat if it pains him (Shulchan Aruch 291:1, Mishnah Berurah 3). Furthermore, there are opinions that the third meal does not require bread. If you’re not hungry enough for bread, grain foods are the next choice (cake, crackers, etc.). If that’s also too heavy, meat and fish are next, and as a last resort, you can eat fruit (OC 291:5).
However, according to all opinions bread is the first choice, and according to some, it is the only choice. (One should make the blessing on two whole loaves, as done at the first two meals (OC 291:4).) Thus, you should really make an effort not to overdo it at the main meal, making it impossible to eat bread at the final one. Regarding this, the codifiers of Jewish law apply the verse in Ecclesiastes (2:14) “A wise man looks ahead” (OC 291:1).
The Sages were likewise aware of the well-known phenomenon that while we’re eating, we can easily go too far – while if we pause for a few minutes we’ll realize when enough is enough. Care should be taken not get carried away with our enjoyment of Shabbat lunch to the extent that we’ll regret it later. Shabbat is for true enjoyment and spiritual uplift, not the enjoy-now-and-regret-later thrills of overeating.