I assume that for many people, Friday night dinner is often the first meal eaten in about 24 hours. We all know the experience – you start cooking Thursday night, and you either snack on what you are preparing for Shabbat or grab a quick bowl of cereal in between doing errands, or something of the sorts. Friday, especially during the winter, is even worse. Recently I discovered a Meiri that seems to provide Halachic basis for this “minhag klal yisrael”.
The Gemara in the second chapter of Beitzah discusses the halachot of Eruv Tavshilin, the food set aside as a reminder to allow one to cook from Yom Tov to Shabbat. The Gemara, in an attempt to illustrate how minimal the amount of food set aside can be says that one can even “use the lentils at the bottom of the pot” (Beitzah 16a). This would be unremarkable, if not for the Yerushalmi to that same Gemara, which records a story in which R. Chiyah went home to set up an Eruv Tavshilin and asked if there were lentils left over from yesterday. When he found that there was, he used it for his Eruv Tavshilin. The Meiri wonders how it could be that both the Bavli and Yerushalmi talk about lentils, and why R. Chiyah would just assume that there must be lentils around. One could have argued it was mere coincidence, but the Meiri assumes this is not the case. Rather, he suggests that there was a custom the night before Yom Tov, people would stop eating heavy foods, such as meat, and would only eat light foods, such as lentils so they would enter Yom Tov hungry. He seems to think that while the Halacha is that one should avoid eating heavy meals after Chatzot on Erev Shabbat and Yom Tov (see the beginning of Arvei Pesachim), there was a custom to extend this value by avoiding large meals for the entire 24 hour period leading up to Yom Tov. It seems that our unwitting “minhag” so be so busy with errands and chores before Shabbat starting Thursday night that we don’t have time to really eat, is similar in many ways to that minhag. It too is often a reflection of how involved we are with getting ready for Shabbat. So, perhaps, that adds a quasi-halachic dimension to our forgetting to really eat all day, until we finally sit down for our Shabbat meal.
בית הבחירה למאירי מסכת ביצה דף טז עמוד א
ובתלמוד המערב אמרו ר’ חייא רבה סליק לביתיה אמרי ליה אנשיין עירובא אמר להו לית הכא טלפחין מאתמל אמרין ליה אין וסמך עליהו ולענין ביאור אני תמה היאך הסכימו כל כך הבבלי והירושלמי בעדשים עד שבירושלמי שאל דרך פשיטות לית הכא טלפחין ומהיכן ברור לו שעדשים אכלו מאתמל וכן שבבבלי אמרוה בעדשים שבשולי קדירה והיאך לא אמר סתם תבשיל שנשאר בקדרה אלא שנראה שמנהגותיהם שהלילה שמחרתו ערב יום טוב לא היו אוכלים בשר והיו מעבירים שעתם בדברים קלים ובמיני קטניות כדי ליכנס ליו”ט לתיאבון ומנהג אוכלי קטניות להשאיר להם למחרתם: