Halachah Mitzion with Rav Baruch Plaskow
Rosh Kollel Montreal (2002-2007)
This year, Purim falls on a Friday. The Kollel, as is its custom, is organizing a festive meal on Friday afternoon leading into Shabbat. I have been challenged as to the source of this minhag and its halachic validity.
The Rama says (695, 2) that when Purim falls on a Friday, the custom is to eat the meal in the morning in order to honour the approaching Shabbat. Two explanations are given for this: firstly, to be able to eat on Shabbat with an empty stomach and secondly to have time to prepare tasty food for Shabbat. It would seem then, that we should not be starting our Purim meal in the afternoon. However, several sources lead us to question this conclusion.
The Shulchan Aruch (249, 2) rules that one should not eat a bread meal on Friday that he is not accustomed to during the rest of the week. This is so that we will have an appetite for our Shabbat meals. The Rama points out that this prohibition does not include a seudat mitzvah, such as the meal of a brit milah or pidyon haben. The Biur Halacha explains that such a meal does not disgrace the honour of Shabbat since one is eating for a mitzva. The Levush goes even further: even if we get so carried away with the initial meal that we cannot eat anymore at night, we need not worry about disgracing Shabbat. This is because we have a general rule that when we are involved with one mitzva we need not think of other mitzvot. The Chofetz Chaim disagrees with the Levush: eating the meal served at a brit may be a mitzvah but it is not an obligation. Our Shabbat meals, on the other hand, are obligatory. Hence, our responsibility towards Shabbat takes precedence. For our case, however, the Chofetz Chaim would have to agree with the Levush. The Purim seudah is obligatory and so, however much we eat, we will not disgrace the honour of Shabbat.
Conducting a Purim seudah on Friday afternoon therefore represents a question of custom and not halacha as we are talking about an obligatory meal. The above Rama maintains that the custom is to eat on Friday morning, finishing before midday. The great medieval commentator, the Meiri (Ketubot 7a), stresses that the custom of his family was to start during the day and stop at sunset, cover the bread and then make Kiddush. Indeed Rav Gliss in his book “The customs of the landof Israel” suggests that the custom of Yerushalayim is like the Meiri.
It follows that the Kollel’s custom is well based, with sound precedents and no halachic problems. In order to fulfill the mitzvah in its entirety I have suggested that only the first course of the meal be eaten before sunset so that we will not be full prior to Shabbat. We hope that the spirit of our Purim seudah will elevate our Shabbat meal and that this way we will be able to better honour both Purim and Shabbat.