Question: Whenever a yom tov starts on Sunday (as Shavuot did this year), synagogues generally forego their Seudah Shlishit, eaten after Minchah on Shabbat. But why? If one is supposed to eat a third meal every Shabbos, why skip it if a yom tov starts that night?
Answer: Just because a shul does not host a Seudah Shlishit does not mean that individual congregants should skip this meal. Indeed, doing so would be incorrect. Rather, people should eat this meal on their own, possibly by eating a mini meal immediately after one’s Shabbat afternoon meal.
The reason why shuls do not host Seudah Shlishit when yom tov begins that night is because the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 249:2) states that a person may not eat a meal on Friday afternoon, for if he does, he won’t has an appetite for the Shabbat meal that evening. The Mishnah Berurah (Orach Chayim 249:8) cites the Pri Megadim who states that this prohibition also applies on the afternoon before a yom tov due to the mitzvah of oneg yom tov.
Thus, shuls do not host a Seudah Shlishit if yom tov begins that night because they don’t want their congregants to be full when entering yom tov. They want them to be hungry and looking forward to the yom tov meal. However, congregants on their own should make sure to eat Seudah Shlishit earlier in the day.
Rabbi Cohen, a Jerusalem Prize recipient for rabbinic leadership and scholarship, has published several books on Jewish law, including his latest, “Jewish Prayer The Right Way: Resolving Halachic Dilemmas” (Urim Publications), available at Amazon.com and Judaica stores.