In larger Jewish communities, it seems that Shuls are less of a hub of social activities these days. This might be because people are busier with their work and family lives, there are more entertainment avenues available, or perhaps because people are less comfortable socializing in mixed groups. The Shabbos Kiddush is still a mainstay, but my experience is that many people stay for just a short while, and after the cake and kugle, there’s not too much time left for socialization.
One social activity that does seem to be running at full throttle is Shalosh Seudos. On Shabbos afternoons from Succos to Pesach, after Mincha, the men march down to the social hall to fill the rows of long tables. Although there’s no reserved seating by Shalosh Seudos, many people seem to sit in the same section, comfortably shmoozing with the same group of friends.
Although the food is usually nothing to write home about, after a hearty Shabbos lunch it’s more than enough. Starting with the fast moving lines at the washing sinks, the borrowing of a roll for lechem mishneh, and the refrains of pass the egg salad, the seltzer, the chips and the herring, this smallest of Shabbos meals meets the halachic requirements, while at the same time filling the bread-breaking function that has bound people together since the times of the Torah.
When I see all the people talking, eating and enjoying each other’s company, it shows that we really need to socialize, and we’re fortunate that the “progress” of society has not taken away this Shabbos afternoon oasis. In a future post will talk about some of the aspects of running and maximizing the Shalosh Seudos experience. Until then, enjoy your Shalosh Seudos.