The Merit of the Third Sabbath Meal
TOLD BY MALKAH LEVI TO YA'AKOV AVITSUK
Once there was a merchant who was very meticulous about observing the precepts. Of all of them, however, he was most meticulous about shalosh se'udot—the third Sabbath meal—and the melavah malkah* ceremony when the Sabbath was over. He always endeavored to have the melavah malkah table set attractively, with plenty of food and drink for guests who came home from the synagogue with him. He never went any place on Saturday night until he had enjoyed a proper melavah malkah. He always made sure to purchase fine spices and candles for Havdalah.
Once, when he came home from the synagogue after the Sabbath, his wife began to set the table for the Havdalah and then for the melavah malkah. His children were already waiting around the table. As he approached it, however, he heard someone knocking at the door. One of the children went and opened the door. Two well-dressed men entered, said good evening, and announced that they wanted to speak with the master of the house. "Wait a while, please," he told them. "First I must eat melavah malkah, and then I will talk with you."
They replied that they were merchants from a certain city and in a great hurry.
The householder set the Havdalah cup down and went over to talk to them. They urged him to accompany them to a nearby city, where a train full of merchandise had just arrived, and he stood to make a great profit from the shipment.
Again he asked them to wait until he had finished the meal. But they demurred and finally persuaded him to leave with them without delay. While he was changing out of his Sabbath clothes and dressing for the trip, his wife took the wine and hallah, fish and meat, and other dishes and put it all in a basket so her husband would have food for the journey. The merchants said he would come back home the next afternoon.
*"Escorting the Queen." The final Sabbath meal.