Se’udas Havra’ah – Bava Basra 16


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Our Gemora recounts that Yaakov Avinu prepared the stew, with which he bought his brother’s firstborn rights, for Yitzchak to comfort him after Avraham’s demise.

The commentaries (see Rashi, Bereshis 25:30) explain that he brought the lentils as a se’udas havra’ah (recuperation meal) given to a mourner coming from burying his relative and the poskim learnt important halachos about this meal from our Gemora.

The Gemora in Moed Katan (27b) decides that a mourner must eat the “bread” of others at this first meal, not his own, and Shulchan ‘Aruch rules accordingly (Y.D. 378:1).

Does “bread” mean any food or is the term restricted to actual bread alone? Chochmas Shlomo and ‘Aroch HaShulchan (Y.D. 378) hold that a mourner may eat his own food aside from bread but Shevet Yehudah (378) and the Chida (Yafeh LaLev, VIII, 378) assert that he must eat nothing of his own and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch maintains that he must not even drink his own coffee.

Why is a mourner forbidden to eat his own food at the se’udas havra’ah?

According to Divrei Soferim (25:23), the above difference of opinions depends on the reason for the Talmudic regulation that a mourner must not eat his own food for his first meal. The Rosh, cited in Beis Yosef (Y.D., ibid), holds that a mourner is so despondent that he neglects to care for himself. Chazal therefore decreed that he must not prepare his first meal, causing others to bring him food and comfort him (Responsa Igros Moshe, Y.D. II, 168).

Shevet Yehudah, though, maintains that Chazal wanted to prevent a mourner from eating a full meal and neglect his mourning and therefore limited him to eating what others bring, assuming their contributions would not be excessive. Hence, Shevet Yehudah forbade a mourner to eat anything of his own, avoiding any possibility of his eating a full meal.

The Acharonim (Divrei Soferim, ibid, 27) emphasize the Tur, who quotes our sugya that the meal is intended to “comfort the mourner” – i.e., to hearten him but not to prevent his overeating.

The Rosh (Moed Katan, Ch. 3, §84) adds that a husband must not serve his wife a se’udas havra’ah for two reasons. Being that he must support her as her husband, she acquires the food he serves her and it is not regarded as another’s. Moreover, they always eat together and the food would not appear as if brought by others.

May a son supported by his father bring him a se’udas havra’ah from his own (the son’s) food? According to the first reason he may do so as the food does not belong to his father. Worrying about appearances (maris ‘ayin), though, the son must not, as anyone who knows that his father supports him and sees him serving is sure the food is his fathers.

The Acharonim prove, once again from our sugya, that the first reason of the Rosh forbidding a husband to serve se’udas havra’ah is halachically valid: Yaakov was supported by Yitzchak yet he brought him the stew which, as mentioned, was a se’udas havra’ah (Ruach Chayim by HaGaon Rav Chayim Falaji, 378).