(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)
1. The Gemara (Shabbos 119) rules that after Shabbos one should eat a meal. This meal is referred to as Melavah Malka – literally “escort the Queen”.
2. The poskim disagree as to whether one is obligated to eat this meal or is it merely an optional mitzvah. The Radvaz (Matnos Aniyem 9:13) writes that eating the Melavah Malka is not obligatory. This is also the view of the Mishnah Berurah (300:2). He therefore writes that if one only has a limited amount of food one should use it for the three Shabbos meals, which are obligatory, and not for the optional Melavah Malka. However, the Chaya Adam (8:36) writes that “the Melavah Malka is an absolute obligation.” Harav Moshe Shternbuch shlit”a also writes that there is a rabbinic obligation to eat the Melavah Malka (shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 2:166).
3. Women are also obligated to eat the Melavah Malka (see Chazon Ovadia vol. 2 page 444 for a full list of poskim). Harav Elimelech of Lizhensk adds that women eating the Melavah Malka is a segulah for an easy and safe childbirth. Before they eat the food they should say that they are eating the food in order to fulfill the mitzah of Melavah Malka and by doing this it protects them from difficult and dangerous childbirth (see Taamei Haminhagim page 63b).
4. The poskim debate whether one is allowed to take food out of the freezer on Shabbos in order to let it thaw and become edible on motzei Shabbos. Some authorities permit it, while others forbid it because they consider it an act of hachana (preparation for the weekday which is forbidden on Shabbos). Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that if one is thawing the food in order to fulfill the mitzvah of Melavah Malka one may rule leniently (Chazon Ovadia vol. 2 page 447).
5. One should eat bread and meat or some other cooked food for this meal. If it is difficult for a person to eat bread, he should eat cake or some other mezonos food or at least some fruit (Mishnah Berurah 300:1). Where this is not possible, one may fulfill his obligation by drinking a cup of coffee or tea (Siddur Yaavetz).
6. It is proper to cook something specifically for the Melavah Malka and not to merely eat left-overs from Shabbos, but one is not actually obligated to do so (Shaarei Teshuva and Mishnah Berurah).
7. Some have a custom to light candles for this meal and to sing zemiros and piutim (Mishnah Berurah 300:3).
8. The Ari Z”l explains that the Neshama Yiseira (extra soul) that accompanies a person during Shabbos only fully leaves after the Melavah Malka. Therefore, one should eat the meal immediately after Shabbos before becoming preoccupied with other work (Machzik Bracha 300:2).
9. The poskim discuss how late into the night one can still eat the Melavah Malka. (A) Rav Chaim Palag’i (Kaf Hachaim 31:59) rules that one can only fulfill his mitzvah if he eats the meal within the first four hours into the night. After four hours one can not fulfill the mitzah. (B) The Ben Ish Chai (Vayeitzei 2:27) writes that it is preferable to eat the meal within the first four hours of the night. If one is unable to do so one should still eat the meal until chatzos. The Mishnah Berurah also writes that one should make sure that the meal is eaten before chatzos. (C) The Gra was once ill and threw up after eating the Melavah Malka. He felt that since he threw up he needs to re-eat the Melavah Malka. He then asked a student if it was already dawn because if it is not yet dawn he can still eat the meal (Tosefes Maaseh Rav 150). It is therefore clear that the Gra rules that one can still fulfill the mitzvah by eating the meal before dawn. This is also the view of Harav Ovadia Yosef zt”l (Chazon Ovadia Shabbos 2 page 449).
10. There are those who make it a point not to remove their Shabbos garments until after they have eaten Melavah Malka (Radiance of Shabbos 144).
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