The first Mishnah of the twenty-second perek of Masechet Shabbat states:
A barrel that breaks (on Shabbat) - we may save food for three seudot (meals) from it.
This law is similar to that stated in sixteenth perek, that the amount of food that one may save from a fire is that which is needed for the three seudot of Shabbat.
There are two reasons for this law. The Taz explains that the reason that only three meals may be saved is a gzeirat Chachamim. The Chachamim were worried that if a person was permitted to save all the contents of the barrel from the fire, he would be so worried over his potential financial loss, that he might come to repair the barrel (a forbidden Melacha on Shabbat), rather than transfer all the barrel’s contents to a secure location. Therefore, they decreed that only three meals may be saved.
The Gemara (Shabbat 117b) explains that the second reason for this law is that if all the contents of the barrel were allowed to be saved, a person may come to carry the saved contents through a reshut ha’rabim. However, the small amount that can be used for the three meals to be eaten on that Shabbat may be saved.
These two reasons share an important commonality. In both explanations the concern of potentially performing a melacha on Shabbat was overlooked in order for a person to be able to fulfill the chiyuv and mitzvah of eating three meals on the Shabbat. This mitzvah is not like most other mitzvot in that most other mitzvot generally require a bracha before a person fulfills his obligation, however, there is no bracha required for fulfilling one’s obligation of eating three meals on the Shabbat. Why?
A novel answer to this question is provided by the Aroch HaShulchan (Yoreh Deah 410). The Aroch HaShulchan states that brachot were instituted for mitzvot only when they are actions or procedures that are not (or do not seem to be) logical, rather, the only reason we do them is because they are commandments of Hashem. On the other hand, any mitzvah that is logical, or that a person with a “sechel” would naturally do, was not instituted with a bracha. For example, the requirement to shake a lulav on Sukkot is not ‘logical’ and we perform this solely because it is a commandment from Hashem, therefore, it was instituted with a bracha. Alternatively, a ‘logical’ commandment, which one would naturally do, such as honouring one’s parents, was not instituted with a bracha.
This same logic can be applied to the mitzvah of eating three meals on Shabbat. It must be said that this mitzvah belongs to the category of ‘logical’ mitzvot (since it is very natural for a person to eat a number of meals during the Shabbat). It is for this reason that a bracha was not instituted for this mitzvah.
Another reason why there is no specific bracha required for this mitzvah stems from the chiyuv of the mitzvah. The chiyuv is not specifically to eat three meals, but rather to experience a sense of oneg (enjoyment) on Shabbat. It is for this reason that the Halacha states that if a person is so full that he will not have enjoyment by eating all three meals on the Shabbat, then he is patur from eating, as the main chiyuv of this mitzvah is to have oneg during the Shabbat.
According to this explanation, it can be seen that the actual mitzvah is not on the eating itself, but rather the consequences of the eating, which is the oneg that one should feel on Shabbat. However, one does not necessarily achieve oneg from the act of eating all three meals, and therefore there is no bracha instituted specifically for eating these meals.
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