The aftertaste of havdalah wine swiftly dissolves from our palate, but the afterglow of Shabbat lingers on. After 25 hours immersed in the delicious aura of Shabbat holiness, our extra Shabbat soul now takes its leave. We yearn for some spiritual nourishment to fill the void.
So we sit down to a special meal called a melaveh malkah, meaning “Escort of the Queen”—the queen being the day of Shabbat, whom we greeted as she entered on Friday night. Optimally, we would serve a full meal with bread, meat and wine, but often there is only enough room left in our stomachs for a small bite. Nevertheless, we at least try to wash for bread, and we make that bite into a meal as well, setting the table once again with a fine tablecloth and candles, enhancing the occasion with songs and stories. Many continue wearing Shabbat finery on Saturday night.
Shabbat is a foretaste of the messianic era. As the day departs, we yearn for the real thing . . .The stories are tales of righteous men and women (you’ll find over a thousand to choose from at this link). Baal Shem Tov stories are a big hit, as are tales of Elijah the Prophet. The songs revolve around Elijah, King David and the King Moshiach, our righteous redeemer yet to come.
You see, Shabbat is more than a day of rest; it is a foretaste of the messianic era. As the day departs, we hope and yearn for the real thing—Elijah’s announcement of the arrival of Moshiach, the righteous scion of the House of David.
According to tradition, there is a small and utterly indestructible bone in the body called the luz, sitting at the base of our skull, where the knot of the tefillin rests. It is from this bone that G‑d will reconstruct the entire body when the time arrives for the Resurrection of the Dead. (Today, with our understanding of DNA, this age-old tradition doesn’t seem far-fetched at all.) The luz is nourished from the melaveh malkah alone. Feed it while you can.