The sages in the Talmud tell us that “a person should always set his table on Motzei Shabbat (Saturday night after Shabbat) with all the preparations for an important feast, even if he only wishes to eat a small amount of food, in order to escort Shabbat with honor, just has he had done when she arrived.”1 This meal is thus referred to as “Melaveh Malkah,” which means “Escorting the Queen.”

The Lubavitcher Rebbe notes that if we read the Talmud carefully, it seems that setting the table on Saturday night is even more important than eating. In fact, this statement is written in connection with the idea that one should set the Shabbat table Friday afternoon in honor of the Shabbat (which will only arrive later that night).

Yet there is a special significance to eating in honor of the Melaveh Malkah.2

The Manna After Shabbat, a Continuation of Blessings

The Rebbe explains that the deeper reason for eating the meal has to do with the manna that provided the Jews with sustenance during their forty years in the desert.

Every morning, enough manna would fall for each person to have an omer (approximately 43 oz.), which was a sufficient amount to feel satiated for that day and night. Every Friday, they would find a double portion of manna, enough for Friday as well as Shabbat.

The extra Friday portion was a tangible expression of the honor due to Shabbat. Considering that each portion was meant for the day and the following night, it would follow that the extra portion meant for Shabbat day included the sustenance for Motzei Shabbat as well.3 To commemorate this, we eat Melaveh Malkah after Shabbat has concluded.

This is also the explanation behind the Arizal’s statement that one should be careful not to do any unnecessary work on Motzei Shabbat other than what is needed to prepare food for the Melaveh Malkah. The reason for this is that every Shabbat, a person receives an extra soul, and this extra soul doesn’t fully leave until after the Melaveh Malkah meal.4

The Rebbe adds that since the Melaveh Malkah also celebrates the extra manna that would fall in honor of Shabbat, the sanctity of the Shabbat partially remains until after the Melaveh Malkah. (In fact, in a way, the meal on Motzei Shabbat is connected to the extra manna of Shabbat more than the Friday night meal. For Friday night, the Jews would still in theory have the “regular” Friday manna in reserve—as opposed to Saturday night, when they would not have food if not for the extra portion.)

This also explains how we can still set the table and have a meal to “escort the Shabbat Queen” after it is no longer Shabbat and the Queen would have presumably already left with the conclusion of Shabbat. However, based on the above, there is still a remnant of the Shabbat for us to escort.5

King David’s Meal

This meal is also referred to in Aramaic as Se'udata deDavid Malka Meshicha,"The meal of David, King Messiah (i.e., the ‘anointed one’)."

What does David have to do with it?

The Talmud tells us that King David asked G‑d when he would die, and G‑d revealed that he would pass away on a Shabbat.6 From that time on, King David would make a meal for the members of his household at the conclusion of Shabbat to give thanks to G‑d that he was still alive.7

But the connection runs deeper, specifically in the sense that David represents his descendant, Moshiach.

The Luz Bone

The Midrash tells us that there is a tiny part of the body called the luz bone, which only receives its sustenance from what is eaten on Motzei Shabbat. Because of this, the luz didn’t derive any “sustenance” or “pleasure” when Adam and Eve sinned by eating from the Tree of Knowledge on Friday afternoon. So after the sin, when the concept of death descended upon the world, this part of the body was not affected, and it is from this bone that G‑d will ultimately reconstruct the entire body when the time arrives for the Resurrection of the Dead. Thus, the Motzei Shabbat meal is connected with the coming of Moshiach and the Resurrection, for this meal is the only meal that gives nourishment to the luz.8

What Is So Special About Saturday Night?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe adds that the luz bone’s connection to the Melaveh Malkah goes to the very heart of our mission in this exile and the ultimate cause of the final redemption.

This can be understood by exploring why this special part of the body only gets nourishment from the Melaveh Malkah on Saturday night, not from the Shabbat meals themselves.

In a sense, Shabbat is somewhat similar to the World to Come. It is a holy day dedicated to G‑d, a day of rest when we refrain from doing any work. The Melaveh Malkah is unique in that it bridges the divide between Shabbat and the mundane week. On the one hand, Shabbat is over and work is permitted. On the other hand, we say that the Shabbat Queen hasn’t fully departed yet. Thus, the Melaveh Malkah extends the holiness of Shabbat into the mundane, transforming and imbuing the mundane workweek with holiness.

This is why the luz bone is nourished only from the food we eat at the Melaveh Malkah meal. For the uniqueness of the luz bone is not only that it is indestructible and not susceptible to death, but that the body in its refined state will ultimately be rebuilt and resurrected from it. This symbolizes the culmination of our work in exile, which is to refine and imbue the mundane with holiness to the point that the sin of the Tree of Knowledge is rectified and its effects are wiped out with the Resurrection of the Dead and the elimination of death from this physical world. This is the ultimate unification of the holy and the mundane.

Furthermore, celebrating and being careful to eat the Melaveh Malkah meal itself bridges the holiness of Shabbat with the mundane workday, hastening the final redemption and the Resurrection of the Dead. May it be speedily in our days!9