Before we get to the menu, let’s talk about the meal itself.

The first meal that the mourners eat after the funeral is called the Seudat Havra’ah1 (literally “Meal of Recovery”). According to Jewish law, they generally do not eat their own food, but instead eat a meal provided by neighbors, relatives or the community.

This concept is found in Scripture, where we read how G‑d told the prophet Ezekiel about the impending destruction of the Holy Temple. To drive home the point, He also told the prophet that his wife would pass away, but “a mourning for the dead you shall not make … and put your shoes on your feet … and you shall not eat the bread of men.”2

From here the Talmud3 understands that under ordinary circumstances the mourners would eat food provided by others (“the bread of man”).

The primary foods eaten at this meal are bagels (or round rolls), (peeled4) hard-boiled eggs and/or lentils.5

Jacob Cooks Lentils

The custom of giving round foods is learned from Jacob, who cooked a pot of lentils. The sages say that this was to console his father, Isaac, after the death of his father, Abraham.6

The Talmud7 offers two reasons for this custom.

Just as this lentil has no mouth, [i.e., it does not have a crack like other legumes] so too a mourner has no mouth, [that is, his anguish prevents him from speaking].

Alternatively, just as this lentil is completely round, so too mourning comes around to the inhabitants of the world [e.g., is part of the cycle of life and eventually reaches all].

The Talmud explains that the difference between the two explanations is whether one can use an egg, since it is not completely round.

Practically, the custom is to use an egg (and some also serve lentils).

The Resurrection

Another reason for using the egg is that, while it may appear to be a completed object, it is just a preparation for the live creature that emerges from it.8

This symbolizes our faith and hope for the future. For although our loved one just passed away, we believe, hope and pray for the fulfillment of the verse, “He will swallow up death forever; and the L‑rd G‑d will wipe away tears from off all faces … ”

For death is not final. When the Moshiach comes, the dead will be resurrected, and we will once again be reunited with our loved ones.

May it be speedily in our days!